Eighties Aussie Movie Musical to be Revived as a Stage Musical

To be Developed in Collaborative Workshops by NIDA, RGM Productions and Creatives

Original STARSTRUCK movie cover from 1982

The dazzlingly-original 1982 Australian film STARSTRUCK is to be turned into a full-fledged “all-singing, all-dancing” musical in a ground-breaking and extraordinary partnership between industry heavyweights, aspiring theatre talents and Destination NSW.

It was announced this week that RGM Productions – spearheaded by Australian producer Garry McQuinn (Priscilla Queen of The Desert The Musical) and his partner Rina Gill – will join forces with the National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA) and Destination NSW to bring director Gillian Armstrong’s iconic 1982 rock-musical-comedy-drama to vibrant life on stage.

STARSTRUCK was a cinematic love letter to Sydney and billed as “a modern musical comedy”. It was splashy, colourful and bold, and established a new style of Australian filmmaking. The film earned three AFI Award Nominations, including for Best Original Music Score, Best Achievement in Costume Design and Best Achievement in Production Design.

Set primarily in and around The Rocks, STARSTRUCK is centred on the loveable and quirky Jackie Mullens, a teenager who works in her mother’s failing harbour-side pub but dreams of becoming a rock star while her cousin Angus aspires to be her manager and get her on the national TV talent series, ‘The Wow Show’.

Set in the shadow of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the film was written by Stephen MacLean (The Boy From Oz), designed by Brian Thomson (Jesus Christ Superstar, The Rocky Horror Show and Priscilla Queen of the Desert The Musical) and featured an uplifting, catchy soundtrack, including ‘Body and Soul’ by Tim Finn, the title song ‘Starstruck’ by Phil Judd, and ‘The Monkey in Me!’ by Dennis Nattrass.

“The film is flamboyant, vivid and celebrates a time of innocence and excitement when it just might be possible to make dreams come true, ” said Brian Thomson.

Gary McQuinn, Gillian Armstrong and David Elfick at the launch of Starstruck the Musical. Photo John Appleyard

McQuinn said: “STARSTRUCK is an Australian fairytale, a wonderfully naive film with a ‘dare to dream’ message. It’s a neglected classic; people forget how original and influential the film was. Jackie Mullen strutting across the Sydney Opera House’s stage with her punk hair in her neon-lit tutu, tiara and gloves, anticipated Madonna’s ‘Like A Virgin’ by two years.

STARSTRUCK is the perfect title for this collaboration between the students and teachers at NIDA, and our most talented and experienced theatre makers.”

The development of STARSTRUCK begins in September 2018 with preliminary workshops involving both undergraduate and post-graduate NIDA students. The book for the musical has been written by Mitchell Butel, one of Australia’s best-known actors and musical theatre stars.

Directed by Simon Phillips (Priscilla Queen of the Desert, Ladies in Black, Muriel’s Wedding), set designed by the Tony Award-winning Thomson and choreographed by Andrew Hallsworth (Anything Goes, Sweet Charity), the uniquely home-grown STARSTRUCK will showcase NIDA’s graduating class of 2019 when it premieres at the Parade Theatre late next year. The production aims to serve as a springboard for later commercial seasons.

NIDA students at the launch. Photo John Appleyard

“It’ll be an exciting adventure to see this warm-hearted little Australian film take shape on the stage. The story about a couple of self-invented Ozzie kids trying to save their family pub is full of joy and adolescent energy, and NIDA feels like the perfect place to road-test its charms,” Simon Phillips said.

For McQuinn, shepherding the production to the stage in such a resourceful way enables a level of mentoring and cross-generation collaboration that is vital to the future life-blood of the theatre. It also further enriches his long-standing association with NIDA, first as a student, then Head of Production, Board Member and now Trustee.

NIDA’s Director/CEO Kate Cherry has embraced the partnership, supported by Mushroom Music Publishing, the Owner of Foundation Theatres, Stephen Found, Destination NSW and David Elfick of Palm Beach Pictures. “The National Institute of Dramatic Art is proud to host the initial STARSTRUCK workshops in Sydney this year,” said Cherry. “The development of new Australian work resonates with NIDA’s primary aim to provide an immersive creative environment that encourages industry collaboration and innovation.

David Elfick of Palm Beach Pictures, the Producer of the film said “STARSTRUCK was Australia’s first movie musical. It was a contemporary movie made during the golden era of Australian pop music. Now with STARSTRUCK the stage musical we have the chance to celebrate seventies and eighties music and include the best songs from that time into its comedy storyline of Jackie Mullens, a barmaid aspiring to be a popstar.”

Michael Gudinski, Founder and Chairman of Mushroom said “it’s very exciting that STARSTRUCK will come to life again. Mushroom’s artists and songwriters contributed most of the music in the film in 1982. It was a great movie that was ahead of its time. The musical will feature a lot more Mushroom songs from the era that will bring great energy to the stage.”

McQuinn, a NIDA Alumnus and the lead producer of Priscilla Queen of the Desert The Musical – many refer to it as Australia’s national musical – said the vastly experienced creative team will work with NIDA students across all its courses, giving lectures and masterclasses, and workshopping the production processes.