Names, hits and cheaper tickets

April 26, 2004

If bigger really is better, then this year should be a great one for The Production Company, writes Jo Roberts.

David Campbell, Jeanne Pratt, Marina Prior and Simon Burke at the launch of The Production Company's 2004 seasonThe biggest stars, the biggest Broadway hits, at the lowest prices; Jeanne Pratt is hoping it's the ticket to the biggest year yet for her musical theatre company, The Production Company.

Pratt has launched the company's sixth season of Broadway classics, which this year offers Cole Porter, Rodgers and Hammerstein and Irving Berlin at the lowest prices in its history, in shows featuring starring roles by Marina Prior, David Campbell and Simon Burke.

The season kicks off in July with the Porter classic High Society, starring Simon Burke, followed by Rodgers and Hammerstein's Carousel in August, starring David Campbell, and concludes in September with Berlin's Annie Get Your Gun, featuring Marina Prior in the title role. The list of directors for each show is equally impressive, with Adam Cook (High Society), Gary Young (Carousel) and Roger Hodgman (Annie Get Your Gun) guiding the casts through each frenetic nine-day rehearsal period.

Carousel is a concert version of the musical that is being performed in Australia for the first time. Coincidentally, its two previous performances have also starred Australians; Hugh Jackman in New York and Spencer McLaren in London.

Ticket prices to The Production Company's 2004 season are the lowest in its five-year history. A-Reserve tickets have dropped from $72 to $52 and B-reserve from $35 to $25. "I felt it should be accessible to everyone," said Pratt.

"We don't only need rich people to come, we want everybody to be able to come." Pratt founded the not-for-profit Production Company with her industrialist/philanthropist husband Richard in 1999, and personally puts $500,000 towards each season.

Company general manager, Rachel Taylor, hopes it will eventually emulate the success of the New York Encore series of plays, on which The Production Company is modelled.

"They sell out on subscription and unless somebody dies, there is no more subscriptions to be bought," she said. "So that's our aim. This year we'd love to double our subscribers."

Taylor said the company hoped it could further develop its role as a springboard for future stagings of shows, with its production of Hair going to Sydney last year, and its 2003 production of South Pacific opening at Sydney's Theatre Royale this July.

"We've also had interest from Queensland and two promoters in Sydney, who are interested in Annie Get Your Gun," she said.

This year the company will also reap the first fruits of its commitment to new works when Playbox stages Sideshow Alley, last year's winner of the inaugural Pratt Prize for new musical theatre. Taylor said there were no plans for The Production Company to stage a Pratt Prize winner yet, but would not dismiss it as a future possibility.

One face that will be missing from The Production Company this year will be that of former board member Sir Rupert Hamer, who died last month.

"He was always so enthused; he was the most wonderful chairman," said Pratt. "He was always the first in and last out of any party and he used to give all the wallflowers a dance. He was terrific."

This story was found at:

 The Melbourne Age, April 26 2004