Thursday, August 16, 2012


Earlier this week, I went to the "Rodgers and Hammerstein: Understanding the Phenomenon" conference. This was the inaugural conference of the new Australian Centre for Music Theatre Research and Development, a really exciting step for those of us with a research interest in musicals. I was especially pleased to pop in as my PhD supervisor, Professor Peter Fitzpatrick, was one of the speakers. Peter was an amazing supervisor and I'm still grateful for everything he taught me and for his brilliant sense of humour. His paper was a wonderfully witty and insightful overview of the art of lyric writing.

I'm hoping to find a little time to re-engage with my earlier research interest in musicals. I was a bit of a musical theatre geek in high school and later when I lived in the UK. Alas, I can't really sing. My high school choir teacher suggested that I could lip synch! So eventually I discovered I could funnel my interest into academia. My own PhD was largely concerned with the adaptation of Disney animation to the stage and I also published some work on French and Austrian musicals. And a review of We Will Rock You, which I published in theatre journal to my own amusement!

Before I went to Prato this year, I 'stole' a couple of days in London to catch up with old friends and see some theatre. I finally went to the Globe and it was an amazing experience I recommend. I saw Henry V and there's something magic about seeing a Shakespeare play in the kind of theatre he was most familiar with! I'd always planned to be a groundling, but to be honest, after a day on my feet, I'm glad I decided to sit in the stalls. The groundlings have to stand throughout the performance! Jamie Parker was a great Henry V and distracted me from wondering if the Carrionites were going to show up.

I also really loved the gates to the Globe.

I finally saw Wicked.

I'm not sure who the random man in my photo is! He looks a bit like Buddy Holly. Back to the story, I delayed seeing the show and now I have no idea why. I had heard just a little of the Broadway cast recording and it was a bit brash. I thoroughly enjoyed the London production, though. The leads were incredible and can I just say how fantastic it is to see a show where the two leads are women?

I didn't actually surprise anyone by admitting I favoured Glinda. She gets to travel by bubble and wear a tiara. That was a foregone conclusion.

For a change of pace, I also saw Sweeney Todd. Very, very dark. Michael Ball surprised me. I hadn't quite expected him in that role! It's a good production and Imelda Staunton is wonderfully horrible and sympathetic. It's not personally my favourite Sondheim. I love Into the Woods, which I'm teaching later this semester, Sunday in the Park with George and Company best.

It felt good to be catching up on musicals, though, and I hope that I never lapse again.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Ogres & Gelati

It was that time of year again. I was teaching 'Fairy Tale in Italy' at Monash's Prato campus... and eating all the gelati that obviously goes along with that assignment. 

I love teaching this unit. It allows me to discuss any number of rude bodily functions in the name of scholarship. It's a tight programme and there's a lot to cover in those two weeks, but how can you complain when your campus is Tuscany?

This year we did an additional field trip to Collodi, where there is a Pinocchio theme park. It has, we might say, seen better days, but the whale was pretty quirky.

If you ventured up the spiral staircase in his throat, you could stand on top and spy the world's tallest Pinocchio peering over the trees.

Although everyone agreed there was something rather creepy about the mechanical, bicycle riding Pinocchio figure in a dark gully. I've heard reports that nightmares were experienced.

In between teaching, I ventured out to the local museums, which I happily rated on the basis of their shoe collections. The Medieval Museum in Bologna rated particularly well, with a glass cabinet filled with medieval shoes, including pattens... Cinderella's pattens, as I like to think! No one else quite shared my excitement. Il Museo Salvatore Ferragamo in Florence was another favourite, though the shoes were considerably less ancient. The craftsmanship was still awe-inspiring and there was a Marilyn Monroe exhibit and they had this dress, which I actually write about in my book. 

I'm back in Australia now and still teaching fairy tales. We've just covered the women of the ancien regime and I'm finishing up the lecture slides for the 1001 Nights. I'm hoping to finalise those today, because on Monday I'm planning to be off to the Rodgers and Hammerstein conference. I'm catching up on my musical theatre research, which was put aside for a while there. But more on that next blog post!