Muriel's Wedding The Musical: Songwriters Take On Challenge Of Bringing Film To Life On Stage

Posted November 30, 2017 13:40:50

A scene from Muriel's Wedding the Musical of Muriel's wedding day>> Photo: Maggie McKenna stars as Muriel in the new musical production. (Supplied: Lisa Tomasetti)

>Map: Sydney 2000

How do you write music that can live up to ABBA?

That was the challenge for long-time collaborators and music power couple Kate Miller-Heidke and Keir Nuttall, when they started work on the musical adaptation of the classic 90s Aussie film Muriel's Wedding.

Writing a musical was new territory for the duo. While the classically trained singer-turned-popstar Miller-Heidke had composed an opera before, this was something else.

>Audio: Listen to the full story (Books and Arts)

Miller-Heidke and Nuttall were brought onto the production around two years ago, when the original film's writer and director PJ Hogan was still working on an early draft.

"To be honest as soon as we heard about Muriel's Wedding the Musical, we were desperate to do it," Miller-Heidke says.

They were drawn to the colourful characters and the quintessentially Australian story of Muriel Heslop — a fame and ABBA-obsessed oddity, desperate to escape her small town and her suffocating family.

Mamamia, how to live up to ABBA?

The pair describes the thought of writing music on par with the hits of ABBA as "terrifying". But in the end, facing such a daunting task was actually a blessing.

Composers Keir Nuttall and Kate Miller-Heidke stand side by side>> Photo: Keir Nuttall and Kate Miller-Heidke composed 20 original songs for the production. (ABC RN: Hannah Reich)

"I think sometimes with art, having to overcome a challenge actually sort of explodes the whole thing and it [the work] transcends," Miller-Heidke says.

They wanted to compose music that would not sound boring in comparison to the ecstatic catchiness of ABBA's hits.

So instead of trying to emulate the Swedes, they decided to deliberately contrast them.

ABBA serves as the soundtrack to Muriel's fantasy world, while Miller-Heidke and Nuttall's poppy, original songs are the score for the real world.

Dreams and darkness

Muriel might not seem like the archetypal musical protagonist at first glance. She's far from a plucky orphan or rebellious nun. But Nuttall disagrees — dreamers are the bread and butter of musicals.

"Muriel, despite her talent for absolutely nothing, is actually a real dreamer … It's just that it's a kind of bizarre dream," he says.

The song-writing duo was also drawn to the darkness of Muriel's story.

Two women in ABBA costumes on stage for Muriel's Wedding the musical>> Photo: In the musical, ABBA serves as the soundtrack to Muriel's fantasy world. (Supplied: Lisa Tomasetti)

While it's easy to remember the funnier and more quotable parts of the original movie, there are sad scenes too — like Muriel's mother's sore feet finally getting some comfort, in a pair of stolen sandals.

Act Two of the musical includes a suicide and funeral scene, but Miller-Heidke says this darkness gives the show its potency.

And darkness isn't actually foreign to musicals — most of the characters of the West End and Broadway mega-hit Les Miserables (spoiler alert!) end up dead.

Muriel in 2017

Miller-Heidke and Nuttall worked closely with director Simon Phillips, who had been talking to Hogan for over a decade about bringing Muriel's wedding to the stage.

One of the key decisions of the Sydney Theatre Company and Global Creatures production was to bring Muriel into 2017.

Kate Miller-Heidke during a rehearsal of Muriel's Wedding the Musical>> Photo: Kate Miller-Heidke talks with director Simon Phillips during workshops for the musical. (Supplied: James Green)

"PJ was very insistent that the story was … more relevant than ever in the social media age," Miller-Heidke says.

"So Muriel doesn't just want to get married, she also wants to become famous, she wants to become an Instagram star."

Miller-Heidke says the production went through an intense series of workshops with "lots of fire, lots of heated discussions".

Songs were drafted and redrafted as the duo became more familiar with the musical format. But the final product retains their signature creativity, for example where they've used the sounds and exclamations that come along with "the slow monotonous rhythm of cricket" to create a musical signature for Heslop family.

Three people sit on a couch watching tv with junk food on stage in Muriel's Wedding the musical>> Photo: Briallen Clarke, Michael Whalley and Connor Sweeney play Muriel's family, the Heslops. (Supplied: Lisa Tomasetti)

In other places they've been able to lean into their pop music grounding.

Miller-Heidke describes one their songs, Sydney, as "a slice of pop heaven you just wanted to crawl inside".

The controversial ending

While the new music has been critically acclaimed, some reviewers have criticised the musical's new ending.

Toni Collette as Muriel Heslop stares excitedly at her husband on her wedding day. >> Photo: In the original film, Toni Collette starred as Muriel, while Daniel Lapaine played her husband. (Supplied: Miramax Films)

Unlike the film, which sees Muriel run off to Sydney with her best friend Rhonda, the musical sees her with a boyfriend too.

Nuttall and Miller-Heidke don't see this as a compromise on the original's feminist bona fides.

Subscribe to the podcast

>

Explore performance, writing, music and visual art every day.

"Bryce [the boyfriend] is very much a postscript. It's like it's a footnote," Miller-Heidke says.

But it's a footnote she's fond of, because "the movie never wrapped that story line up neatly, it was always sort of left out in the ether … [the musical] is neater."

Topics: arts-and-entertainment, film-movies, opera-and-musical-theatre, sydney-2000

>

More stories from New South Wales

Source : http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-11-30/muriels-wedding-the-musical-brought-to-life-on-stage/9206662

Muriel's Wedding the Musical: Songwriters take on challenge of bringing film to life on stage
Muriel’s Wedding the Musical: misfit shines more brightly
Kath and Kim star Gina Riley's daughter Maggie McKenna to take on Toni Collette’s role in Sydney's world premiere of Muriel’s Wedding: The Musical
Kate Miller-Heidke brings her pop and opera worlds together for new record and orchestra tour
Mughal-E-Azam, the grand Broadway musical brings Anarkali to life in Delhi
Tarantino to Wed Israeli Pop Star Daniella Pick
I want to challenge myself: Armaan Malik
‘Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’: Watch The New Ronettes-Inspired ‘Maybe She’s Not Such a Heinous Bitch After All’ Video — Exclusive
Here comes the fun: What you need to see, hear, do and read in Sydney this summer