In July, Yve Blake’s musical FANGIRLS opens in London at the Lyric Hammersmith, helmed by the show’s original director Paige Rattray.

Yve Blake

Yve Blake sings the new song Learning to be Lonely from FANGIRLS at Home Grown, Hayes Theatre Co, 2024. Photo © Jessie Jay

Since its premiere at the 2019 Brisbane Festival and subsequent Belvoir season, the award-winning Australian musical has enjoyed a sold-out Australian tour in 2021 and an encore season at the Sydney Opera House in 2022. Now, it begins its international life.

FANGIRLS centres on 14-year-old Edna, who is madly in love with heart-throb popstar Harry, lead singer of the band True Connection. Harry may have millions of fans worldwide, but Edna is determined to make him realise she is the only one who truly understands him.

When the musical opens in London, it will include a new number called Learning to be Lonely, which Edna sings after falling out with her two besties.

On Sunday, Blake performed the song at Sydney’s Hayes Theatre Co as part of its Home Grown concert, delighting the full house.

Home Grown is a Melbourne-based not-for-profit company dedicated to supporting, developing and promoting Australian musical theatre. Established by Nick Hedger and Ben Nicholson, Home Grown has presented an annual concert at Chapel Off Chapel in Prahran since 2014, featuring material from new musicals being developed by Australian writers.

On 24 March, Home Grown made its Sydney debut at the Hayes. When the 5pm performance sold out, an 8pm concert was added.

Actor, comedian and songwriter Gillian Cosgriff, who has hosted all the Chapel Off Chapel concerts, proved a wonderfully amiable, amusing Sydney host. During her linking patter, she explained how the Melbourne concerts had started life in the Chapel Off Chapel foyer with just a piano, but had expanded to fill the theatre, with a band backing the performers.

The two concerts at the Hayes featured material from 14 musicals, performed by artists including Stefanie Caccamo, Erin Clare, Loren Hunter, Billie Palin, Matthew Predny, Brittanie Shipway and Chloé Zuel among others.

The program included two songs from Paper Stars, a new musical by Luke Byrne, Miranda Middleton and Grace Chapple about Australian author PL Travers who created Mary Poppins. Paper Stars was given a workshop production at the 2023 Australian Musical Theatre Festival, starring Loren Hunter as PL Travers, who also performed here.

Hunter also sang Mary MacKillop, a moving number from the musical Legends by Daniel Cullen and James Cullen – brothers whose musical Dubbo Championship Wrestling premiered at the Hayes in 2022.

Salem's Revenge

Abigail Dixon, Grace Driscoll, Emily Havea and Billie Palin in The Outsiders from Salem’s Revenge at Home Grown, Hayes Theatre Co, 2024. Photo © Jessie Jay

Naomi Livingston and Hugo Chiarella, whose musical Evie May premiered at the Hayes in 2018, were represented with a stirring song called The Storm from their new musical Paradise Road, which tells the true story of the women POWs, imprisoned by the Japanese in Sumatra during World War II, who use music to lift their spirits – a story which inspired Bruce Beresford’s 1997 film.

Comedy horror Jingle Hell – described by its writers Jonathon Holmes and Jared Jekyll as National Lampoon meets The Exorcist – was represented by a comic group number called Obligatory Family Christmas Panto.

Meanwhile, Salem’s Revenge by Jake Nielsen, Matthew Predny, Madeline Clouston and Declan Egan, which tells the story of the 1690s Salem witch trials through a 2020s lens (as Predny put it), was showcased by a number called The Outsiders, performed by some so-called witches.

The rest of the program included a broad range of different musical theatre styles. Sean Donohue also sang a terrific, tongue-in-cheek song called Sex Robot, while Cosgriff brought the house down with one of her own comedy numbers, Passport in the Chaos Drawer, accompanying herself on keys.

This Home Grown concert was proof positive that there’s a lot of exciting new musical theatre being written and developed in Australia, and that the lyrics are as important as the music if a song is really going to fly.

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