All things Arts. All things Brisbane.

Carrying the Banner? Well, not quite yet…

Musical and play rights are regularly given and taken away at the supposed drop of a hat. Rights holders, understandably want the best return on their investment, and with royalties being far higher from professional productions, it is a no-brainer for them to rescind performance rights from community theatre companies.

The hard question is how long should these rights holders reserve rights? In the case of ‘Shrek: The Musical’, rights were released at the community level before being taken away in lieu of the upcoming professional Gordon Frost tour. This is a similar story for Kander and Ebb’s ‘Chicago’, whose rights are given out intermittently to community theatre companies between unrelenting Australian tours. 

This seems to make the most financial sense and allows community theatre organisations to access new and fresh works that may bring in fresher audiences.

I recently musically directed a show where during the warm-ups for both band and cast we all realised our mutual love and appreciation for the cult-classic musical ‘Newsies’. This Alan Menken musical based on the 1992 movie of the same name, isn’t going to win any awards for innovation, but from the toe-tapping overture to the rousing finale, it is clear that Disney knows how to create a well-rounded wholesome family musical like no other company.

When asked by the cast when it was going to be done in Brisbane, I simply said “the rights aren’t available”. The decision to limit its reach to the Australasian community theatre market is a strange one. And this raises a much larger question:

What other musicals are we dying to produce in Brisbane, but cannot?


Set in turn-of-the century New York City, Newsies is the rousing tale of Jack Kelly, a charismatic newsboy and leader of a band of teenaged “newsies.” When titans of publishing raise distribution prices at the newsboys’ expense, Jack rallies newsies from across the city to strike against the unfair conditions and fight for what’s right!

Based on the 1992 motion picture and inspired by a true story, Newsiesfeatures a Tony Award-winning score by Alan Menken (Little Shop of Horrors, Sister Act) and Jack Feldman and a book by Tony Award winner Harvey Fierstein (Kinky Boots). Featuring the now classic songs “Carrying the Banner,” “Seize the Day,” and “Santa Fe,” Newsies is packed with non-stop thrills and a timeless message, perfect for the whole family and every audience.

But why do we care that Newsies isn't available for licensing?

Key song we're missing out on?

Hands down. Santa Fe. It opens and closes Act 1, so you know it’s good. Also, it’s full of that Menken charm and ends with a huge belt.

Best shower song ever.

Hunchback of Notre Dame

In the second of the Alan Menken modern triptych, we visit ‘Hunchback of Notre Dame’.

Based on the Victor Hugo novel and songs from the Disney animated feature, The Hunchback of Notre Dame showcases the film’s Academy Award-nominated score, as well as new songs by Menken and Schwartz. Peter Parnell’s new book embraces story theatre and features verbatim passages from Hugo’s gothic novel.

The musical begins as the bells of Notre Dame sound through the famed cathedral in fifteenth-century Paris. Quasimodo, the deformed bell-ringer who longs to be “Out There,” observes all of Paris reveling in the Feast of Fools. Held captive by his devious caretaker, the archdeacon Dom Claude Frollo, he escapes for the day and joins the boisterous crowd, only to be treated cruelly by all but the beautiful gypsy, Esmeralda. Quasimodo isn’t the only one captivated by her free spirit, though – the handsome Captain Phoebus and Frollo are equally enthralled. As the three vie for her attention, Frollo embarks on a mission to destroy the gypsies – and it’s up to Quasimodo to save them all.

Disney have created the most amazing production handbook – unrivalled by other rights holders. Well worth the read!

But why do we need to visit France?

Key song we're missing out on?

‘Out There’. Just listen to it. WOW!

Sister Act

Rounding out our Alan Menken top-3 is ‘Sister Act‘.

Arguably Whoopie Goldberg’s most famous role, Deloris Van Cartier is in the wrong place at the wrong time when she witnesses her fiancé murdering one of this accomplices. She is put in protective custody in the one place the cops are sure she won’t be a found: a convent!

Disguised as a nun, she finds herself at odds with both the rigid lifestyle and uptight Mother Superior. Using her unique disco moves and singing talent to inspire the choir, Deloris breathes new life into the church and community but, in doing so, blows her cover. Soon, the gang is giving chase, only to find them up against Deloris and the power of her newly found sisterhood.

Key song we're missing out on?

‘The Life I Never Led’, but specifically the reprise. Listening to meek and mild-mannered Sister Mary Roberts belt her face off with some beautiful Menken harmonies is just the perfect emotional climax of Act 2. Listen now for a small break from the rest of Menken’s funky disco score.

The Wild Party

Andrew Lippa has had mixed results with his Broadway and Off-Broadway offerings. Although, generally enjoyed by audiences, unfortunately his shows tend to lose favour with the critics, with Big Fish and The Addam’s Family falling into these categories.

In a strange turn of events, two adaptations of Joseph Moncure March’s narrative poem ‘The Wild Party’ opened in the 1999/2000 season – one on broadway and one off-broadway. Despite having the same source material, both shows were wildly different (pun intended). With a sultry 1920s score and dark subject matter, this is a show for adults who like a little bit of risqué.

Andrew Lippa’s adaptation was a star-studded spectacle, starring Julia Murney, Brian D’Arcy James, Taye Diggs and Idina Menzel, and most it’s most recent Encores revival starring Sutton Foster, the calibre of this show is second-to-none, which is why it it’s a damn shame that it’s unavailable for licensing in this country.

Key song we're missing out on?

‘The Juggernaut’. Think ‘The Nutbush’ but far less family-friendly. It is infectious with its pulsating rhythm and percussive lyrics. Plus, it’s just fun to sing!

We don’t know how long we will have to wait for any of these titles to become available.

If and when they do, we can’t wait to see theatre companies in Brisbane (community, independent and professional) snap them up and bring something new and exciting to the stage!

Did we miss your favourite? Let us know in the comments below!

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