Tune up for an Australian soap opera musical
Summer Street is a musical celebration of the Australian soap operas of the 80s and 90s.
I caught up with Andrew Norris, the creator of the musical, for a behind-the-scenes look at the production.
Why do you think that Australian soap operas held such appeal for UK audiences during the 80s and 90s?
There was always a bit of sunshine on our TV sets! If you think of the UK and our rather gloomy, political landscape at the time, with the miners strikes and poll tax riots, it’s hardly surprising that we all needed a bit of escapism to the other side of the world where the sun always shone and everyone was happy.
Growing up, which character in Australian soap operas did you most identify with?
I wanted more than ever to be as handsome as Scott Ramsay but, sadly, I was more akin to Mrs Mangle.
What was the creative process you followed to create an original score for the musical that captured the essence of the music of that era?
It was such a fun process. I listened to a lot of music which was around at the time – Stock, Aitken and Waterman, Erasure, T’pau, Howard Jones, Nick Kershaw, and Abba. There are some great tunes, and there was some great experimentation with new sounds and electronic music, which is a passion of mine.
This music is not only interesting to listen to, but also inherently theatrical – with its big sounds, drum machines and synthesizers. I wanted to pastiche the music of the time, but also create some credible songs in their own right.
The challenge was to write music and songs which were easily recognisable but also are believable for the characters to sing.
Beyond the celebration of Australian melodrama, the show explores the allure of fame and celebrity. What does Summer Street tell us about the potential pitfalls of fame?
The show’s more serious side explores how addictive fame can be, and comments on the Reality TV phenomenon soap opera has arguably morphed into. It tells the story of four ‘has-been’ actors and their hunger to get back to the top of their game and the price they have to pay to achieve it. There is huge relevance today, as we’re now beginning to see the impact that Reality TV has on the people who star in it, and how damaging it can potentially be.
Is Summer Street primarily a nostalgia trip for people who are old enough to have an emotional connection with that era?
There’s certainly that nostalgic thread running through the show, which is a lot of fun, and people who grew up in the 80s and 90s will recognise it. Primarily though, it’s a great, human story which everyone can relate to. There’s something for everyone in there.