If you’ve ever found yourself stuck in a musical theatre YouTube vortex, chance are that you’ve stumbled across clips of some of your favourite Broadway stars performing some pretty awesome, yet relatively unknown pieces at New York hotspots ‘Joe’s Pub’ or ’54 Below’. You’ve become obsessed, found the composer/lyricist, listened to everything they have on offer and then fantasised about the day that you might see their work on the stage (and can buy and wear out the Original Broadway Cast Recording), and sometimes, this actually becomes reality. The backing of new music theatre in New York seems to be quite strong, with an ever-growing community of supporters willing to contribute to the development of new work and its viability.
That’s not to say, however, that New York is the only place that talent exists. To suggest this would unjustly discount creatives in the masses. But how is it that those on our fair shores, for example, are able to reap similar benefits to their American counterparts, without having to find the money for an international flight? Enter ‘Home Grown’.
Home Grown is an initiative still in its infancy, having launched in 2014. Co-founders Nick Hedger and Ben Nicholson, an up-and-coming writing team in their own right (Hedger & Nicholson of ‘Hook Up’ fame) created Home Grown to provide ‘a place to experience the best and newest material written by the Australian Industry’s own Music Theatre Writers’. What they have achieved however, is far more than just an ‘experience’ but rather, an opportunity for writers and performers to be heard, developed and above all else, supported by their peers, their mentors and Aussie musical theatre fans. It allows for Australian creatives to be given the recognition they deserve. Disappointingly, there seems to exist a stigma surrounding Australian original work, in most artistic domains, with the idea that it lacks the same substance, vigour and appeal as that of our overseas counterparts (and therefore is not given the appropriate attention), when this is just not the case. At all. This inaccurate perception is likely to stem largely from the Australian community’s lack of awareness and exposure to Australian work. This is why Home Grown is a more than necessary introduction to our community – to showcase the strength of Aussie theatre and prove that we are indeed a force to be reckoned with.
This positive move for a changed social attitude toward Aussie 'New Music Theatre' was well and truly supported at the 2015 launch of Home Grown at Chapel off Chapel this past Sunday evening. The atmosphere was a true joy to be a part of – relaxed, encouraging, fun - a true community feel. The tone was informal and allowed for a real sense of comradery and solidarity. This is exactly the vibe such a platform screams for, in order to allow for comfortable and trusted development. The hosts, aforementioned co-founders, Hedger and Nicholson beam throughout the whole night – their pride and passion is infectious and really proves how special this platform is. Each piece that was performed was engaging, relatable and really thought-provoking. Each writer was poised and obviously ready to share a part of themselves with the welcoming audience. It was a real treat to hear from those behind the pieces showcased, to learn of their writing process and the heart that goes into every song. This is the sort of thing that the wider community needs to be exposed to – to understand the commitment and the craft in order to truly appreciate it.
We at TTR thank Home Grown for allowing the community, including ourselves, to experience this. Already, we’re itching to see these pieces on bigger stages, and to continue immersing ourselves in the Home Grown culture. What’s so promising about the vibe of these new works is how ‘fresh’ and ‘now’ they feel. Without sounding too ‘theatre snob’, what’s being created now really does come across as a true reflection of our time, our culture and our people. This sentiment very obviously shone through in each of the performances presented, and most definitely worked to emphasise the sheer importance of accepting new music theatre and allowing for its development. Failing to do so could quite possibly see a great void in musical theatre and render our time, our culture and our people unrepresented. Home Grown combats this brilliantly.