From Tim Michin to Eddie Perfect: An 8 song history of Australia’s best musical writers
08.10.2021

From Tim Michin to Eddie Perfect: An 8 song history of Australia’s best musical writers

Australian Musical
Words by Benjamin Lamb

Melbourne’s live theatre scene is often regarded as one the best. We get a number of full-scale musicals every year and thousands of amateur companies put on some of the best beloved classics from the past.

With musical theatre on its slow way back to our stages, today we’re looking around to some of our best musical geniuses who have brought the catchy, jaw-dropping and massive songs to our stages. 

Peter Stannard + Peter Burke – Lola Montez 

Although the musical may not sound familiar, this show was one of Melbourne’s first feature musicals that played to many adoring fans across the state. 

Along with playwright Alan Burke, lyric and music writers Peter Stannard and Peter Benjamin penned a popular musical based on the story of Lola Montez, an Irish dancer and actress that made her mark in the Ballarat minefields entertaining miners in the 1950’s.

Before a successful Brisbane and Sydney run, the musical hit stages across Melbourne. The show was also adapted into a full-length movie for the ABC, and a number of the songs were used for a 1965 special called Lola and The Highwaymen. An excerpt from the special can be seen below. 

Jimmy Chi + Kuckles – Bran Nue Dae 

Before it was a hit movie starring names like Jessica Mauboy, Missy Higgins and Chris O’Dowd, Bran Nue Dae was one of Australia’s biggest musical exports. 

Chi, along with the band he was a part of, Kuckles, penned the musical based on his upbringing in the Aboriginal townships within Broome. Penned in the early 1990’s, many of the musical’s tracks have been commended from their timelessness and originality, and care towards the Aboriginal people. 

The show was set to return to the stage for a revival last year before being cancelled. Keep an eye out on their Facebook page here for any future dates that are announced. 

Matthew Lee Robinson – Metro Street 

Musical mainstay Matthew Robinson has appeared in a number of musical theatre productions and TV shows like Mamma Mia and The Pacific, and was a tutor on the popular short run reality series The Singing Office. 

The musical was penned by Robinson after catching one of Melbourne’s renowned trams back in 2002. The showcase production was put on at Melbourne’s ornate Chapel Off Chapel and had a cast of people like Carrie Barr, Lucy Durack and Verity Hunt. 

The musical garnered many positive reviews, leading Metro St to be a multi-Helpmann nominated show. 

Casey Bennetto – Keating!

Perhaps best known for his frequent popular appearances on shows like Spicks and Specks, Casey Bennetto is one of our most lauded musical writers and composers.

He wrote the musical Keating! in the early 2000’s about the popular long run of the former Prime Minister Paul Keating. The musical follows his reign and events that occurred between 1991 and 1996.

The show received much critical acclaim, received two Helpmann awards, and is still regarded as one of Australia’s best original musicals. The most recent performance was put on back in 2010 at the beautiful Theatre Royal in Hobart. 

The show was also recorded for a primetime TV special, which an excerpt of can be seen below. 

Eddie Perfect – Shane Warne: The Musical, Drink Pepsi, Bitch!

Before writing the music for Beetlejuice and King Kong on Broadway, Eddie Perfect was behind a number of the coolest and quirkiest musicals on our shores. 

In the early 2000’s he wrote Drink Pepsi, Bitch!, a musical about the world of Australian politics, and the presence of consumer culture. The musical toured the world, hitting stages in Edinburgh, London and Auckland. But in 2008, Perfect penned a musical about the wonder that is Shane Warne, taking a satirical look at his life and the headlines he’d make.

The musical received a Helpmann Award, a Green Room Award and a Victorian Premier’s Literary Award. It has achieved a cult status and has been put on for a number of amateur productions throughout Australia since its inception. Check out a song from the musical below. 

Tim Minchin – Matilda 

Comedian Tim Minchin is no stranger to a stage, selling out stages across the world with his unique brand of musical humour. 

Minchin wrote the lyrics and music for the musical back in 2008-2009, and the musical was put on a development stage in England to rave reviews, leading to a long run at the Cambridge Theatre on the West End, the Shubert Theatre Broadway, and a popular Australian run.

Minchin’s unique musical style and lyrical prowess led to one of the most well-regarded soundtracks, nominating him for a Grammy, Tony, and a Drama Desk award. 

Kate Miller Heidke + Keir Nuttall – Muriel’s Wedding

The widely well received Toni Collette headed movie was full of music, most notably by ABBA, so it makes sense that it has recently received the musical treatment. 

Along with a selection on popular tracks written by the Swedish 4-piece, Aussie Kate Miller Heidke and her husband Keir Nuttall penned a selection of tracks for the musical, winning a Helpmann award for best original score for their amazing work. 

The musical opened in Sydney in 2017 before selling out stages across Australia. Check out a song performed at the Helpmann awards from the musical below.

Yve Blake – Fangirls 

Only in her early 20’s Yve Blake has accomplished a lot during her short time. Her recent musical Fangirls is one of Australia’s newest and most popular original musicals. 

Blake was led to write this musical after seeing the media reaction after Zayn Malik left the boy band One Direction back in 2015. She began writing after being awarded the Rebel Wilson Theatremaker Scholarship. 

The musical has only been on a couple of times, the most recent being an Aussie tour earlier this year when theatres were still open. 

The soundtrack for the musical was released back in April this year, which can be seen here. Check out a song from the soundtrack below. 

After all that culture, feel like something a little more left-field? How about a list of the 10 best musical appearances of all time on The Simpsons