Starstruck the Musical at NIDA

From the iconic 1980s Australian film originally directed by Gillian Armstrong comes Starstruck The Stage Musical, a love letter to Sydney. Set in The Rocks in the shadow of the Sydney Harbour Bridge in the 1980s, the musical follows quirky teenager Jackie Mullens, who works in her mother’s failing pub but dreams of becoming a rock star. With her cousin Angus, they conspire to make one appearance on the national TV talent series, ‘The Wow Show’. Starstruck The Stage Musical features the original soundtrack, including Body and Soul by Tim Finn, the title song Starstruck by Phil Judd, and The Monkey in Me! by Dennis Nattrass.

Carly spoke with Producer Garry McQuinn about the stage adaptation of the Aussie film and the importance of bringing fresh Australian voices to the stage. Read the full interview below:

Garry McQuinn

Starstruck The Musical is based on the 1982 film by the same title that was awarded nominations at the Australian Film Industry awards that year across categories. Described as being a splashy, colourful, musical comedy in film, what can audiences expect from its musical counterpart? How much of the original story remains the same, what has changed and what can audiences get excited about in terms of form for this new Australian musical? 


We walk a fine line with reinterpretation.  We have to remain faithful to the essence of the work but we can't just revisit the original script.  So we must artfully translate the work from the language of cinema to the language of theatre – and reveal something different, because any work of art much stand on its own.  Our challenge is to satisfy those who loved the film and also appeal to a new generation who may never have seen Starstruck. 


So we’ll be holding on to the story and the main characters, and the vitality of Gillian Armstrong’s tone and spirit.  But our audiences will experience Starstruck in a different way - if only because all key emotional moments are set to music and there’s an entirely different emotional impact that comes with a musical.   


An interesting full circle with the film and today is the reality TV show storyline which arguably makes this neon Australian fairy-tale more relevant than ever. The film was made 37 years ago, but the impact on our culture (and our young people) of  reality TV and its bed-fellow fame has never been more immediate. The Starstruck story gives us enduring and relevant themes to develop and dramatise on stage.  


The work has been developed as a collaboration between RGM and NIDA to incorporate students in the development of new Australian work. Why has this been an important part of the musical’s journey and what do you think having young Australian voices contribute to the work has meant for the project as a whole? 


The collaboration between the national theatre school and a commercial producer to develop new Australian musicals is both obvious and timely. This partnership will provide us with the time and space to nurture new work, insulated from the rush to production and exorbitant expense that characterises many new productions. This is a new vision of sustainable development. NIDA is a place that fizzes with youthful exuberance and energy ... what better place to launch Starstruck – The Stage Musical, an iconic movie about young people pursuing their ambition and finding their place in the world?  For me it feels like bottling water from the river source.  


What do you think Australian audiences will most love about Starstruck and why must Sydney-siders ensure that they don’t miss it this October/November? 


Australians like an underdog and I think they’ll love this show’s innocence, humour and dare-to-dream chutzpah - as well as the brilliant 80’s Australian classic music.   It was such a golden time for Aussie music and with Mushroom Music Publishing’s support we are assured of a wonderfully evocative soundtrack.


The story is set in in a pub under the Harbour Bridge, making Starstruck a quintessentially Sydney story.  Destination NSW are backing it as a Sydney event and I’m pleased to say that we will be launching the show in my hometown. 


What is something that you hope stays with audiences about this show long after they have left the theatre? 


The joie de vivre of youth and the importance of dreams.





Favourite production you have ever seen? 


It’s a good day for me to answer this question. When I was 17 I saw the original Australian production of Jesus Christ Superstar (the Jim Sharman / Brian Thomson version).  That show changed my life, it opened up the world of theatre to me and gave me a career that I love.  I saw the new London production of Superstar yesterday and I was reminded of the thrill of those moments.  Which says something about the enduring power of music.


You’re getting on a plane tomorrow and you can go anywhere in the world, where do you go? 


Somewhere I’ve never been.  

Otherwise … home.  I’m based in London and I don’t get back to Australia often enough.

Dream show to produce in Australia? 


Not all of my ideas are good ones, but right now … I’d love to tell the Stevie Wright story in a new way.  The Easybeats were the greatest Aussie band of the ‘60s, they were the soundtrack of a generation and their story (and Stevie’s) is fascinating and relevant.  Tomorrow it’ll be something new!

Plays or musicals? 


Musicals … for the time being.  But I spent my formative years in a rehearsal room with some of the world’s greatest directors, working on some of the world’s greatest plays.  I’ll get back to that sooner or later.


A hobby you have beyond the theatre? 


I gravitate to activities that provide a measure of isolation - perhaps because I spend most of my working life surrounded by (and hoping to manage!) people.  

So flying a small plane and scuba diving.  

And watching the Sydney Swans, usually at 5am.


What’s next for you after this show? 


In development? 

Another new show, hopefully Starstruck with NIDA will be the first in a new Australian musical development pipeline.  

We are at the workshop stage with Fay Weldon’s Lives and Loves of a She Devil in London and I’m working on the international roll-out of Jean Paul Gaultier’s amazing autobiographical extravaganza, Fashion Freak Show.  

And various international productions including the export of Peter Rix’s Velvet and an Australian tour of the West End hit Everybody’s Talking About Jamie.

Starstruck the Musical opens at NIDA on October 30, 2019. You can get your tickets here.

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