Ladies in Black
Press Release

Ladies in Black

27 Nov 2015

Melbourne Theatre Company opens its 2016 season in glittering fashion with the glorious new musical Ladies in Black, a celebration of glamour, gowns and growing up in 1950s Australia. Adapted from the Madeleine St John novel, The Women in Black, and brought to life by director Simon Phillips with songs by Tim Finn (Split Enz, Crowded House), this QTC production opens on Wednesday 20 January at Southbank Theatre, The Sumner.

Fresh from their triumphant stage adaptation of North by Northwest, Ladies in Black brings writer Carolyn Burns and director Simon Phillips back to MTC, to work alongside a stellar cast including Sarah Morrison making her MTC debut, Lucy Maunder (Grease), Christen O’Leary (The Boy from Oz), Naomi Price (The Voice 2015), Deidre Rubenstein (North by Northwest) and Bobby Fox (Jersey Boys).

The production features 20 original songs by Tim Finn and a stunning range of 30 custom-designed dresses and suits by international award winning designer Gabriela Tylesova. With a dash of delicate comedy, Ladies in Black is sure to delight Melbourne audiences, having received critical acclaim and a standing ovation at its premiere in Brisbane earlier this month.

Director Simon Phillips said, ‘It’s always great to work on a brand new piece, but this one has so many ingredients that I love, that it promises to be really special. The original novel is a rare jewel, a funny and life-affirming tale that turns small lives into a captivating page-turner and Carolyn’s adaptation perfectly and economically catches its charm and the poetry of its intertwining narratives. Add to that the wonderful, witty melodies of Tim’s score – from laconic bush ballads to soaring, romantic odes to fashion and possibility – and you have a heady mix, a theatrical event with its own beguiling, twinkly-eyed style.’

In 1950s Sydney when the city was on the cusp of becoming cosmopolitan, young high school graduate Lesley takes a holiday job at Goodes, the most prestigious department store in town. In that summer of innocence, a world of possibilities opens up as she befriends the ladies of the women’s frocks department – including her new mentor, the exotic European Magda, mysterious mistress of the gowns.

Carolyn Burns began her career in New Zealand, devising and writing the comedy-thriller for children, The Retrievers. Her first play for adults, Objection Overruled, was performed in all major New Zealand theatres. After moving to Australia, she worked as a journalist with SBS, before attending the screenwriting course at AFTRS and writing for ABC TV. She later wrote four plays, including adapting both Haxby’s Circus and High Society for the stage. Since then, Carolyn has worked as a dramaturg and script editor, and is currently collaborating on a number of new works for the stage.

Tim Finn OBE is a highly acclaimed singer and songwriter whose illustrious career began with the group he co-founded in the early 1970s, Split Enz. Tim has also enjoyed great success as a solo artist and as a collaborator with his brother Neil Finn, both during his tenure with Crowded House and as musical duo Finn Brothers. In 2009, Tim collaborated with playwright Matt Cameron on Poor Boy which premiered at MTC. It was directed by Simon Phillips, and featured songs taken from a range of Tim’s albums. Tim is currently under commission by the Western Australian Opera, Victorian Opera and New Zealand Opera to write Star Navigator, which will tour throughout Australia and New Zealand in 2016.

Award-winning director* Simon Phillips* was MTC’s Artistic Director from 2000 to 2011. Among his many MTC credits are North by Northwest, Pennsylvania Avenue, The Importance of Being Earnest, Hamlet, Richard III, The Drowsy Chaperone, August: Osage County, Festen, The Blue Room, Proof, and High Society, which also had a successful UK production. Simon has also worked extensively with companies internationally and around Australia, including STCSA where he was Artistic Director from 1990 to 1993. On the commercial stage, his productions include Priscilla – Queen of the Desert, the Musical, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Love Never Dies and Eat, Pray, Laugh – Barry Humphries’ farewell tour, all of which have had various international seasons.

Cast includes Andrew Broadbent, Bobby Fox, Carita Farrer Spencer, Christen O’Leary, Deidre Rubenstein, Greg Stone, Kate Cole, Kathryn McIntyre, Lucy Maunder, Naomi Price, Sarah Morrison
Director Simon Phillips
Musical Director Isaac Hayward
Designer Gabriela Tylesova
Associate Designer Hana Sandgren
Lighting Designer David Walters
Orchestrations Guy Simpson

‘Delightful, refreshing production.’ The Australian

‘An immensely engaging score filled with gorgeous melodies…’ The Australian

‘One of the most charming, witty, funny, warm theatrical experiences you will ever have’ The Courier Mail

Venue Southbank Theatre, The Sumner
Season dates 16 January – 27 February
Opening night Wednesday 20 January, 8pm
Single tickets On sale Tuesday 1 December
Southbank Theatre Box Office
03 8688 0800 or

A Queensland Theatre Company Production. Originally produced by Queensland Theatre Company in association with Queensland Performing Arts Centre

Media Contacts
Rosie Shepherdson-Cullen
PR and Communications Manager
03 8688 0944

Stephanie Gavlak
03 8688 0945

Published on 27 November 2015