Ladies in Black musical to blow audience away with huge cast, 1950s style

MUSICAL SPECTACULAR: A group of the Ladies in Black cast attend the launch of the production in Bega last month.
MUSICAL SPECTACULAR: A group of the Ladies in Black cast attend the launch of the production in Bega last month.

With a massive 32-member cast, a rock band and over 100 pieces of 1950s-style costumes, Ladies in Black is not your average musical theatre production.

Spectrum Theatre Group has been furiously rehearsing for the show - written by Carolyn Burns, adapted from a book by Madeleine St John with music and lyrics by Tim Finn - before it hits the stage in Bega this month.

Set in Sydney in the 1950s, the musical tells the story of a bookish school leaver Lisa who joins the sales staff in fashionable department store, FG Goode's.

Over a summer that changes her life, she befriends the colourful denizens of the women's clothing department.

Holding the reins behind what is possibly the theatre group's largest-ever production is director Frankie J Holden, who described it as "a dramatic comedy with rock and roll music - and great frocks".

"One of the themes is how the right frock can change your life," he said.

"It won't be your average theatre production. There's not a weak link in the cast, they're all very, very strong performers."

MUSICAL SPECTACULAR: A group of the Ladies in Black cast attend the launch of the production in Bega last month with director Frankie J Holden.

MUSICAL SPECTACULAR: A group of the Ladies in Black cast attend the launch of the production in Bega last month with director Frankie J Holden.

Holden's wife, Michelle Pettigrove, is an actor and singer in the show and said she loved working with the huge cast because it brought back the days of large, professional theatre productions.

"I loved it, because you do get that family, home away from home feeling," she said.

"This piece really gives women a leading opportunity to show what they can do.

"So many other productions are male-heavy.

"There's a lot of productions out there where women get to be sidekicks, wives, prostitutes, but this is a leading story where everyone gets to be fully-formed characters."

Holden said the 1950s setting allowed them to have fun with the clothing and haircuts of the time, but the show also reflected the attitudes of men which have since changed from those days.

"None of the men come off well I have to say!" he said.

"But the blokes will like it, because we've broadened the characters so they are definitely Australian, they're rough around the edges."

He said while it is a hilarious, fun and entertaining show, from watching it people will be surprised at how far Australia has come from those days, while maybe think about how it has a way to go.

"But people will come out humming the songs," he said.

"It's drawn people from all over the shire to do it. This will be the start of much greater collaboration within the shire between different groups

"I think the shire has just got the potential in this area and over the next couple of years I think we'll see it bloom."

Holden described the show as a community effort and thanked Bendigo Bank for its support, as well as the professional team behind the production, the community who contributed and those who assisted with the costumes: Bus Stop Costumes, CC Bridal, Sadie Susie's Boutique, Be Blessed Sewing, Kathleen Brewster and Anne Blackley.

Ladies in Black will be performed at the Bega Valley Commemorative Civic Centre, Bega at 7.30pm on June 22, 28, 29 as well as July 5 and 6. Matinee shows will be from 2pm on June 23, 30, as well as July 6.

Tickets are $40/$38. To purchase, click here.

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