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WAAPA presents Australian premiere of award-winning musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Ben Elton

Tuesday, 09 August 2016

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When Andrew Lloyd Webber and Ben Elton’s award-winning musical The Beautiful Game premiered in London’s West End in 2000, it was praised by reviewers as “boldly different” and “brave, engaging and heartfelt”. The show featured the stunning choreography of Australian artist Meryl Tankard, which was applauded as “superb” and “refreshingly inventive.”

Now, thanks to the generous support of the Jackman Furness Foundation for the Performing Arts, Meryl Tankard will direct and choreograph the Australian premiere of this powerful and passionate musical at the Western Australian Academy of the Performing Arts in August.

The Beautiful Game, directed and choreographed by Meryl Tankard, with music direction by David King and performed by WAAPA’s 3rd Year Music Theatre students, opens on Saturday, 20 August for a week-long run.

Multi award-winning choreographer and director Meryl Tankard is internationally renowned for her creative, individualistic work, having created ballet, opera and music and dance theatre for the main stages of Australia, France, Germany, the UK and USA.

Tankard’s early career was spent in Europe performing with the acclaimed Pina Bausch Wuppertal Dance Theatre. On returning to Australia in the 1980s, Tankard founded and ran her own company in Canberra for three years before being appointed Artistic Director of Australian Dance Theatre in Adelaide, a position she held for six years. During this time, she created an illustrious list of productions and turned ADT into an internationally-recognised touring company.

Since 2000 Tankard has worked as a freelance artist across ballet, musicals, opera and film, as well as large-scale productions, including choreographing a segment of the opening ceremony for the Sydney Olympics in 2000. More recently Tankard has focused on directing film and television as a medium for expressing her artistic vision.

“Andrew Lloyd Webber saw one of the last performances of my work with the Australian Dance Theatre at Sadlers Wells in London and he invited me to choreograph the original West End production of The Beautiful Game,” explains Tankard.

“Since that time I have always wanted to direct the production so I am thrilled to be at WAAPA now working with these enthusiastic and talented students.”

Winner of the 2000 Best Musical Award in the Critic Circle’s Theatre Awards, The Beautiful Game follows the fortunes of a group of teenagers from both sides of the religious divide during the Troubles in 1960s Belfast.

Centred around a youth soccer team, the drama follows the choices these young people make as their lives are affected by the ever-increasing sectarian division and violence around them, with some being drawn into the conflict, while others want only to be allowed to get on with their lives in peace.

In his program notes for the original 2000 production, Ben Elton wrote that: “Although this is an Irish story, taking place in Belfast – a brave big-hearted city that I know well, having performed there many times – I hope that the themes and sentiments of The Beautiful Game are universal.

“All over the world communities are challenged by violence and hatred. This musical is dedicated to all those innocent and defenceless people who every day are forced to struggle simply to be left alone. Simply to be allowed to live and love in peace.”

As director of this exciting new Australian premiere, Meryl Tankard acknowledges the play’s ongoing relevance. “Although the story is set in Ireland in the late ’60s, The Beautiful Game's themes of terrorism, fear and war seem so relevant to the world we live in today,” she says.

Elton, who lives in Fremantle is delighted that WAAPA is producing The Beautiful Game.

“WAAPA is one of the world’s great theatre arts schools,” he says. “I know because I have had the enormous pleasure of seeing many of its superb productions here in Perth and having worked professionally with its graduates both in Australia and the UK. I have also visited the Academy on a number of occasions to speak to the students, which is always an inspiring experience.

“I am therefore so pleased that WAAPA have chosen to stage the Australian premiere of The Beautiful Game. Andrew [Lloyd Webber] and I are delighted that it is finally to be seen here in Australia presented by this vibrant and immensely talented young company.”

For all venue and performance details, please visit the The Beautiful Game performance web page.

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