‘Genesis to Broadway,’ the Makers of a Musical

By Philippa Rayment, Epoch Times
June 10, 2013 Updated: June 10, 2013

It’s a cold rainy day in Melbourne and in a bare upstairs dance studio in the back streets of Melbourne are the makers of the amazing musical ‘Genesis to Broadway.’ These talented men are discussing, rehearsing and last minute fine-tuning this popular musical play’s return to Melbourne.

Interestingly these men are all Australians by birth who have found fame overseas in London and New York. They are: Warren Wills, the ‘original idea’ man and creator of the play who is an international award winning pianist/composer; Frank Howson an international film director and song/script writer who is the director of the play; and singer/actor Queenslander Tod Strike of South Pacific, Cats and TenTenors fame, who is the male lead. Listening to their repartee it is obvious that these men are a happy team at work together. As Director Frank Howson says “Probably the nicest thing in this industry is getting to work with terrific people and people you admire.”

This musical play ‘Genesis to Broadway’ tells the stories of 5,000 Years of the history of music in the space of two and a half hours. It is not some dry history drama but a sparkling ‘behind the scenes’ look at how and why the great songs were composed. It is telling the stories of many different cultures through music and song – a rich tapestry in colours and music and irrespective of what your culture is there really is something for everyone.

As the script writer Frank Howson says about the play, “It’s a very entertaining skim through the history of music and we look at all the different races and what they contributed to what we know as popular song.”

He says it has an emotional connection with every culture. “We had people in the audience in tears and also we get the chance to tell the story behind some of the songs and how they were written and why they were written.”

Tod Strike talks about the feelings created by musical theatre. “It’s all about connecting and story telling”, says Tod. “It’s about giving a message that we are connecting with people, making them think in a different way or highlighting certain points and hopefully be swept away by it.”

And just a phone call away from the studio is South African born Fem Belling – the beautiful songbird in the production. Fem who is now living in Melbourne with her Aussie partner, is a ‘fantastic, very versatile actress, singer, dancer and musician and a 2012 nominee for the Green Room Award.” Fem chats to the Epoch Times on her way to the recording studio. She says that going to see Genesis to Broadway will save people a lot of expense in travel money. “We take the audience to all these places where this music is, so not only do they have 5,000 years of music in two and a half hours we save them thousands of dollars.” She also regards it a cultural event for every nationality.

“I think that music is the international language of the world. You can be from any culture. You can be from any country. You don’t even have to know or think English to be moved by music. Genesis to Broadway covers music from every culture, every nationality and how it has influenced where we are today with music.”

Just how did Warren get the inspiration to create this amazing show?

“I set this up years and years ago in London,” says Warren. “I had just come back from being a token male white form in Riyadh Saudi Arabia when music was illegal under Sharia law. I went over there to do a series of courses. We had to do it at the French embassy because we weren’t even allowed to perform on Saudi’s soil.”

This venture sparked his idea of bringing performers from different ethnic and cultural and religious backgrounds to the same stage – the whole gamut starting right at the beginning of song up to the present day, and he called it ‘Genesis to Broadway’. It was first produced in London as a concert with three choirs including one disadvantage kids choir. Encouraged by its success he took it to Hong Kong. Warren said that when producer Aaron Zaitman saw it he thought it would be good as a music theatre experience rather than a concert.
“He got Frank involved to do a script” says Warren, “ so suddenly it was transformed into a proper musical – proper family entertainment.”

The play is produced by Aaron Zaitman and in Melbourne is performing at Chapel on Chapel theatre. It is expected to be on Broadway in early 2014.