WRITTEN BY COMPOSER/PRODUCER
I became involved in EUREKA in 1999 when Maggie May Gordon, came to me with a great deal of enthusiasm, and a script and lyrics which exuded poetic images of love, hope, passion, injustice, struggle and survival, and the dream of a better life in this new land. My friend and associate of many years, Normie Rowe had suggested my name to Maggie when they met at one of Normie’s concerts not far from where Maggie lives, Trangie in North-West NSW. I was soon swept up in that enthusiasm for this great Australian story and after many discussions, initially by phone and fax between Trangie and Sydney, I accepted the challenge of writing the score and taking care of this 'precious baby.' I had always thought that referring to an artistic work as ‘your baby’ was a curious one, and that the phrase, 'killing your babies' was macabre, but Maggie and I soon realized that such a work became your ‘baby’ as you watched it grow, and nurtured it with love and care during the writing process. And, it was a necessary part of the development process for the writer(s) to be brutal in the constant deletion and revision of songs, lyrics and ideas.The reality was swift and uncompromising, but the journey is one I wouldn't have missed for anything.
In November 2000, we held the First Workshop for EUREKA at the Footbridge Theatre in Sydney. This was a 2-day workshop, directed by the effervescent and inspiring Katy Manning. By now, I had recorded several songs for a demo soundtrack and Katy and I decided that we could achieve more in the Workshop by concentrating on the Book and playing the recorded songs within the script. It was a shorthand way of getting a ‘song-script’ version up in 2 days without the actor/singers having to learn a full score. I assembled a wonderful cast of friends and associates, including Barry Crocker, Rob Guest, Judy Guest, Ric Lau, Russell Newman, Michelle Doake, to perform before an invited audience of about 200. The reaction was encouraging, supportive, and positive and I garnered many pages of suggestions, ideas, and thoughts from many of the guests, both from the general public and the industry. In 2001 we had several discussions, readings and re-writes, and further recordings in 2002. In February 2003, I made the decision that I needed to get EUREKA on its feet before a public audience and so gauge reaction to the music and story, if my aim of having EUREKA on stage as a fully fledged musical, in Melbourne in 2004, was to be achieved. December 3rd 2004 is the 150th Anniversary of the Eureka Rebellion, the significance of this date in EUREKA’s journey was obvious. The path of such journeys is never smooth but I was strengthened by my belief in the story, and the music I had written, and by the encouragement of my wonderful wife Jill, my family and friends. Barry Crocker, who has been there from the very beginning of EUREKA, was always supportive in those early days, encouraging me to keep pushing through, epecially in those times when it all seemed hopeless.
So, in August 2003, with the association and guidance of long-time friend, Tony Brady, and ‘the girls at ATA’, I took EUREKA on the road - an 'In Concert mode' production throughout Queensland Regional Theatres. The audience reacted in the manner I had hoped they would with effusive comments like "....it made me proud to be an Australian", and ".....I feel privileged to now enjoy the results of the miners' rebellion". The actors, many of whom had been part of that great era in Australian Musical Theatre with Les Miserables and Phantom of the Opera, proferred comments such as "... it was so great to be singing about our own history and relationships", and "... I felt so connected with the characters and their story." Our 2 weeks ‘on the road’ in 11 concerts reached an audience of over 7000. Our audiences were caught up in the EUREKA spirit and their response was very positive and most encouraging. I was fortunate enough to raise the finance for that Queensland Tour through a small group of generous and enthusiastic investors, and after a successful tour, raised the investment for the Melbourne production.
When I first met Gale Edwards, I was already an admirer of her work. We were collaborating on another project, and the topic of EUREKA soon came up in our discussions. It wasn't too long before I realised that Gale had a great vision for this story and for the musical, and her enthusiasm and passion was equally obvious. We agreed that in order to successfully stage EUREKA as a musical of international standard, there needed to be considerable further development through re-writing, revision, and workshops. By January 2004, Gale, and co-writer John Senczuk, had delivered a first draft of the book for the musical, based on the original work of Maggie May Gordon. It had fleshed out the relationships, introduced new characters, and expanded the storyline. It also meant that several new songs had to be written, and the revision and re-writing of Book, Music and Lyrics would continue up to Opening Night – and perhaps beyond – such is the process with a new musical. The creative team would work tirelessly - re-working scenes, ideas, and lyrics, to bring this fantastic story to the stage, and Gale and John’s work on the new script was all-consuming - with a great result. By August I realized that I had written 15 new songs for EUREKA since January.
For some time prior to this I had been talking to my friend of many years, Simon Gallaher, about joining me as co-Producer of EUREKA. Simon had attended the very first workshop in 2000, and knowing my passion for the piece, had offered advice on many aspects of the structure, songs and book and lyrics. We had spoken about EUREKA's progress over the 4 years since that workshop, and I knew his experience and success as a Musical Theatre Producer, and his friendship, would be a great asset to our production. I was delighted when he agreed to join me in Co-Producing EUREKA. It is somewhat ironic that Simon and I first worked together in the Yamaha Song Festival on the Mike Walsh Show. Now, after many years of working together on concerts, shows and recordings, here we are, 24 years later, in Mike Walsh's beautiful theatre, Her Majestys.
In January 2004 auditions commenced for EUREKA – primarily for the First Workshop of the new script, lyrics and music, and in March we all assembled for a 3-week workshop. We had hoped to complete ACTs 1 & 2 in this 3-week period but it became evident at the end of week 2, that such was the intensity and detail of the workshop that EUREKA would be best served by concentrating on ACT 1 and scheduling a further 2-week workshop for ACT 2 in July. We closed the 1st Workshop with a performance of ACT 1 to an invited audience of about 50 – the reaction was ecstatic and emotive. The 2nd Workshop was a similar process and lead us into our Rehearsals in Melbourne at the MTC studios, 2 weeks later.
By September 28th, EUREKA had completed it’s 2004 Workshop and Rehearsal period – 5 weeks of Workshop and 6 weeks of Rehearsal, and 9 very full months of creation – perhaps the ‘new baby’ analogy is now more obvious. EUREKA opened on October 8th at Her Majesty’s Theatre as part of the 2004 Melbourne International Arts Festival, and has since extended its season to continue beyond the festival period.
Michael Harvey, Composer and Co-Producer.