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Sunday, 22 January 2017

Post 672 - Original Australian Cast - Man-Child

“It’s about the randomness of life … of how you’re here one minute and gone the next, and how you’d better get relationships established because there’s not much else that you can rely on,” recalls composer Chris Neal. “It was hippy, it was flower power, it was joy, joy, joy.”  Neal first hit upon the idea for “Man-child” while he was working in Vietnam in 1968. He had a lot of free time on his hands because he was there as a kind of coach- writer for incoming acts that were working for this American agency ... he’d been brought up on musicals by his parents who were all into Gilbert and Sullivan and Rodgers and Hammerstein and he’d always thought it would be a good idea to write a rock musical. Upon returning to Sydney, Neal became aware of “Hair” and its trailblazing run at the Metro Theatre. His brother Jim put up some money for the production and Chris went about putting together a team to make it happen. A key member was director Michael O’Reilly. “Michael could see straight away that he could bring a lot to the show and everybody was very impressed by his credentials. “He’d choreographed and directed quite a few shows in and around Sydney at the Old Tote and Ensemble and so on. The production struggled to find a suitable venue that was available in Sydney, which drove them to a unique but expensive solution. They ended up getting a plastic bubble tent built by an organisation in Adelaide who had just developed this technology. It was a 600 seat theatre which was called the Bubble Theatre. The $40,000 tent was erected at the Sydney Showground and final rehearsals began. However, they soon realised that while the bubble made an amazing space for theatre productions, it didn’t have the best acoustics for a rock concert. The preview week in early August 1971 saw a positive response from the critics. Then, just as it seemed “Man-child” would be off to a flying start, a freak accident held them back: a massive storm tore a hole in the bubble. With the Bubble Theatre gone, the production was forced on to the road. Their first stop was Brisbane, where “Man-child” proved a great success. In their first week at the SGIO theatre they broke the box office attendance record. Things only got better when they moved to Perth. More sold-out shows followed in Adelaide and there was momentum for “Man-child” to move on to Melbourne, where they planned to record an album and start a season at the Metro Theatre. Things didn’t go to plan, though. The company was informed by their promoter that the theatre wouldn’t need their services: they’d got Grease instead. So they just had to pack their bags and go back to Sydney and that was the end of that.  For all the success it had enjoyed on the road, awareness for “Man-child” fell away quickly. The soundtrack sold around 5000 copies and cracked the lower end of the top 40 charts but stalled without the show on the road to promote it. As far as Neal can recall there has never been another production.  Chris Neal once said…”I wouldn’t allow it to be put on now,  Its relevance is completely gone ... it thrived on joy, joie de vivre, the smile ... if it was going to be redone again I’d probably write about another three drafts and give it a bit of sophistication.” The LP was produced by Spencer Lee with arrangement by Ken Tait & Chris Neal with all lyrics & music by Chris Neal. “Man-Child” (ML OO2) was recorded at TCS Studios Melbourne for M7 Records in 1972. I love when I get a record to fix up for the Blog that I’ve never heard or heard of as the case with this LP. But I must say I was very impressed and like the LP very much. Big thank you to Rex for sending me this album for the Blog.Flac

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