By Nicholas Christo and Johannes Luebbers. Hayes Theatre Company and New Musicals Australia. August 11 – September 9, 2017.
Writer Nicholas Christo and composer Johannes Luebbers must be delighted with this production of the musical they have spent “eight years and countless drafts creating”.
Adapted from the book Marvellous Melba by Ann Blainey, their MELBA is a tribute not just to the inspirational talent of the woman who became Australia’s “first great international presence” but to the strength and steely perseverance that made her our first self-made business woman. Using many of the arias for which she was so famous, Christo and Luebbers skilfully blend operaand musical theatre in a story of fame and success, heartache and longing.
The musical opens with the much loved soprano Emma Matthews as the mature, highly lauded Dame Nellie Melba returning Home Sweet Home to her adoring public. As her voice tremors on the final notes of Mozart’s “Porgi, amor, qualche ristoro”, we are taken back in time – and Annie Aitkin becomes the young Nellie Armstrong, caught between a difficult marriage, a son whom she adores and her determination to nurture her gifted voice.