Kinky Boots producer and union reach agreement on imported musical stars

Australia’s musical theatre community has been speaking out for much of the last year over the rise in international performers winning prized roles in our biggest musicals.

We’ve seen imported performers this year in leading roles in productions of Ghost, Kinky Boots, My Fair Lady and Aladdin, and just last month it was revealed that the Australian premiere of Book of Mormon would be led by two international performers with more than a third of the cast made up of imported artists.

Now, the Michael Cassel Group, the company behind Kinky Boots, recent tours of Les Miserables and Singin’ in the Rain, and the upcoming Australian premiere season of Beautiful – The Carole King Musical, has reached an agreement with the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA) concerning the use of international performers.

MEAA Equity President Chloe Dallimore commended the Michael Cassel Group for leading the way on this controversial issue in an agreement designed to improve transparency in casting.

She said:

“For Australian performers, playing a lead or major supporting role – particularly in a touring production – is a career-defining opportunity that can lead to international exposure.

“Our performer members have a legitimate expectation that wherever possible, Australians shall be engaged.

“By the same token, MEAA fully appreciates that producers sometimes have other pressures, including the necessity to maximise box office takings, and that creative decisions ultimately rest with the producer.”

From the early 1990s until 2012, there was an agreement between the MEAA and Live Performance Australia (the association representing producers and performing arts companies), governing the use of foreign performers. In 2012 LPA opted to not renegotiate that agreement, and since then there’s been no overarching framework ensuring Australian performers get a shot at the top job.

The agreement between the MEAA and Michael Cassel Group is in effect now, and is in force for the next three years.

Michael Cassel said: “I am very proud of the relationship we enjoy with MEAA and appreciate the organisation’s positive and professional approach as we have crafted these guidelines together, which highlight the importance we all place on securing opportunities for Australian actors.”

The MEAA released the following statement explaining how the guidelines will work:

“Under the guidelines, at the outset of a production, Michael Cassel Group will send a copy of the casting brief to MEAA at the same time as to agents.

“If it appears that a role may not be able to be cast locally, Michael Cassel Group will provide specific information to MEAA to allow further dialogue and will agree to consider any constructive suggestions MEAA may have.

“The guidelines also allow particular circumstances where Michael Cassel Group may employ overseas performers, including international performers of renown, box office criteria, and unique ethnic or other criteria for a role.”

Featured image: Kinky Boots in Melbourne. Photo by Matthew Murphy

One response to “Kinky Boots producer and union reach agreement on imported musical stars

  1. Good. Should work. Keep talking. Keep being upfront. All parties. Let us not forget the likes of Mr Warlow, Mr Sheldon, Ms O’Byrne, Ms O’Connor, Mr Jackman, Mr Dale, Mr Burke, Mr Donovan, Ms Carroll, Ms Dallimore, (not forgetting Mr Helpmann, Ms Bronhill, Mr Michell, Mr McLennan, Mr Fiander, Mr Hornery, Mr McKern (even Mr McCallum and his wife Ms Withers in earlier eras) have all worked in the UK or the US in commercial stage productions over the years to great success and respect. Not forgetting hundreds of superb ensemble members trained and blooded down under and now regularly filling roles all over the world – from Shanghai to Manila to Istanbul – often unsung but by gosh by golly worthy of note and respect.(WAAPA and the VCA put something in their water fountains). Visas were granted. Each case should be assessed on its merits: in good time. With due diligence. Not unlike fruit pickers, nurses and opera singers. Not forgetting the world of classical music, opera, subsidised theatre, festivals, films and sports on television. Aussies abound. Like, who’s in charge here???

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