Touring with the Australian production of Les Miserables in 2015, Lapstone’s Naomi Livingston was on the hunt for a new project.
“We were coming to end of our Australian tour and I knew I was going to be finishing up then because I was pregnant with my second child. In my head I was like: ‘I need something to do!’,” she said.
That “something” turned out to be a new Australian musical, Evie May, which premiered at Sydney’s Hayes Theatre last week.
Joining forces with one of her Les Mis actors, Hugo Chiarella, Livingston composed the music for Evie May with Chiarella writing the book. The musical tells the story of a fictional performer from regional Western Australia who ends up starring in Sydney’s Tivoli theatre – Australia’s version of America’s Vaudeville. It stars Amanda Harrison (Wicked, Rocky Horror) as Evie May and Loren Hunter (The Boy From Oz, Rent) as the younger Evelyn May Murphy. They are joined by Keegan Joyce (Please Like Me, Rake, Big River) as Cole and Tim Draxl (Only Heaven Knows, A Place to Call Home) among the cast.
While Livingston had written songs for other productions before, including for Bell Shakespeare Company and Sport for Jove, creating a completely new musical was a major step up for the former Wycliffe Christian School student.
She wrote about 40 songs for the musical – 25 of which had made the cut ahead of its preview performance. Songs were often tweaked to suit a specific actor’s voice.
“You just have to be flexible and ready to do that in order for the piece to improve as a whole,” said Livingston.
As the mother of two young daughters, who is also married to an actor (Drew Livingston), composing is often a juggling act.
“There have been times when I have been writing music while heavily pregnant with my second (child) and my first was in the other room having a nap. You just make space where you can. But I think we would get bored if we lived any differently!” she said.
Growing up in Warrimo, Livingston trained at WAPA and has been based away from the Mountains, but returned home five years ago.
“I like having the separation between work (in the city) and home: I like coming home; I like waking up to the birds; I like being able to go for a walk in the bush and just reset,” she said.
Living in the Mountains also allows her to stay connected to her early musical theatre roots with Blue Mountains Musical Society (BMMS), where she has directed two recent shows.
“The BMMS was my training ground before I got into drama school. It’s always been really important for me to be able to give back. That’s why I went back and directed Westside Story and Urinetown because I wanted other people to have the opportunity I had when professionals from the industry came back and directed me in (BMMS) shows,” she said.
“I look at some of those young (BMMS) guys and I can see them going out into the industry and doing it themselves. It’s really exciting to see the new talent – we have such a great pool of it in the Blue Mountains. We’re really lucky to have such a fostering community.”
Livingston hopes Blue Mountains theatre fans will see Evie May in Sydney.
“I’d love people to make the trek... It would be great to have a Mountains cohort come down the hill and support the growth of new Australian musicals!”
Evie May’s season continues until November 10 at the Hayes Theatre, Potts Point. For more information visit: www.hayestheatre.com.au.