Adelaide Fringe Award Winner Nominated for Three Green Room Awards

Mon, Apr 8 2024
We sat down for a chat with Chris Mitchell, Director of ‘The Marvellous Elephant Man the Musical’ which won the Critics Circle Award at Adelaide Fringe 2023. With the production currently nominated for three Green Room Awards just 12 months after taking out this coveted award, we thought it was the perfect time to get an update on where things are at for the creatives behind ‘The Marvellous Elephant Man the Musical’.
Two performers stand on stage, holding each others hands high towards the light.
The Marvellous Elephant Man the Musical. Photo: Razan Fakhouri, Adelaide Fringe 2024
This journey is quite remarkable. Can you share some insights into how ‘The Marvellous Elephant Man the Musical’ evolved from its initial performances to becoming a critically acclaimed production?

The journey of ‘The Marvellous Elephant Man the Musical’ from its initial experimental stages to becoming a critically acclaimed production has been an incredible evolution, from the deep collaboration within our creative team to watching the performers’ growing connection to their roles. The win at Adelaide Fringe for the Critics Circle Award was not just an accolade but an affirmation that propelled us to refine and scale our vision while maintaining the show’s engaging essence. This process of constant adaptation, fueled by a commitment to storytelling and innovative musical theatre, has seen our production make some waves, earning us nominations for the Green Room Awards and setting the stage for an exciting future.

‘The Marvellous Elephant Man the Musical’ has received a plethora of 5-star reviews. How do you believe this industry acknowledgement has helped the show?

The industry acknowledgement in the form of 5-star reviews has been both humbling and exhilarating for the entire team. It's affirmed our belief in the project and significantly amplified the show's visibility. This acclaim has not only attracted a wider audience but has also opened doors for deeper conversations about the themes we explore in the musical. The recognition validates our hard work and creative risks, encouraging us to push boundaries even further.

What opportunities has winning the Adelaide Fringe Critics Circle Award in 2023 presented? 

Winning the Critics Circle Award was a pivotal moment for us. It was an endorsement from the industry that we were on the right track. This accolade has been instrumental in propelling the show into the spotlight, making it easier to secure venues and interest from new stakeholders for future productions. It also significantly boosted the excitement of our cast and crew, solidifying a sense of achievement and pride in the production.

Every production has its set of challenges and triumphs. Could you talk about some of the obstacles you faced during the development and performance stages, and how these experiences shaped the show?

Throughout the development and performance stages, we encountered several challenges, from tight production budgets to the complexities of portraying sensitive historical content in a respectful yet engaging manner. Adapting the story of Joseph Merrick for the stage required a delicate balance of humour and pathos, which was no small feat. These challenges pushed us to be more innovative and thoughtful in our approach, shaping the show into a production that we believe offers both entertainment and meaningful commentary.

The show has obviously resonated with audiences and critics alike, leading to sell-out seasons and now Green Room Award nominations. What aspects of the musical do you think have connected most powerfully with the audience?

The connection with audiences has been profound. I believe the musical's blend of humour, drama, and humanity has struck a chord. The story of seeking acceptance and love is universal, and our irreverent yet affectionate portrayal of Joseph Merrick's life invites audiences to reflect on themes of inclusivity and empathy in an accessible way. The dynamic music and performances have also been key to engaging audiences, making the historical narrative vibrant and relevant.
Critics have likened ‘The Marvellous Elephant Man’ to a modern ‘Rocky Horror Show’. How do you feel about this comparison, and were there any influences from iconic shows like ‘Rocky Horror’ in your creative process?

The comparison to ‘The Rocky Horror Show’ is flattering and somewhat fitting, given our musical's blend of irreverence, humour, and a touch of the fantastical. While ‘Rocky Horror’ wasn't a direct influence, its spirit of challenging norms and celebrating differences certainly resonates with our intentions. We aimed to create a space where audiences could laugh, reflect, and perhaps see the world a little differently, much like ‘Rocky Horror’ has done for decades.

Receiving three Green Room Award nominations is no small feat. How did you and your team react to the news, and what do these nominations mean for you personally and for the future of the show?

The Green Room Award nominations were a cause for celebration among our team. It was a moment of validation for everyone involved, recognising the hard work, talent, and creativity that went into this production. Personally, these nominations are a reminder of why we do what we do – to create art that moves, entertains, and matters. For the future of the show, it signifies that we've created something of quality and relevance, fueling our ambition to reach even broader audiences.

With talks of the show potentially touring internationally, what are your hopes for ‘The Marvellous Elephant Man’ on a global scale?

Our hopes for international touring are boundless. We believe the themes of our musical are universal, and the unique storytelling approach can captivate audiences globally. We're excited about the prospect of sharing this piece of Australian theatre with the world, contributing to global conversations about difference, acceptance, and the power of love. It's an opportunity to showcase our creative talents on a larger stage and to see how different cultures connect with the story.

Could you share some memorable moments from behind the scenes that highlight the camaraderie and creative dynamics among the cast and crew?

Behind the scenes, there have been countless memorable moments – from spontaneous sing-alongs during breaks to the support and camaraderie displayed in facing the inevitable challenges of live theatre. One standout memory was the night we had a technical glitch, and the cast improvised brilliantly, turning a potential disaster into one of the most memorable and hilarious performances of the run. These moments of unity and creativity are what make this journey so rewarding.

Following the success and recognition ‘The Marvellous Elephant Man the Musical’ has received, are there any new projects or directions you’re exploring for the future?

We're already brewing a few ideas for future projects. While I can't reveal too much at this stage, I can say that we're eager to explore more stories that blend historical context with contemporary themes, using our unique brand of humour and emotional depth. The journey of ‘The Marvellous Elephant Man’ has opened many doors and inspired us to dream even bigger for our next endeavours.

Chris Mitchell’s journey shines an informative light into the processes and opportunities of homegrown theatre. Remember: when you're wandering through Fringe, you're not just watching performances; you're witnessing potential history-makers on stage. ‘The Marvellous Elephant Man the Musical’ is proof that what starts at Adelaide Fringe can indeed conquer the world – or at least, make a serious dent in it. And that's the impact of winning an Adelaide Fringe Award: turning artistic dreams into tangible successes, one award at a time.