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Beauty, Bluey: TV series makes transition to stage in world premiere

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Bluey — the much-loved, award-winning ABC children’s TV series — has finally made its theatrical debut in Brisbane in what organisers are hailing as a creative and public health triumph.

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After seven months of delays due to COVID-19 restrictions, Bluey’s Big Play, The Stage Show, finally opened at the Playhouse theatre as part of the Out of the Box Festival at the Queensland Performing Arts Centre (QPAC).

Developed by the Windmill Theatre Company, the show is believed to be the first premiere of a professional play at a full-capacity theatre anywhere in the world since the coronavirus pandemic hit in March.

The theatre adaptation brings TV characters Bluey, Bingo, Bandit and Chilli to life through giant puppets.

The production is set to play at QPAC until January 10 before embarking on a national tour of 50 towns and cities.

Bluey’s Big Play features an original story written by series creator Joe Brumm, with new music from composer Joff Bush.

Director Rose Myers said it was a testament to the determination of the production team that the show was able to get off the ground during a public health crisis.

“We actually started working on the show in March, ready to premiere in May, but like the rest of the performing arts industry, the show was shut down,” Myers said.

“We started in Melbourne, we then moved to Adelaide and there was the outbreak there and we moved rehearsals to Canberra, so it’s been quite a journey.”

Deputy Premier Steven Miles, who attended Tuesday’s rehearsals with his six-year-old daughter Bridie, said it was appropriate that the Brisbane-themed show should premiere in Queensland.

“Brisbane is experiencing the benefits of how well we’ve done this year and now our little ones get the same excitement to see Bluey,” Miles said.

“It’s almost certainly the first premiere of a theatre production in a full theatre anywhere in the world and for it to be our beloved Bluey, it’s very exciting.”

‘Absolute genius’

Bluey’s Big Play posed a new challenge to writer Brumm, who had become accustomed to creating seven-minute animated stories for television.

“The guy is an absolute genius … he’s written 104 episodes and all of them are just brilliant,” Myers said.

“He’s now turned his hand to writing a 40-minute stage play. He’s so clever and just the way he encapsulates family life and the joy of that.”

Myers said the show effectively encapsulates family life at a time when society was struggling amid the pandemic.

“Even though it pre-existed before COVID, the show does feel very timely,” she said.

“In COVID times, just what our family means to us has been really highlighted over this time.

“It’s a really contemporary look at the family, but it’s full of joy and it’s so full of fun and imagination.”

Both the theatre and the puppets will be deep-cleaned after each show in keeping with coronavirus hygiene standards.

Two casts have rehearsed to perform Bluey’s Big Play to meet strong demand in cities and towns where 100 per cent capacity in theatres is still not allowed.

Myers said a world stage tour would be a future possibility, given the international popularity of the Bluey TV series.

She said meticulous care was taken when trying to bring an animated series into a 3D world.

“When we were developing the theatrical production, we really knew that we had to deliver all the things that people love about the show on stage,” Myers said.

“We developed some incredible puppets and have been training up an amazing cast, with a combination of puppeteers, dancers and actors who bring the puppets to life.

“There’s a big responsibility when you take something so beloved like Bluey and bring it to an audience.”

– ABC / Jason Dasey

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