Ladies In Black

Rebecca Varidel
8th Jan 2017

What a blessing Ladies In Black is to Sydney, to Australia and to the entire repertoire and history of musical theatre.

Groundbreaking, strongly bold, compelling entertainment - Ladies In Black is not to be missed!

It is not only a new step forward in the evolution of musical theatre, with a distinctive voice and style and story, but sings Australia, Sydney and another era.

Set in 1959 in Sydney when black was relegated to funeral attire, it was also worn somewhere else. It was the David Jones department store uniform.

At a time when women rarely went to university, and were not on equal pay, working on the floor at the department store was one of their only employment options. This show Ladies In Black is softly feminist pivoting around the shop girls and their hopes and aspirations. With lines from songs "He's a bastard. A bastard"  the percussion on stage of teaspoons again china cups of tea and broad Aussie accents Ladies In Black is not only evocative of the times but commands a distinctively Australian voice.

Yet more Ladies In Black is also a universal and timeless story. Ladies In Black is brimming with joy; it is a story of dreams and how to "reach for the sun". Even better it is chock full of original music from Tim Finn. 

Ladies In Black is in fact like a whole new album with 20 original songs by the legendary Split Enz front man.

The musical was actually his idea. Tim Finn was famously looking for a book to read, bought Madeleine St John’s novel The Women in Black and on reading it, was compelled to call Simon Phillips and plant the seed for a stage production. On the plane, he started writing the music. The rest is history.

The Story

With a dash of delicate comedy, Ladies in Black is a magical modern-day fairytale set in a stylish department store - F.G. Goode - in a city on the cusp of becoming cosmopolitan: Sydney is crossing the threshold between the stuffy repression of the 1950s and the glorious liberation of the 1960s. Donning a distinguished black dress, the bright-eyed, bookish school leaver Lisa is about to join the ranks on the sales floor of the city’s most prestigious department store – temporarily, of course.

Her domineering dad intends to railroad her into a career as a secretary, but Lisa has grander schemes in mind. In that summer of innocence, a world of possibilities opens up as she befriends the unlucky Fay and the frustrated Patty; and the exotic, compelling European refugee, Magda, mysterious mistress of the model gowns, who takes Lisa under her wing. From the Christmas rush to the chaos of the sales, these women stand shoulder to shoulder and together learn lessons in life, love and longing – and at the end, it’s not just the fancy frocks that are forever altered.

"It's a really nice rear view mirror look back into Australia's past" Bobby Fox, who plays love interest Rudi, lilted at the Lyric Theatre.

"[When you're young] you've got everything ahead of you; so everything is about choice. And there's a lot more scope of choice now than what there was back then. It was very very narrow at that time for women. And essentially that's what the show is about, it's about empowering women, and it's about people taking chances and stepping outside the box."

And what about his role?

"I play pretty much a love interest of one of the main characters. Rudi is a man looking for love as well. He was a bit of a larrikin. He had been with a lot of women and didn't get satisfied and at the very moment you meet him he has made the decision to find The One. And the very next Woman he meets is exactly THAT."

So it's a story of happy endings?

"You don't want to give too much away."

"I auditioned for the show, read the script, then read the book, and just loved it."

"It was so charming, so quaint and beautiful."

"The show 100% captures the spirit of the book."


Originally staged in Brisbane by the Queensland Theatre Company this quintessentially Sydney story will have its homecoming premiere in Sydney from January 3rd as part of Sydney Festival.

Ladies In Black Director Simon Phillips proudly declares "This show is the mouse that roared. It's small and humble. It's a story about dreams and the small hopes of ordinary people bearing fruit."

Phillips brings serious directorial revenue to the stage, having developed Priscilla – Queen of the Desert from a film script to a hit musical in Melbourne, Sydney, London, Toronto and Broadway. The former Artistic Director of MTC (2000 – 2011) his director credits are both long and prestigious.

#LadiesInBlack2017 cast includes Natalie Gamsu, Bobby Fox, Trisha Noble, Kathryn McIntyre, Carita Farrer Spencer, Greg Stone, Kate Cole, Madeleine Jones, Ellen Simpson and Sarah Morrison.
Sydney Lyric Theatre
January 3rd - 22nd 2017