The old showring at what used to be the Sydney Showground was tested on Sunday night in
its new role as the live entertainment centre of the Fox Studios Backlot - the public
space adjacent to the professional studios. The organisation was extraordinary,
considering the logistics, except for the inexplicable shortfall in plastic chairs in the
centre for the 4,000 guests who were entertained by a 90 minute stage spectacular that
included everything from Hugh Jackman's down to earth humour to a pyrotechnic finale that
spewed designer confetti on the crowd.
Before the confetti landed, so did one of the X Wing fighters from Star Wars, hoisted
into space by a giant crane and lowered on musical cue to the giant stage, with Maestro
Tommy Tycho leading his orchestra into a perfectly timed crescendo.
"a bravado of Australian talent"
Chairs aside - your world weary correspondents managing to rescue two plastic chairs
beside a giant speaker stack and drag them to a useful spot - the evening paraded Fox's
confidence in the venture, coupled with a bravado of Australian talent that made it happen
- and made it happen with an Australian accent. If you pardon the trifling slip of having
r2d2 and cp30 from Star Wars actually perform the opening act in front of Rupert Murdoch
("a US toy doing the opening," as one Australian filmmaker mumbled on the way to
drinks) you have to admire the sheer magnitude of the undertaking. And the risk, as Chief
Executive Kim Williams told us in an interview recorded in the lead up to the opening.
The show - featuring Kylie Minogue for openers, (with a tribute to Marylin Monroe with
a showstarting rendition of Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend, complete with a dozen male
dancers), Jon Stevens, Shirley Jones, Human Nature, Marcia Hines - also paid tribute to
Rodgers and Hammerstein. But perhaps the most blood-pumping sequence was the
theatricalised tribute to Baz Luhrmann's own Rome + Juliet, combining film footage (in
montage) with live performance, props and stage effects.
When it was all over on the stage, the crowd jostled (comfortably) to the Backlot,
mingling the length and breadth of Bent Street and chomping fresh king prawns, oysters and
crab rolls, washed down by Yellow champagne, all sorts of beer and wine. Some went to
explore the Titanic Experience, others just drank and networked. The film industry was out
in force, as you could tell on Monday morning when the phones stayed silent.
"the level of Australian creative energy"
It is easy to be cynical and critical, wondering what does all the excess mean, but you
could say that about a backyard barbecue, if you flipped open the latest Amnesty
newsletter. What did stand out was the level of Australian creative energy utilised in the
making of the Backlot, which collectively put the r2d2 opening episode in the shade.
But it's open now: go and check it out for yourself.
See our OVERVIEW of the Backlot. Also, see HOYTS at Fox.