Lifestyle The Arts Baby, Look at Him Now
Baby, Look at Him Now
Written by Ms Jan Hallam


LES-MIS-AUSTRALIAN-PRODUCTION-2014-One-Day-More-PHOTO-CREDIT-MATT-MURPHY.450If there’s not enough on producer Michael Cassel’s mind preparing to open the massive musical Les Miserable in the New Year at the Crown Theatre, somewhere between first preview on December 31 and opening night seven days’ later, he will also be taking his wife, Camille, to a Perth maternity ward for the birth of their second child.

“We will be giving birth to a West Australian, which adds another level of excitement to the Perth show,” he told Medical Forum. And if he or she bursts into the world with a hefty set of lungs, Dad just might look to expanding the cast.

Not that show, inspired by the Victor Hugo classic, is short on drama.

The world has been gripped by the raw power of the music and story ever since UK producer extraordinaire Cameron Mackintosh first brought it to the stage 25 years ago.

This Silver Anniversary revival adds a new dimension, with Hugo’s little-known sketches of the mean streets of 19th century Paris projected onto the stage.

“This music has crisscrossed the globe for a quarter of a century and the great Victor Hugo story, the phenomenal music and lyrics make it a powerful experience but the creative team, particularly the set design, has added something new and exciting with Hugo’s artworks,” Michael said.

“I have lost count how many times I’ve seen the show but every time, there’s something new to take in. It’s a show that continues to entertain and amaze.”

And considering Michael has been in show biz 20 of his 34 years, that’s a big call.

His entre to the theatre world is worthy of a musical itself. Having been mesmerised by Harry M. Miller’s 1992 production of Jesus Christ Superstar as a youngster, the 12-year-old Michael wrote to the impresario offering his services, which were politely declined.

“Harry wrote back suggesting it would be best if I finished high school. So I threw myself into amateur dramatics in my hometown of Kiama of the south coast of NSW. It wasn’t long before I realised I was better at organising than performing, so I threw myself into my first production which was the local Carols by Candlelight in 1995 when I was 14.”

“I gave myself a year to plan it with the hope of attracting a couple of hundred people. I roped in some stars from Neighbours and found an orchestra and a massed choir and lo and behold 5000 people got along.”

“I thought, ‘OK this is good fun’, so the second year I roped in [radio shock jock] Alan Jones to host it. The circle was complete when Alan introduced me to his manager Harry M. Miller and I began work experience with Harry in my school holidays. That’s where it all began for me!”

Michael-Cassel-and-Cameron-Mackintosh.120Michael Cassel and Cameron MackintoshMichael’s career has been blessed with mentors at the top of their game.

Through working with Miller, he met connections that would lead him to an extraordinary career with Disney which has seen him stage productions of The Lion King in Australia, Shanghai and New York as well as the blockbuster 10th anniversary revival in South Africa.

He and Camille moved to New York where he worked on a number of Broadway shows for Disney until the lure of home and new producing opportunities called.

“Global Creatures rang and asked if I was interested in launching a swag of projects – Walking with Dinosaurs and musicals Strictly Ballroom and King Kong – in the region.

As always seems to happen in this business, onceI returned, Cameron Mackintosh called and I’m now on this amazing adventure with Les Mis.”

It’s a long way from the Kiama Carols by Candlelight but there would be many who never doubted Michael Cassel’s ability to put on a great show!

Michael Cassel and Cameron Mackintosh