Melvyn Morrow (born 1942, in Melbourne, Australia) is an Australian playwright. He co-wrote Shout! The Legend of the Wild One and Dusty - The Original Pop Diva with John-Michael Howson and David Mitchell. Earlier in his life he wrote material for The Mavis Bramston Show.
He is a graduate of St Aloysius' College. He taught English and Drama at Stonyhurst College where he directed and wrote the libretto for the musical Frank Ass, based on the life of Francis of Assisi. The musical was also taken to the Edinburgh festival in 1974. He also taught at St Ignatius' College, Riverview, where he taught author Gerard Windsor, playwright Nick Enright, and entertainer Andrew O'Keefe.
He is the father of comic Julian Morrow.
Morrow's first scripts were performed by three Australian showbiz legends: Gordon Chater and Jill Perryman at the Phillip Theatre and the Downstairs Revue, and in The Mavis Bramston Show by Barry Creyton. Morrow’s musical, Morality!, was presented at the Edinburgh Festival, the London Fringe and off-off-Broadway. Rewritten as Between Earth and Sky, it was produced in Australia by Studio Sydney, directed by the author.
With composer, John Mallord, Morrow wrote book and lyrics for Brother Playboy or Frank Ass, The Francis of Assisi Musical, Cuckoo, a musical of Shakespeare’s Love’s Labour’s Lost, Jack Point, a musical sequel to Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Yeomen of the Guard, Disco, a radio musical for the stage, and Postcards From Provence, a musical adaptation of Alphonse Daudet’s nineteenth century classic, Letters From My Windmill. Starring Australian Opera baritone, John Pringle, Postcards enjoyed critical acclaim in its 1993 stage production at the Zenith Theatre and later on ABC radio. Melvyn’s twenty first century two act update of The Francis of Assisi Musical, Perfectly Frank is published by Origin Music and is now available for schools and community theatre
Morrow wrote and directed A Song To Sing, O, the story of Gilbert and Sullivan and George Grossmith. Starring D’Oyly Carte doyen, John Reed, it played in England in Harrogate and Salisbury then, produced by Dame Bridget D’Oyly Carte, transferred to London’s Savoy Theatre. In Australia, A Song To Sing, O premiered at Theatre South and starred Anthony Warlow. Following its Radio National production starring Dennis Olsen, A Song To Sing, O enjoyed a six month national Australian tour, playing in every major city arts complex, finishing at The Playhouse of the Sydney Opera House. 1993 saw a highly successful return season at Sydney’s Marian St Theatre. A new production starring Christopher Hamilton and directed by the author was produced by Blue Mountains Theatre Company at the Clarendon in Katoomba. This was followed by seasons at The School of Arts Café in Queanbeyan, the Laycock St Theatre in Gosford and Woodstock, Burwood. A Song To Sing, O featuring British G & S star, Simon Butteriss, was the highlight of the 2003 Buxton International Gilbert and Sullivan Festival in the United Kingdom. 2010 saw a New Zealand production in Dunedin and Invercargill.
A full company version of A Song To Sing, O premiered in Melbourne in June 2008, produced by Gilbert and Sullivan Opera Victoria starring Ron Pidcock and directed by Robert Ray with a sell-out return season for Malvern Theatre Company.
Melvyn's most recent G & S entertainment is the romantic comedy two hander, Poor Wand'ring Ones.
Since returning to Australia from England in 1982, Melvyn has written for Sons and Daughters, The Mike Walsh Show, and Star Search, as well as scripting the ABC simulcasts of the Sutherland-Horne-Bonynge Gala, A Masked Ball, and the ABC-Australian Opera Tribute to Dame Joan Sutherland and Richard Bonynge.
Significant successes have been Melvyn’s highly acclaimed Gilbert and Sullivan lyric updating for The Australian Opera’s The Gondoliers and The Mikado. (‘Our own latter day W.S.Gilbert’, The Australian). Melvyn also wrote new lyrics for the AO’s Die Fledermaus. 1994 saw him once again providing additional material for the AO’s revival of The Gondoliers. His updates and book edits were further hailed in Simon Gallaher’s long-running hit productions of The Pirates of Penzance, The Mikado and H.M.S. Pinafore, all now top selling videos. 2000 saw him back with Opera Australia updating their fourth production of The Gondoliers.
With David Mitchell and composer, Ray Cook, Melvyn wrote the ballad ‘Lest I Forget’, sung by Debbie Byrne in the film, Rebel, and also recorded by Judi Connelli. The trio wrote There’s Gonna Be A Day, the official song of the AIDS Trust of Australia and recorded by Judi Connelli. Also with David Mitchell, Melvyn wrote The Other Side of the Water, Lane Cove’s Bicentennial Pageant, Peter Dawson - Off The Record, for the 1988 Adelaide Festival, subsequent national tour, Expo 88, and the Parramatta Riverside Theatre, and Jack O’Hagan’s Here Comes Showtime! which was the acclaimed 1997 Marian St Theatre Christmas musical starring Georgie Parker, directed by Nancye Hayes.
2009 saw two productions of the show under its new title, Jack O’Hagan’s Humdingers, in Melbourne. Melvyn and David are also developing Confessions of Captain Hook, a tribute to the Australian stage star, Cyril Ritchard.
With John Michael Howson, Melvyn and David wrote the book of the mega-hit, SHOUT!, The Legend of The Wild One: the Johnny O’Keefe musical produced by Kevin Jacobsen. SHOUT! played for a year in a season taking in every major Australian capital and then toured regional Australia. The 2008 all star revival featuring Tim Campbell, Mark Holden, Colleen Hewett, Glenn Shorrock and John Paul Young played in Sydney and Melbourne. The writing trio's second musical, Dusty, starring Tamsin Carroll, celebrates the life of Dusty Springfield and proved an even bigger box-office smash, touring all mainland capitals.
Mitchell, Morrow and Cook have most recently collaborated with the Melbourne music theatre company, Magnormos, on Better Than Broadway, an original Australian musical.
Revues with Melvyn’s scripts include Flipside [music by Phil Scott - workshopped by Sydney Theatre Company] and at Kinsela’s, 2001, A Postcode, and Notta Lotta Serious Bits. Melvyn’s entertainment, Broadway Bard, a cabaret where Shakespeare meets showbiz, was first performed by the Bell Shakespeare Company, then proved to be Café Basilica’s biggest box office hit when Warwick Allsopp starred in it for three seasons. It was the centrepiece of the 1998 Shakespeare By The River Festival at Stratford Victoria. A new version of Broadway Bard starring AIM graduate, Julian Kuo, won critical acclaim at the 2011 Sydney Fringe Festival, in December 2012 played to capacity houses at Teatro Vivaldi in Canberra, Cabaret In The Day at Mosman Art Gallery and in January 2014 was featured in the Sydney International Cabaret Competition.
With playwright, Justin Fleming, Melvyn wrote Her Holiness, a play about Mary Mackillop, Australia’s first saint of the Catholic Church. Her Holiness opened at The Seymour Centre in May 2008 then transferred to Parramatta Riverside Theatre. 2011 saw the Western Australian premiere in Perth. Melvyn was commissioned by the Jesuits to write the musical, Inigo Audio Video Disco, [music by James Long] to celebrate the five hundredth anniversary of the birth of St Ignatius of Loyola, and by the University of Wollongong to write an ode for the opening of the University Theatre.
For Theatre South, he wrote Vroom Vroom, the Motorcycle Musical Wollongong had to have. Melvyn was creative director of the interactive museum, Mary Mackillop Place. He is also a contributor to The Australian Book of Lists.
Melvyn’s song, Sydney Symphony, [music by James Long] won the 1992 Song For Sydney Competition. They were also commissioned by the Sisters of St Joseph to write the official Mary Mackillop song to coincide with the Pope’s 1995 visit to beatify Mary. The partnership is currently developing a musical about Louisa Lawson, I’m Not Henry Lawson’s Mother. Melvyn and James also wrote Golden Summers, a musical exhibition/album based on the paintings of the Australian Impressionists. This concert was the centrepiece of the 2011 Mosman Festival. Melvyn and James’s musical, When It Happens, played at Café Basilica in 1998 and was hailed by the Sydney Star Observer as ‘the best Australian musical in town’. The return season proved even more successful.
1994 saw Melvyn’s seventh Christmas At The Opera House. His pantomime, Santa Meets The Bushrangers, was staged at The Zenith in 1995 (starring Scott McRae) and at the SWB Independent Theatre 1998 starring Bernard King. It has since enjoyed numerous community theatre performances. For Judy Glenn he wrote Love Will Find A Way, the first of his tributes to Gladys Moncrieff. Melvyn wrote and directed Wendy Dixon’s Opera Broads and Broadway Lays, seen at Pastels. He has written two plays, Beating A Retreat, (Stables) and A Touch Of Paradise (Downstairs Belvoir St). The latter opened Lismore Theatre Company’s 2011 season. With Terence Clarke, he collaborated on The Windows Project for the Australian Theatre For Young People.
Melvyn’s opera bouffe tribute to Offenbach, Offenbach In The Underworld, (book and lyrics by Melvyn, music by Jacques Offenbach) played to capacity houses at the Zenith Theatre and rewritten as a three hander ran for six weeks at Café Basilica. He wrote the script for June Salter as Queen Victoria in Last Night Of The Proms at the Sydney Opera House and has also written specialty material for Dennis Olsen. In 1996, Melvyn was nominated for a Mo Award for Outstanding Contribution To Australian Musical Theatre.
His production of Tae Kwon Shakespeare starring Ben Seton was the hit of the 1999, 2000 and 2001 Shakespeare On The Mount Festival at Thredbo and the centrepiece of the 2000 Shakespeare On The River Festival at Stratford On Avon, Victoria. Sydney seasons have been at Cafe Basilica, Fox Studios, Café Nine and La Bar. Works in progress includes the play, True North, to be directed by Gale Edwards and the revue, Forbidden Gilbert and Sullivan.
With rock musician, Joe Kelly, Melvyn wrote book and lyrics for Shakespeare Idol, which won the 2006 AWGIE Award for Best Music Theatre libretto. Developed into a two act musical and retitled High School Romeo, it is scheduled for a new production early next year. The collaborators recently completed a new musical, Cocksure.
In April 2009, Melvyn directed a new solo show for international Australian bass, Damian Whiteley, at Sydney’s Independent Theatre. Mozart and ME is the life story of the larger than life Lorenzo da Ponte, Mozart’s principal librettist. The entertainment toured New Zealand at the end of 2009 and recently played to a capacity house at the new Dubbo Regional Theatre. August 2012 saw its first European production in Konstanz, Germany, followed by a production in Zurich.
Melvyn revised the book for Lionel Monkton’s The Arcadians, produced by G & S Victoria in June 2010, and the production proved to be one of the highlights of the 2011 Buxton Festival. With composer Heinz Schweers, Melvyn has written the libretto for the musical, All Swell, based on Shakespeare’s All’s Well That Ends Well. With the ABC’s Ian McNamara (‘Macca’ of Australia All Over) Melvyn co-wrote the song Gumboots, as part of the national broadcaster’s 2011 flood relief campaign. 2012 saw St Aloysius’ College present Melvyn’s total rewrite of The Mikado. The updated libretto is called The BIG MAKado or Three Little Maids from Schoolies. Melvyn wrote Our Glad, a tribute to Gladys Moncrieff, for Opera Australia’s Christine Douglas who, with musical director Glenn Amer, has performed the show at Mosman Art Gallery, Glen St Theatre, Hunters Hill Music Club and Parramatta Riverside Theatre. Melvyn was curator of 2013 Cabaret in the Day at Mosman Art Gallery in Sydney, and he brought a new Cabaret in the Day season to the Art Gallery in 2015. Headliners included: Andrew O’Keefe in Glorious Mud!, a tribute to Flanders and Swann; Australian operatic baritone legend Geoffrey Chard, in Memories of Peter Dawson; and the triumphant return of Our Glad. Co-star and musical director of the entire season was Glenn Amer. 2016 sees the third season of Cabaret in the Day: Of Bing I Sing, a tribute to Bing Crosby starring Glenn Amer and Rob Palmer, Poisoning Pigeons in the Park, Tom Lehrer’s Subversive Songs, starring Glenn Amer and introducing Zach Selmes, and Gilbert & Sullivan Forever! starring Andrew O’Keefe and Glenn Amer.
Melvyn’s play, Vice, was produced in 2015 at Sydney’s King St Theatre, directed by Elaine Hudson.
Melvyn is an adjudicator for the Sydney Eisteddfod and a member of its Syllabus Advisory Panel.
- "When It Happens" (With James Long)
- "Vroom, Vroom" (With Paul Coombes and Jim McCallum)
- "Shout! The Legend of the Wild One" State Theatre, Melbourne, (With John Michael-Howson and David Mitchell).
- "Postcards from Provence" Zenith Theatre, Sydney, 1993 (With John Mallord)
- "Jack O'Hagan's Humdingers" (With David Mitchell and Jack O'Hagan)
- "I'm Not Henry Lawson's Mother" (With James Long)
- "Dusty - The Original Pop Diva" Arts Centre, State Theatre, Melbourne (With John Michael-Howson and David Mitchell).
- "Dare!" - The Musical - A musical celebrating 125 years of St Ignatius'" College
- "Dicken's Down Under"
- "The Big Makado - Updated Libretto - At St Aloysius College
- The real Mary Mackillop explored in play Her Holiness; Perth Now, 14 April 2011
- On a long and Dusty road; smh.com.au; 11 March 2006