Bananaland Slips into Riverside

Bananaland Slips into Riverside
Image: Supplied SF/ Hero image for Bananaland


You’ve laughed at Bananas In Pyjamas, scoffed down banana fritters and now, from the minds and pens of songwriting and real-life partners Kate Miller Heidke and Keir Nuttall, comes Bananaland, the musical.

After its premiere and sell-out season at QPAC for the Brisbane Festival, Bananaland will land at the Riverside Theatre from January 3rd to 14th for the Sydney Festival.

Drawing on their experiences of writing original music for the stage musical Muriel’s Wedding: The Musical, Heidke and Nuttal have collaborated once again to create the score and lyrics for Bananaland from the book by Nuttall.

Bananaland’s storyline concerns Kitty Litter, Australia’s least-loved punk band who finds acceptance with little kids when their pop anthem “Bananaland” goes viral.

“Comedy tends to make people think that it is not serious theatre, and although it is based on the story of the Cockroaches becoming the Wiggles, it is not literally based on that,” Keir Nuttall, book and co-writer for music and lyrics, Bananaland said.

Supplied SF: The cast as Kitty Litter

With a blurb that reads, “From punk rock zero to kiddie-pop hero, can Kitty Litter adjust to fame and keep their cool?” we know that there are a lot of tropes to be explored.

“The audience in Brisbane found it very funny, and people get very attached to the characters and some have seen it four or five times,” Nuttal said.

“It (Bananaland) is simple on the surface, but it has a lot to say on the arts in general post
pandemic, but it also questions why we do this when it can sometimes be a heart rendering thing (the arts) to be involved in.”

Along with a deeper subject matter than the title implies, Bananaland also comes with a director and cast, who all represent the very peak of Australian musical theatre.

Nuttal and Heidke had previously worked with New Zealand director Simon Phillips on Muriel’s Wedding: The Musical and feel that they are blessed to have him on board for Bananaland.

“Just to be able to work with Simon Phillips on Muriel’s Wedding was like doing a three-year
mentorship and learning the craft of musical theatre as he has such an overview,” Nuttall said.

“We have also been blessed with some of Australia’s best musical theatre actors and singers.”

Supplied SF: Bananaland cast

In her few years of treading Australian stages, Max McKenna has quickly risen to be a leading star.

Best known for her show-stopping role of Jo in Jagged Little Pill and as Muriel in the Phillips-directed stage production of Muriel’s Wedding, which had music and lyrics from Nuttall and Heidke, McKenna plays Ruby Semblance, Kitty Litter’s lead singer dedicated to “onstage conceptual art”.

“Max brings this insane comic ability, and of course, her vocal range and the brilliance of her
voice,” Nuttal said.

“She has that star quality that is so important to the central role of this show.”

Coming from many years with the STC’s Actors Company, Amber McMahon brings to Bananaland her considerable comedic skills and dramatic gravitas, along with fellow actor Chris Ryan.

“There is a lot of farce and absurdity in the show, but in each of the roles that Amber plays, she
brings that actor’s craft and really defines those roles,” Nuttall said.

“They both own those parts.”

Comedian Dave Eastgate is yet another Muriel’s Wedding alumni, and Nuttall couldn’t be happier.

“When it came time to cast for Ron the Roadie, we hoped that Dave would be able to do it, and he leaves people falling off their chairs with his comedic brilliance,” Nuttall said.

Hiding real-life children’s musical group experience in plain sight was Joe Kalou, who was a
onetime member of Hi-5, who, like the Wiggles, was a band aimed at pre-schoolers.

“Joe kept his Hi-5 experience under his hat, and we didn’t know until the audition,” Nuttall said.

“He is completely familiar with the world, and he gives his character 100 per cent gusto and
amazing comic instincts.”

Supplied SF: Cast Max McKenna, Maxwell Simon, Georgina Hopson and Joe Kalou.

Also appearing in Bananaland are Georgina Hopson, Maxwell Simon, Erika Naddei and Mark Hill.

January 3-14

Riverside Theatre

Corner Market &, Church St, Parramatta NSW 2150

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