On Friday, actor/writer James Millar and composer/musical director Peter Rutherford watched the first performance of their new musical The Dressmaker, based on Rosalie Ham’s 2000 novel. Set in a small Australian town called Dungatar, Myrtle “Tilly” Dunnage returns home to look after her mentally unstable mother. Accused of murder as a child, and run out of town, Tilly is now a fabulously glamorous woman, who makes the latest Parisian fashions. But now secrets will be revealed, with revenge hanging in the air.
Ham’s story was turned into a film in 2015, directed by Jocelyn Moorhouse, starring Kate Winslet as Tilly and Judy Davis as her mother. The musical by Millar and Rutherford, whose previous shows include The Hatpin, LoveBitesand A Little Touch of Chaos, is being staged as part of the Jeanne Pratt Musical Theatre Artists in Residence program – a collaboration between Monash performing arts students and professional artists that aims to create and develop uniquely Australian musical theatre. Suzanne Chaundy directs the production. James Millar spoke to Limelight about The Dressmaker, which runs until this Friday.
Is your musical based primarily on the book? And did the film influence you?