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Twelve Angry Muses

Victoria Zerbst did not want to play musical chairs, but she did want to report on it.

Victoria Zerbst did not want to play musical chairs, but she did want to report on it.

Controversy has engulfed the Sydney University Musical Theatre Ensemble (MUSE) over the process of electing the choice of show which will be made into a $15,000 production for the Spring slot this year.

The society has faced a barrage of online criticism about a perceived reticence to host original musicals, opting instead for traditional “safer options”.

The conflict began after the General Meeting on May 26th when 12 voters elected The Drowsy Chaperone (seven votes) over Bare (three votes), with the two original musicals, HOLT: The Musical and Musical of Thrones receiving one vote each.

The controversy reignited today after MUSE president, Rose McClelland, announced there would be a second vote conducted via Survey Monkey, after it became clear that The Drowsy Chaperone and Bare would not proceed due to licensing issues.

Traditionally, preferences would have flowed to either HOLT: The Musical or Musical of Thrones, but controversy arose when the executive called a second vote allowing the production teams of The Drowsy Chaperone and Bare to pitch again with different musicals.

A post made by a past MUSE member following the May 26 election said that it was “very frustrating for a production team be voted in for another slot so soon after they’ve wrapped on the MUSE major” (referring to the team behind The Drowsy Chaperone, who also worked on Legally Blonde) and also accused the society of “consistently playing it safe and picking the same old stuff (sometimes racist and usually always outdated).”

Cult followers of HOLT: The Musical, an original musical about Harold Holt, also joined the discussion expressing their frustration using the hashtag #australiashamilton.

The decision to hold a second online vote was made in consultation with C&S, due to the “unusually low attendance of Ordinary Members at that GM and the fact that Holt & Musical of Thrones each garnered one vote apiece.”

When asked for comment, writer and director of Musical of Thrones, Daniel Cullen, said, “It is, at least in part, a popularity contest, but i figured I’d throw my hat into the ring… Apparently I got one vote, so apparently there was at least one person who went in there without having their mind already made up.”

HOLT: The Musical also received some backlash on Twitter for not taking their Harold Holt pitch seriously. The production team has since dropped out of the race for the second vote, opting to support Daniel Cullen, and his original musical based on Game of Thrones, instead.


Prospective Harold Holt co-director and writer Alex Richmond commented, “Harold Holt loved music. His one dying wish was for there to be a musical about him. Unfortunately there have been blockades placed in the way of this, when all we want to do is bring joy to a deceased national treasure.”


Actual HOLT: The Musical pitching document. They submitted this. 

When asked for serious comment he added, “We have felt that there’s definitely a underlying tone of the process that doesn’t favour the kind of work we want to do… We think that there was a double standard in how this was dealt with, regardless of the reasoning behind it.”

MUSE President added in her post to the membership, “A few MUSE exec will be meeting with C&S in July to add a few clauses to our constitution to clear up these sorts of situations. Before this, we’re happy to take recommendations from the floor about what you’d like to see us put in the constitution.”

Online preferential voting will open tomorrow morning and close on Saturday June 11th. Voting will be between Musical of Thrones, Curtains (proposed by the team behind The Drowsy Chaperone), and The Secret Garden (proposed by the team behind Bare).

Voting rights are only given to 2016 MUSE members who are currently enrolled or have recently graduated from USyd.