David Jones administration may be moving to Melbourne but that won’t worry Sydney: it knows where DJ’s really belongs. Reading Madeleine St John’s novel The Women in Black, it’s impossible not to imagine DJ’s even though the story is said to occur in a department store named FG Goode’s in the 1950s. Every city had its glamorous department store; Madeleine St John successfully tapped into the dreams formed by those stores. It was St John’s first published novel; her third, The Essence of the Thing, published, in 1997, was short listed for the Man Booker Prize. Her life had not been easy; she was the daughter of controversial MP and QC, Edward St John who remarried within a year of the suicide of her French-born mother when she was only 13. But this novel contains much humour, enough to attract Tim Finn – of Split Enz and Crowded House – who having read the book on a flight, immediately imagined it as a musical named Ladies in Black for which he wrote the music and lyrics. Ladies in Black was an immediate success when originally presented by the Queensland Theatre Company last year, directed by Simon Phillips. In January the show will begin a national tour starting at the Sydney Festival, Brisbane again, then Melbourne and Canberra. So the future is looking bright for Australian musicals with the Sydney Theatre Company announcing Muriel’s Wedding, also to be directed by Simon Phillips next year.
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