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“Ladies in Black”, featuring original music from legendary singer songwriter, Tim Finn OBE plus a stunning range of some thirty custom designed and created dresses and suits is currently delighting audiences at Sydney’s Lyric Theatre.

From the adaptation of Madeleine St John’s 1993 novel, “The Women in Black”, this acclaimed production has been brought to life by Australian screenwriter Carolyn Burns and internationally-acclaimed director Simon Phillips (Priscilla Queen of the Desert, Love Never Dies).

The world premiere of “Ladies in Black”, which tells the story of fashion, friendship and 1950s Australia, took place in Brisbane in November 2015 and last month won the coveted Helpmann Award for Best New Australian Work, as well as being nominated for another five awards.

Set in a stylish Sydney department store, F.G. Goode, at a time when the city is on the cusp of becoming cosmopolitan and moving away from the stuffy repression of the 1950s and into the glorious liberation of the 1960s, “Ladies in Black” follows the bright-eyed, bookish school leaver Lisa who is about to temporarily join the ranks on the sales floor of the city’s most prestigious department store. Lisa’s domineering dad intends to railroad her into a career as a secretary, but Lisa has grander schemes in mind. In that summer of innocence, a world of possibilities opens up as she befriends the unlucky Fay and the frustrated Patty, plus the exotic, compelling European refugee, Magda, mysterious mistress of the model gowns, who takes Lisa under her wing. From the Christmas rush to the chaos of the sales, these women stand together learning lessons in life and love and in the end, it’s not just the fancy frocks that are forever altered.

The spectacular array of beautiful frocks and gowns provides colour and charm to this wonderful production, bringing back pleasant memories to those old enough to remember the times and allowing younger audience members a glimpse into the fashions of a bygone era.

Sarah Morrison is totally believable as Lisa, the young starry eyed school leaver while Natalie Gamsu as Magda manages to steal every scene she appears in and Bobby Fox is brilliant as Rudi, otherwise known as the ‘Continental’.

Sandra Tiltman

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