Dolly Parton's <i>9 to 5: The Musical</i> is on the list of musicals that will be imported into Australia.

Dolly Parton's 9 to 5: The Musical is on the list of musicals that will be imported into Australia. Photo: Rebecca Hallas

IF SYDNEY and Melbourne are big enough for Dolly Parton's amply endowed 9 to 5: The Musical following the musical version of the movie Legally Blonde, what next? Ghost: The Musical? That new one based on '60s pop stars the Monkees, maybe?

The future for international and Australian-made musicals just grew bigger than Parton's Mount Rushmore-sized edifice with the announcement Tim McFarlane has been appointed chief executive of the Ambassador Theatre Group Asia-Pacific, to be based in Sydney from next year.

Mr McFarlane intends to expand the 20-year-old British theatre company's presence in Australia, Singapore, Hong Kong and Korea. However it is ATG's emphasis on owning theatres that will really stir the musical scene in Australia: the company has its eyes on a potential new theatre at Barangaroo, although Mr McFarlane said the area needed better public transport and better safety and lighting at night.

Tim McFarlane is the new chief executive of the Ambassador Theatre Group Asia-Pacific.

Tim McFarlane is the new chief executive of the Ambassador Theatre Group Asia-Pacific. Photo: Tamara Dean

Having previously headed the Australian and Asian activities of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Really Useful Group, Mr McFarlane is tight-lipped about which musicals will be imported here, beyond confirming what his boss, ATG co-founder Howard Panter, told Fairfax Media last month: 9 to 5 is on the list.

ATG, which owns 39 theatres in Britain, has already staged in Sydney the $4 million musical Legally Blonde in a co-production with John Frost, the producer of hit shows Wicked and Annie.

But why establish ATG's new base in Sydney and not Melbourne, given the southern city has more available theatres?

''It's partly because I live here [Sydney] already with my family,'' Mr McFarlane said. ''Sydney and Melbourne in musical terms are probably comparable sized markets, and ATG will be operating in other Australian as well as Asian markets.''

This is good news for Australian creative talent, with the likelihood locally produced shows and their Aussie cast and crew will travel to Asia, where the demand for western musicals is insatiable.

International shows that ATG produces - having already brought The Rocky Horror Show, Guys and Dolls and West Side Story to Australia in recent years - will continue to be cast locally, Mr McFarlane said.