A multi-million dollar production of one the world's most popular musicals, West Side Story, opens in Australia this year - and you won't have to buy a plane ticket to see it.
Canberra has been announced as the final stop on a global tour of West Side Story that opens in Melbourne in April and takes in Germany and New Zealand before returning down under.
The blockbuster musical is a partnership between Opera Australia and producers GWB Entertainment and BB Group, and will hit Canberra Theatre on October 10.
Producers are hoping to follow the success of the 2017 season of Mamma Mia, which sold a record-breaking 33,000 tickets at Canberra Theatre and generated an estimated $4.5m in economic activity into Canberra.
The capacity for West Side Story is more than 20,000 tickets across two weeks.
Opera Australia executive producer Alex Budd said he expected people to come "across the border and across the oceans" to see the show in Canberra.
"Being a former Canberran, I know October couldn't be a better time of year to be here," he said.
"With Floriade in full bloom, it'll be flowers by day and West Side Story by night."
He drew comparisons with Opera Australia's productions of Pirates of Penzance and the Julie Andrews-directed My Fair Lady as examples of the scale and quality of the upcoming production.
"More recently, Opera Australia has developed its musical theatre arm to become a major pillar of the company's activity," Budd said.
"We've presented some of the biggest musical productions Australia has seen, including South Pacific, The King and I and the current production of Evita."
And West Side Story will be "a treat".
"It set the New York theatre scene alight when it first burst onto Broadway in 1957," Budd said.
"Here was one of the world's greatest 20th-century classical composers and concert pianists - Leonard Bernstein - now with a Broadway hit masterpiece.
"And the work, based of course on Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, has endured for all of that time."
Powerhouse theatre producers GWB Entertainment will launch a Singapore season of Matilda, a Phillipines season of Phantom of the Opera and a China season of School of Rock the Musical before opening West Side Story in Australia.
GWB director Richelle Brookman, based in Adelaide, said it was the ACT government's support, through its Major Event Fund, that had made a Canberra season of West Side Story possible.
"Adelaide and Canberra feel a little bit alike in the sense that they tend to miss out on the larger musicals," Brookman said.
"And it's not because there's a lack of people interested and willing to buy tickets, it comes down to the expense of a large-scale musical and how to make the numbers work on shorter seasons.
"It's a challenge."
Brookman said the 33-strong cast of West Side Story - made up mostly of "phenomenally talented and energetic teenagers" - would be supported in Canberra by a 20-piece orchestra.
West Side Story, from October 10, Canberra Theatre. Tickets on sale to the public on Monday February 18 from 9am. Bookings on 6275 2700 or www.canberratheatrecentre.com.au
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