Over a century ago, the foment of achievement in musical theatre in Adelaide was due to remarkable, talented individuals who forged lasting partnerships: Jack Fewster and Tom King, along with Edith Aird, Kenneth Duffield and Dion Titheradge.
their names are largely forgotten, their work is at the heart of the most
audacious period of Australian musical theatre. Despite being constrained by
the refinements of Adelaide society, they challenged, made fun of and critiqued
the world they knew, sometimes subverting convention while entertaining
century of creativity for Australian musicals began in 1920 at Her Majesty’s Theatre,
Grote Street, then known as the Prince of Wales Theatre. It was a warm August
evening when the audience witnessed the premiere of FFF,
the first fully-fledged Australian musical. The strange title reflected the
personality of its maverick creator, the bombastic Melbournian Clement John De
Garis, who offered a prize to anyone who could correctly guess what ‘FFF’ stood
for. No one ever did, but in the audience on opening night was the young Jack Fewster.
Born in Adelaide in 1893, he was filled with creative drive and filled with a
burning ambition to emulate the world’s greatest songwriter of the day, Irving
Berlin, writing songs and musicals.
Fewster, the experience of FFF
triggered a decade of triumph.
For De Garis, it triggered financial disaster, ending in tragedy. One cold
winter’s morning in 1926, took his own life, leaving behind more than £420,000
in debts. His night of glory had come at a very high price and his greatest
creative achievement – the score of FFF, the first Australian musical – was lost.