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Interview with Australian theatre producer Wayne Smith (Includes interview)

Billed as: “A rockumentary behind the greatest rock ‘n’ roll band in the world,” It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll, a production that actively relives the highs and lows of London’s finest through music and dialogue, is the brainchild of promoter Andrew Malouf and Melbourne-born producer Wayne Smith.

Performed by the renowned Australian Rolling Stones Show, this celebration of The Rolling Stones and their immeasurable impact on popular culture is on tour now and I asked Wayne to fill me in on how it all came about.

“Well the concept came about by my agent/manager/promoter and friend, Andrew Malouf, who’s been around forever and represented some of the biggest names in the industry,” he explains. “He had the concept, actually, which was taking essentially what was a club show, which is what I used to do, and turn it into a theatre show.

“He just came along one day and said, ‘Look, you guys have got a very substantial club act that’s doing well and it’s got a subject matter that sits behind it that we could do a lot better with. Let’s blend some interesting stories that go behind the songs that you do and turn it into a theatre show.’ So it was really as simple as that.”

Describing how it all works on stage, Wayne states, “The show’s evolved a little bit and we had to adapt it a little bit for the different-sized venues that we go into, but essentially it’s a two-hour show with 20-odd songs which are from the ’60s, ’70s and early ’80s.

“What we’ve done is we’ve taken the most interesting songs, the most interesting stories behind the songs and there’s a pre-recorded, professionally-done narration that sits with the show, and we have some visuals with it as well.

“We’re not mimicking the Stones and we’re not being like an act that does a corny sort of tribute thing. This is basically six guys doing a representation of what we think happened…

“You’ve got to have continuity and you’ve got to have storytelling when you’re putting a show like this together. That’s what we try to achieve and I think it does the job, but the audience will be the test, obviously.”

“It was too big an undertaking to try and compress somebody’s 50-year career down into a two-hour show – it was just impossible,” continues Wayne, discussing how the pair came to the decision to focus on the first 20 years of the band’s existence (the last song played is “Start Me Up” from 1981).

“The amount of material that we had to work with was too overwhelming so we had to say, ‘Let’s pick a period of time, let’s work with what we know are the most iconic hits. Where does that all fit into the context of things?’ That’s how we arrived at the period that we’ve chosen.”

Interestingly, the angelic and instantly recognisable intro to “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” is sung by a different children’s choir each night, depending on which city the show happens to be in.

“Once again that was Andrew’s idea,” reveals his friend and colleague, keen to give credit where it’s due. “It seems every idea that floats around the universe goes to him…

“You’ve got a perfect song there that already has the original concept of a choir and so wherever we’ve toured, principally school kids come up and participate in that song. It’s a great thing for them to do and it’s actually very good for us. Everybody gets a big kick out of it.”

As well as producing, Wayne also plays lead and rhythm guitar in the show. “I do,” he confirms. “I’m like everybody these days – you’ve got to be multi-tasking, multi-talented, whatever the word is… You’ve got to share the workload.”

Which of the band’s songs does he most enjoy playing live?

“Look, I’d have to say ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want’ is probably up there. When you do these songs all the time, your favourites come and go… ‘Honky Tonk Women‘ is a great song, it’s timeless. ‘Midnight Rambler‘ is just a fabulous live song and probably ‘Love in Vain‘ is my all-time favourite to actually play as a musician. I like them all – it’s very hard to pick.”

It s Only Rock n  Roll

It’s Only Rock n’ Roll
Anna Gilfillan

Finally, as It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll has already attracted a lot of attention in Australia, I wondered if there were any plans afoot to take it overseas?

“Yes, we’ve definitely had approaches from New Zealand… We’re just sort of settling into 2015 with our commitments in Victoria and I think we’re off to Western Australia a bit later in the year, and then Queensland.

“But definitely we would like to test the waters internationally. We’re really in the hands of our wonderful agents in that regard, so we’ll see what happens.”

It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll‘s next performance will be on Friday March 20th at York On Lilydale, in Mt Evelyn, Victoria.

For more dates and for more information on the show, visit here.

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