THE last time Brisbane baritone Jason Barry-Smith was in Perth was during the ’90s while touring with Jon English on Gilbert and Sullivan productions The Pirates of Penzance, The Mikado and H.M.S. Pinafore.
“Jon always talked about audience members as being ‘punters’, like someone going and putting a bet on the races,” Barry-Smith said.
“They’re basically putting a bet on that performance that evening to be something they will enjoy or mean something to them.
“I think as audience members, we all just have to be a bit wilder with the bets that we place on performance; placing bets on new pieces too.”
This philosophy is fitting, given Barry-Smith’s return to Perth is for new WA musical Mimma: A Musical of War and Friendship at Regal Theatre, April 9 to 21.
Written by Dr Giles Watson and composed by Ron Siemignowski, it is directed by Adam Mitchell with musical direction by Sean O’Boyle of Perth Symphony Orchestra and a cast including Perth and WAAPA-trained talent.
Mimma is set during World War II under the shadow of fascism where young Italian journalist Mimma is sent by her brother Aldo (Barry-Smith) and mother Ada (Suzanne Kompass) to London to stay with her uncle (Igor Sas).
“They think that things are getting pretty bad under Mussolini,” Barry-Smith said.
“Then things start getting bad under Winston Churchill as well, sending Italians away because they don’t trust them. She ends up here in WA.
“It’s a great, epic adventure of a young woman’s life and it’s beautifully told, showing how friendship is one of the most important things that happens to humans.”
Barry-Smith, who studied at Queensland Conservatorium, said not only was the production entertaining but also incredibly timely.
“Especially in the way it deals with the fact that sometimes people live in countries where everything goes to s*** and they need to be welcomed into other places where they can create a new life,” he said.
“There’s a beautiful line as Mimma is coming into Australia where the customs officer says to her, ‘I don’t know whether I’ve ever been prouder to let another person into my country.’
“Isn’t that so pertinent for our world at this point in time? I think it’s going to be something really special and I hope Mimma gets a life after the Perth season.”
What: Mimma: A Musical of War and Friendship
Where: Regal Theatre
When: April 9 to 21