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The travel advice that changed Eddie Perfect’s life

I’d found my way to the stage quite accidentally. I don’t know that I was drawn to it; not initially. It’s like anything – you try a little bit and think, “yeah, I can do this” and you try a little more and it’s a slow accumulation. Writing music and lyrics for the theatre is the thing I’m best at. But it’s the scariest, because although you’re not on stage, there’s a huge amount of pressure in making musicals. It’s a big collaborative art form and there are often millions of dollars at stake.
Writing has taken me to some incredible places. In the beginning, I just wanted to get out of suburban Melbourne and find my tribe, but the more I stuck at it, the more unique the experiences have been. To travel and work in live performance is such a gift. I’ve been able to live in all sorts of places for short periods of time. I’ve been in Bondi while 9 to 5: The Musical is in Sydney. I’ve never had a permanent address here, but I’ve been coming for 20 years. I’ve had periods where I’ve absolutely detested it and times when I’ve really loved it. I was in Bondi when I had my first child, so I have a strong connection with it.
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Eddie Perfect wth wife Lucy Cochrane and their daughters Lottie and Kitty in India.
Brunswick in Melbourne is my home. There are a lot of wonderful things about Melbourne, but the natural beauty of the place hasn’t got a patch on Sydney. But the problem with Sydney is that it is so beautiful, it’s very hard to write anything. It’s not conducive to the torture of staying inside and trying to come up with a perfect rhyme. Melbourne is a good place to write a show; Sydney is an amazing place to put on a show.
I started going to New York when I became frustrated with the fact I wasn’t going to be a composer of musicals in Australia because we just weren’t making them. My wife, Lucy, said, “Just buy a ticket and go to New York.” When I first started going, I didn’t know anyone. I didn’t feel like it was going anywhere. I was just constantly travelling to New York to spend two weeks with my face pressed up against the glass, working out how to get on the other side.
the score for the stage version of Beetlejuice, which played at the WInter Garden Theatre in NYC.
Eventually things took off and we moved to New York in 2015. I worked on Broadway and we stayed until just before the pandemic. New York rewards you depending how much energy you put into it. Ninety-nine per cent of people there have chosen to be there for really specific reasons. They’re all putting up with the grime, extremes of weather, massive rents, huge crowds and the weird subways and all the stuff that makes New York New York, because there’s humungous opportunity there. Any time I walk into a theatre, I’m met with an incredible depth of talent and a huge amount of passion.
But the big thing that influenced me in New York was that our apartment was so bloody tiny that I took to writing in Central Park. That meant I was open to seeing what was going on in the world and, in Central Park, there’s always something going on. In winter, it also meant you had to write the song quickly or you were going to freeze to death.
Eddie and his daughter Lottie in Central Park, New York.
Going to see live music or theatre in another city is always exciting. Writing is one of those things where if I feel like I haven’t been listening to new music for a while, I start to feel I’m breathing recycled air. That’s where travel is amazing for creativity, no matter where it is. Travelling in Indonesia and hearing Balinese gamelan everywhere had a big effect on my writing for a while, and Indian classical music is something else – it blew my mind. New York has a lot of jazz, hip hop and live musical theatre of all different stripes that’s really influential.
Believe it or not, I’m not the most gregarious person when it comes to meeting strangers, but travelling with work gives you a reason to meet folks. It confirms what I’ve always believed, with a few notable exceptions: people are good, kind and generous, and everyone loves a good story, told well.
Eddie Perfect plays Franklin Hart Jr in 9 to 5: The Musical, which finishes its run in Sydney on May 8. It opens at the Lyric Theatre in Brisbane on May 22, at Melbourne’s State Theatre on July 10 and the Adelaide Festival Centre on October 8.
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