Hannah Reilly’s latest production The Deb now showing at the Rebel Theatre

Charlotte MacInnes (left), who plays Maeve in "The Deb" and Katelin Koprivec (right), who plays Taylah. Photo: Tracey Schramm/supplied.

Australian coming-of-age musical The Deb is set to take audiences on a highly relatable and comedic journey of social redemption. Arts and entertainment editor Tahli Blackman reports.

The new Rebel Theatre in Walsh Bay is now home to the world premiere production of The Deb, with previews commencing Friday, 8 April. The musical is conceived and directed by comedian, performer and 2019 Rebel Wilson Comedy Commission winner Hannah Reilly. Fraser Corfield, artistic director at the Australian Theatre for Young People (ATYP) is co-directing.

The Deb tells the unique story of high school outcast Taylah wanting to create her own fairy tale in the drought-stricken Aussie town of Dunburn. Taylah and her confident inner-city cousin Maeve join forces in search of the spotlight on the town’s biggest night of the year. Their plan to make their mark on Dunburn’s annual debutante ball turns to complete chaos. 

“It’s a love letter to awkward teenage adolescence and learning how to celebrate your quirks and what makes you unique,” director Hannah Reilly tells The Sentinel

The concept for The Deb came to Reilly one night when she was on a schoolies trip with a couple of girlfriends in northern NSW. 

“It was late at night, and we were just about to leave a house party when I saw a girl wearing a white ball gown and tiara walk up the stairs smoking a cigarette and drinking a cruiser. After asking her why she was dressed like that, this young girl explained to me that she had been at her deb,” she says. 

I became intrigued by the idea of this glamorous ceremony that originated in 18th century England being held in the middle of the bush. I loved how bizarre it was and it spoke to me in terms of being right for a musical.”

Hannah Reilly, right, has enjoyed working closely with a cast of young performers for The Deb. Photo: supplied.

ARIA Award winning musician Megan Washington has created an original soundtrack for The Deb. Reilly and Washington worked collaboratively to compose many of the song lyrics and musical aspects within the story. 

“Megan and I totally share the same vision of the way we wanted to create each of the songs, making each of the songs very specific to the characters singing them,” says Reilly. 

Katelin Koprivec is the talented actress who plays the lead role of Taylah in this production. Previously an actor in multiple independent theatre shows, The Deb is Koprivec’s professional acting debut. She feels that this is the kind of musical she has been waiting her whole life to star in.

“I think to find a strong female lead in any show is difficult but with The Deb, Hannah Reilly has centred two strong female characters and I’m lucky enough to play Taylah who finds herself in the show,” Koprivec says.

Koprivec has loved working with this cast and crew, including her co-star Charlotte MacInnes who plays Taylah’s cousin Maeve.

“Charlotte and I instantly connected, she’s become one of my best friends after only a few weeks of knowing each other which is so special,” she says.

Cast of The Deb pictured during rehearsals. Photo: supplied.

Reilly believes she absolutely made the right decision when casting the role of Taylah.

“Katelin has this enigmatic quality; she is so charismatic and has this freedom to play with the character. Her voice is one you just can’t help but fall in love with,” she says.

“I have absolutely loved working with a big cast of talented young performers who are keen to be a part of something so new and special like this piece of musical theatre.”

Australian actor, singer, writer and comedian Rebel Wilson has been involved with the ATYP since she was 19. Wilson is now an ambassador for the theatre company and donated $1 million to the ATYP last year to help fund their new home at the Walsh Bay Arts Precinct.

Having chosen The Deb to be her 2019 Comedy Commission winner, Wilson has been an active mentor for the cast and crew of the show.

Rebel Wilson (left) and Hannah Reilly outside of the new Rebel Theatre at the Walsh Bay Arts Precinct. Photo: Hannah Reilly/Instagram.

“It’s amazing to hear Rebel speak about her career and coming up in the ATYP. To have her be so supportive of youth theatre in Australia and be so willing to give industry advice is so admirable,” says Koprivec.

Fraser Corfield believes The Deb is a perfect opening for a new generation and era at the ATYP. He says the production has a “rare touch of magic” and that is why families and young people will want to come and watch.

“What’s special about The Deb is it gives us a beautiful story structure that also constantly surprises us through humour and pathos. The characters and music in this are absolutely beautiful. You can’t help but marvel in the artistry of it.”

The Deb previews will be held from Friday, 8 April to Thursday, 21 April. The season begins on Friday, 22 April and concludes on Sunday, 22 May. For tickets and further details, visit https://atyp.com.au/ATYP-productions/the-deb/

Tahli Blackman is the arts and entertainment editor of the Sydney Sentinel.

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