“Tivoli” premiered at the State Theatre, Melbourne in 2001 as an Australian Dance Musical, paying tribute to the infamous Tivoli Variety and Revue Circuit.

The Tivoli Theatre Circuit of Australia ran from the 1890’s to its last show in 1966. Production Director, Graeme Murphy celebrated this era capturing the humour, glamour and magic of the time through an interweaving of backstage scenes with onstage acts.

Synopsis: Interweaving backstage scenes with onstage acts, the story opens in 1906, when the main character, a starry-eyed Jack, lands a job as a stagehand. This marks the beginning of a lifelong love affair with ‘the Tiv’ across periods of great social change for Australia – two World Wars, the roaring 20s and the Depression years, exotic revues of the 1950s and finally the advent of television.

As Head Milliner to The Australian Ballet, Phillip Rhodes created the headwear for the Production. I spoke to him recently about this experience:

“I managed to get 5 of the “Empirettes” Bonnets from The Australian Ballet Archive. There were 15 Bonnets made. The Ballet girls were meant to be Edwardian beauties so I added curls of hair to the front as the girls looked a bit nude. It was a big job, 125 hats to make so we couldn’t line them, we just had to get on with it. I got the five of the Bonnets from archive because anyone can crib one together but we had to make 15 so when you see them altogether it makes an impact.

The Ostrich Feathers took 60 hours to dye and curl. It was a huge job, I remember timing it. I thought I was never going to finish. The Bonnet headliner was for “Miss Tivoli” with hand dyed and curled Ostrich Feathers. Looking at them now I realise that you never get that grade of ostrich anymore. Anyway the dying lady was too busy, so I slipped in quietly on a Saturday and dipped and dyed and dipped and dyed until I got the colour I wanted. I had never dyed anything like that before or since.

The Art Deco sequin numbers were made for the “I Love It” Girls which is Tivoli spelt backwards and they did a 20’s number in them. There were 17 hats in all, 15 core and 2 swing. We happened to fluke a Beader, doing work experience in the Department so we figured out the design on a baise of black velvet. It was quite beautiful really, with sets of sequins cut into art deco motifs.

I also chose this satin covered Top Hat from the archive.  In a cheery colour, I don’t think the dancer really liked it and never actually wore it during the production.

It was a collaboration with the Sydney Dance Company so it was never going to repertoire and was based mainly on the talent Graeme had on hand at the time. I had never done musical comedy before, it was very idiosyncratic.”



The Australian Ballet Tivoli Collection is currently on show at the Wagga Wagga Art Gallery