AFL legend Shane Crawford has unintentionally got the arts community offside after he was cast as the Pharaoh in an upcoming production of Joseph and the Technicolour Dream Coat.
The 'stunt casting' of Crawford has put many actors and performers in musical theatre offside as the industry slowly recovers from the uncertainty that came with the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.
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State lockdowns, travel restrictions and capacity limits all seriously damaged the industry during the peak of the pandemic response.
Crawford's admission that he had never performed in a musical before was of particular frustration, with Samantha Andrew, a composer based in Melbourne, telling The Age his casting was 'disappointing', but adding she was equally unsurprised by the move.
Jason Donovan plays the Pharaoh on the London production of the famed Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber musical comedy.
Andrew told The Age Crawford's casting was a knock on all those who practiced their craft and ought to have had the chance to audition.
“It just sends such a disheartening message to performers who have dedicated their lives to this industry, battled through all the heartbreaking steps to even get into an audition room, and then you see these roles going to someone who played AFL once," she said.
“Hawthorn isn’t signing (Wicked and Legally Blonde: The Musical actor) Lucy Durack, it’s offensive to the industry in that it’s essentially saying, ‘Oh no, you don’t need the training to do this; anyone can do it.’”
Andrew went on to argue it was an example of how sporting interests are consistently prioritised above the arts.
“This just confirms everything we’ve long suspected about where our priorities lie in this country.
“It speaks really highly to how important sport is considered over the arts, and I think that’s an added layer of frustration.”
Shane Crawford's musical casting prompts arts outrage
Crawford said the challenge of taking on the role of the Pharaoh was 'daunting', but one that he was looking forward to meeting head on.
“To be offered an opportunity like this is amazing. I have done so many different things in my sporting and media career, but I have never performed in a musical, and I can’t wait!” Crawford said.
“To be given the chance to be on stage, working with so many talented performers, entertaining an audience will be a huge buzz.
“Playing the role of the Pharaoh in this new production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is going to be fun – and a little daunting. Bring on the rehearsals.”
So the social media accounts of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat are quite rightly getting hammered for their decision after thousands of actors lost their job during the pandemic, to cast an ex AFL footballer (Shane Crawford) in a role
What a joke pic.twitter.com/ukYORb9Hdx
— Lord of the Dance 🌨️🍻🚳🌶️💉🧵🍑💩🕺♻️ (@trashyhonky) August 16, 2022
Love Shane Crawford as a footballer and football commentator but this is not right. So many talented well-trained performers desperate to work professionally and doing audition after audition to see stunt casting like this. Disappointing to say the least.
— Sally Hopwood (@SallyHopwood1) August 14, 2022
After the casting of Crawford was announced, several well-known performers expressed their own frustration on the AussieTheatre page on Instagram, which shared details of the show.
Comedian Tanya Hennessy said the industry ought to prioritise those who had dedicated their lives to the craft.
"Let’s cast performers in these roles, people who work, train, sacrifice and give their lives to the arts," she wrote.
AACTA best lead actor nomineen Zoe Terakes said the casting was 'not good enough', while MEAA Equity, the union representing professional performers, said they were aware of members' concerns.
The show's producer, Tim Lawson, hasn't commented on the controversy at the time of writing.
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