Farnsey hits take centre stage in new musical

John Farnham's hits will feature in a new jukebox musical approved by the iconic singer.

Farnham's manager Glenn Wheatley has used lockdown to start work on a homegrown theatrical production that uses the singer's catalogue, but is not based on his life.

Theatre impresario Michael Cassel, who is staging Hamilton and Harry Potter and the Cursed Child in Australia, is working with Wheatley on the project.

Australian playwright Tommy Murphy (Holding the Man) is writing the script.

"Tommy came to us with a genius concept," Wheatley said.

"It's still in the very early stages, but it's going to be fantastic. It's not about John, but features his songs. It's based on a historical Australian moment, it's a great Australian story, and obviously the soundtrack is going to be strong. John's songs just into this theme so well. We're still waiting on the final script but I got goosebumps when I went through the treatment with the writers last week. And John's excited, he loves the concept."

John Farnham’s iconic songs have inspired a new musical. Picture: Ian Laidlaw
John Farnham’s iconic songs have inspired a new musical. Picture: Ian Laidlaw

Wheatley said the musical will follow the lead of Mamma Mia! and We Will Rock You, which used ABBA and Queen's back catalogues respectively, but were not about the actual artists.

"John's catalogue is so deep now, I think we'll end up with a very successful stage show using John's songs. We've got an extraordinary team of people putting them together."

The music manager is also working on a new Farnham documentary, which is being backed by Amazon, which is hoped to get a theatrical release.

"It'll be the definitive work on John, we've got stuff people have never seen before."

The projects have kept Wheatley busy while Farnham has taken himself off the road until national touring can resume.

"We didn't want to do anything virtual or online, the quality isn't always great and John and I hate to compromise," Wheatley said.

Glenn Wheatley and John Farnham. Picture: Glenn Wheatley
Glenn Wheatley and John Farnham. Picture: Glenn Wheatley

"It's fullbore or nothing. There are tentative live shows booked in but it's all subject to what happens with the regulations. We don't want to play to socially-distanced audiences, that will kill the vibe of any performance. We will wait until we're able to play to full houses again. We're waiting patiently, I can't lock anything in until it's safe."

While Farnham takes a break from touring, he is still scanning potential new songs for what will be his first original album since 2010.

"We've got some great songs," Wheatley said.

"We'll look at starting to record them the moment it's safe to get back to work. It's been brutal what this virus has done for shutting down the music industry."




The musical about a woman looking for her father uses ABBA's songs and has become one of the most successful productions in history. It has been staged everywhere from Broadway and the West End to Australia and Russia.


Written by Ben Elton, the futuristic storyline references Queen and uses the band's music. It became one of the longest-running musicals in West End history and is still performed on stages globally.


Based on the dramatic life of US band The Four Seasons, and based around their hits from the 60s. It is one of the most performed jukebox musicals globally.


Diablo Cody (who is co-writing Madonna's upcoming movie on her life) wrote this musical which is based on Alanis Morissette's 1995 album. Morissette wrote several new songs for the score, while the musical, which launched on Broadway last year, is up for 15 Tony Awards.


Based on the life story and music of Tina Turner, this launched two years ago and was a major success on Broadway and in the West End before the pandemic shutdown. Promoter Paul Dainty is bringing the production to Australia.





Originally published as Farnsey hits take centre stage in new musical