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y separately published work icon The Legend of King O'Malley single work   musical theatre   humour  
Issue Details: First known date: 1970... 1970 The Legend of King O'Malley
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AbstractHistoryArchive Description

A music theatre burlesque based on the real life King O'Malley, a Texan born banker, real estate salesman, insurance agent, and founder of a religious movement, who came to Australia in 1893 under the belief that he was dying of consumption. After arriving at Emu Bay, Queensland, O'Malley spent some two years living in a cave before eventually walking from Rockhampton, seemingly cured of the disease, all the way to Adelaide. He became the MHA of Encounter Bay (South Australia) up until 1899, then a member of the House of Representatives (1901-17), in addition to undertaking the position of Minister for Home Affairs (1910-13, 1915-16). He retired from politics in 1917. O'Malley is also recognised for his role in opening the trans-continental railway and for his significant input into Labour reform and social legislation during the early decades of the twentieth century.

Ellis and Boddy portray O'Malley as a doubtful, though likeable/heroic, character whose early schemes are seen to mock several social institutions. In the first part of the play we encounter the loud-mouthed O'Malley leaving for Australia (accompanied by Mr Angel, a devil who acts as his spirit of conscience). In line with the real historical account O'Malley is also seen befriending the aborigines and standing for parliament. In the second part a debate begins between O'Malley and Billy Hughes, with the visionary O'Malley battling for several future initiatives, while Hughes argues for conscription. At this point the ensemble of actors take on a variety of roles, notably embers of parliament, as they satirise the image of these 'honourable representatives of government'.

The Legend Of King O'Malley has been described by Leonard Radic as : 'a rumbustious piece of musical theatre... [drawing] consciously on the traditions of panto, music hall, revue and vaudeville. The script [includes] hymns, songs, a revivalist meeting and a pageant or two... the result was a piece of pastiche theatre which explored its subject with larrikin abandon, and without concessions to good taste or manners' (State of Play 1991, p70). The musical element of the play, according to its authors, is 'a bit of a grab-bag. This is not a musical,' they write in the 1974 Angus and Robertson edition, ' it is a play with music.... use as few or as many of the [songs] as you like; and put in your own favourites if you wish. "Happy Land," "In the Service of the King," and "Hold the Fort," should be used where marked" (xxii). Other songs suggested, and which were used in the original Jane Street production include: 'I Surrender All', 'Go Little Pennies', 'Wonderful Words of Life', 'Lead on King Eternal', 'I've Found a Friend', 'Go Tell it to Jesus', 'What a Friend', 'Hey There! You're an Australian', and 'Onward Christian Soldiers'.

Production Details

  • First produced by the National Institute of Dramatic Arts students in association with the Jane Street Theatre, Sydney, June 1970. The play has since been staged many times around the country. Some notable productions include : The Old Tote Theatre Company (1970, cast and production mostly as for the Jane Street production) ; the 1970 Australian tour by NIDA ; and the Royal Queensland Theatre Company (Brisbane, 1971).

    Performed at La Mama Theatre from 9-20 April 2014

Publication Details of Only Known VersionEarliest 2 Known Versions of

Alternative title: The Legend of King O'Malley, or, Never Say Die Until a Dead Horse Kicks You
      1970 .
      Extent: [2], v, 90 leavesp.
      Description: Typescript (duplicated).
      (Manuscript) assertion
      Note/s:
      • Copy 1: Revised July 31 1970; Copy 2: text corrected to July 31 1970, includes holograph notes.

      Holdings

      Held at: University of Queensland University of Queensland Library Fryer Library
      Local Id: H0150
    • Sydney, New South Wales,: Currency Press , 1987 .
      Extent: xxviii, 115p.p.
      Description: illus., music.
      ISBN: 0868191310 (pbk.)
  • Appears in:
    y separately published work icon Plays of the 70s [Volume 1] Katharine Brisbane (editor), Sydney : Currency Press , 1998 Z34704 1998 anthology drama (taught in 11 units) Sydney : Currency Press , 1998 pg. 1-77
    Note: With title: The Legend of King O'Malley, or, Never Say Die Until a Dead Horse Kicks You.

Other Formats

  • Also sound recording.

Works about this Work

Dusting off a Theatrical Legend Elissa Blake , 2014 single work review
— Appears in: The Sydney Morning Herald , 26 November 2014; (p. 20)

— Review of The Legend of King O'Malley Michael Boddy , Bob Ellis , 1970 single work musical theatre
Rousing Return for King O'Malley Chris Boyd , 2014 single work review
— Appears in: The Australian , 11 April 2014; (p. 14)

— Review of The Legend of King O'Malley Michael Boddy , Bob Ellis , 1970 single work musical theatre
All Hail Brazen King of a Stage Revolution Sonia Harford , 2014 single work review
— Appears in: The Age , 8 April 2014; (p. 18)

— Review of The Legend of King O'Malley Michael Boddy , Bob Ellis , 1970 single work musical theatre
The Legend Continues Philip O'Brien , 2011 single work column
— Appears in: The Canberra Times , 31 December 2011; (p. 14)
Mirror Mirror on the Wall, Who's the Bravest of Us All : A Personal View of Writing for the Theatre in Australia Judith Raphael Buckrich , 1994 single work criticism
— Appears in: Overland , Spring no. 136 1994; (p. 18-23)
Fine Fare, Fun Fare H. G. Kippax , 1970 single work review
— Appears in: The Sydney Morning Herald , 13 June 1970; (p. 17) A Leader of His Craft : Theatre Reviews by H. G. Kippax 2004; (p. 168-169)

— Review of The Legend of King O'Malley Michael Boddy , Bob Ellis , 1970 single work musical theatre
Spirit of the Halls Brian Hoad , 1970 single work review
— Appears in: The Bulletin , 20 June vol. 92 no. 4709 1970; (p. 42-43)

— Review of The Legend of King O'Malley Michael Boddy , Bob Ellis , 1970 single work musical theatre
Untitled Katharine Brisbane , 1970 single work review
— Appears in: The Australian , 15 August 1970;

— Review of The Legend of King O'Malley Michael Boddy , Bob Ellis , 1970 single work musical theatre
Royal Performance Geoffrey Milne , 1989 single work review
— Appears in: The Herald , 21 April 1989; (p. 17)

— Review of The Legend of King O'Malley Michael Boddy , Bob Ellis , 1970 single work musical theatre
All Hail Brazen King of a Stage Revolution Sonia Harford , 2014 single work review
— Appears in: The Age , 8 April 2014; (p. 18)

— Review of The Legend of King O'Malley Michael Boddy , Bob Ellis , 1970 single work musical theatre
City and Bush in the Australian Theatre 1922-1988 Gareth Griffiths , 1992 single work criticism
— Appears in: Populous Places : Australian Cities and Towns 1992; (p. 31-47)
The Legend Continues Philip O'Brien , 2011 single work column
— Appears in: The Canberra Times , 31 December 2011; (p. 14)
Drama Terry Sturm , 1981 single work criticism
— Appears in: The Oxford History of Australian Literature 1981; (p. 175-267)
How to Have Fun On a Traumatic First Night Sandra Hall , 1970 single work column
— Appears in: The Bulletin , 20 June vol. 92 no. 4709 1970; (p. 10,13,15)
If Only "O'Malley" Had Been a Good Honest Failure Denis O'Brien , 1970 single work column
— Appears in: The Bulletin , 3 October vol. 92 no. 4724 1970; (p. 44)
Last amended 8 Apr 2014 08:42:15
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