In July 2001, Jeanne Pratt received the inaugural Victoria Day Award for the Arts. In thanking the Victoria Day Council for the honour, she announced a new award for the best new original work of musical theatre in Australia. Jeanne named it The Pratt Prize for Musical Theatre. Administered by The Production Company and supported through The Pratt Foundation, The Pratt Prize as it became known was invited submissions from across the country in the period 2002 to 2009. The Prize encouraged the creation of new Australian musicals that had the potential to attract a widespread audience. The Pratt Prize comprised two parts:
- A cash prize of $50,000 to be awarded to the entry that, in the opinion of the judges, had the best original work of music theatre by an Australian citizen(s) or resident(s).
- The winning entry, by arrangement between the composer, writer and The Production Company (Aust.) Ltd to receive a workshop performance at a mutually agreed time to the value of $30,000.
Awards were made in 2002, 2004, 2006 and 2008.
The judges and consultants advising on the Award were Jeanne Pratt AC, musical director Peter Casey, composer and former Director of both the Melbourne Festival and Edinburgh Festival Jonathan Mills, Director Roger Hodgman, actor, writer and director Malcolm Robertson, The Age’s senior writer and arts editor Michael Shmith, TPC Directors John Hay-Mackenzie and Rachel D Taylor, and Artistic Director Ken Mackenzie-Forbes.
In 2002, there were 144 entries for the inaugural Award, and six finalists were chosen. This first Pratt Prize was awarded to Gary Young (Book and Lyrics) and Paul Keelan (Music) for their new musical, Sideshow Alley. The following year The Production Company produced the workshop of Sideshow Alley staging it at Chapel Off Chapel in Melbourne. Gale Edwards directed the workshop production and the musical director was the composer, Paul Keelan.
GAVIN D. ANDREW, VIVIEN DAVIES, JONATHAN DENSEM, MELISSA LANGTON,
DARREN NATALE, PETER NICHOLLS, JACKIE REES and ANNA-LEE ROBERTSON
Sideshow Alley was given a further season in a new production at the Queensland Performing Arts Centre in April 2007. For this Brisbane season the Director was Gary Young, Musical Director was Paul Keelan and the Choreographer was Andrew Hallsworth.
In 2004, The Pratt Prize was awarded to the then 25 year old Matthew Robinson for his musical, Metro Street. Matthew wrote the music, lyrics and book for Metro Street. On 12 June 2005, The Production Company premiered a short season of workshop performances in Melbourne’s Chapel Off Chapel.
Metro Street was given several subsequent performances including a new production at the State Theatre Company of South Australia in April 2009.
In 2006, the judges of the Award reviewed the form of the Award and the works being submitted for the Award. The judges decided that in place of a single award it would offer new commissions to young Australian composers and writers. Anthony Crowley, Dean Bryant and Mathew Frank were the recipients of these commissions. These commissions had a total value of $40,000. Upon completion of the commissions, each would be considered for a workshop production.
The works commissioned were Carnival Joe by Anthony Crowley and Puberty Blues by Mathew Frank and Dean Bryant.
In 2008, The Pratt Prize for Music Theatre again took the form of a commissioning program. Forty submissions were received and seven were short listed for further consideration. Of these seven, two commissions were offered. These commissions were made to Gary Young and Paul Keelan for their new musical, Bim Bom and to Anthony Crowley for a new musical, Carnival Joe.
There were no further commissions beyond 2009.