John Robertson

John Robertson

John Robertson

In 1956 John Robertson dropped a career in accountancy and entered the infinitely more exciting world of theatre.

Robertson joined the Tivoli Circuit as stage manager, and then spent four years working on a variety of shows with Sydney-based Rudas Productions.

In 1977 Robertson joined the Adelaide Festival Centre Trust as Production Manager.

In 2003 Live Performance Australia presented John Robertson with its James Cassius Williamson Award in recognition of his contribution to excellence in Australian performing arts.

 

Getting the show on the road

In 1956 John Robertson dropped a career in accountancy and entered the infinitely more exciting world of theatre. He worked backstage with the visiting African-American Katherine Dunham dancers, who were playing at the Tivoli in Melbourne. He became their stage manager early the following year and travelled with them through Australia, New Zealand and the Far East.

Back in Australia, Robertson joined the Tivoli Circuit as stage manager, and then spent four years working on a variety of shows with Sydney-based Rudas Productions. J.C. Williamson’swas next. Robertson was stage director for a string of important productions, such as A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, The Great Waltz, Sweet Charity, I Do, I Do and the original production of Man of La Mancha. In 1971 he was promoted to Executive Production Director, responsible for the planning, staffing and touring of major productions such as No, No, Nanette, International Ice Follies 1973, Pippin, Irene and Gypsy. He filled a similar position with Kenn Brodziak’s J.C. Williamson Productions, where he was involved with More Canterbury Tales and The Wiz

J.C. Williamson Productions, where he was involved with More Canterbury Tales and The Wiz.  

In 1977 Robertson joined the Adelaide Festival Centre Trust as Production Manager. He worked on several Adelaide Festivals, and was a member of the team that led the Trust’s move to become a major producer of musical theatre. He was Production Manager for Reg Livermore’s glorious failure Ned Kelly, which opened at the Adelaide Festival Theatre in December 1977. The Trust’s next major musical was Annie, in 1978, a joint production by J.C. Williamson Productions, Michael Edgley and the Adelaide Festival Centre Trust. But it was Evita, in 1980, that established the Adelaide Festival Centre Trust as a major Australian entrepreneur. It was also the first Australian theatrical venture to attract significant commercial sponsorship: the Benson and Hedges contributed $250,000. Hugely successful, the production was endorsed by Andrew Lloyd Webber as the best Evita he had seen.

The demise of the J.C. Williamson organisation had meant that the Adelaide Festival Centre Trust, with its theatres, rehearsal rooms and workshops, had become the only Australian entrepreneurial organisation that could handle every facet of theatrical marketing and production under one roof – construction, lighting, sound, box office, front-of-house, publicity – the lot. And all the was the domain of John Robertson, who became the Trust’s Operations Manager as well as its Executive Producer. He worked on the national tours of Barnum and Oklahoma! in 1982, and Song and Dance in 1983.

Robertson became a director of Cameron Mackintosh’s Australian company in 1986. He has been Executive Producer for the original Australian productions of Cats, Les Misérables, Five Guys Named Moe, The Phantom of the Opera, Miss Saigon and Rent.

In 2000-01 John was production consultant for the Manila, Hong Kong and Singapore production of Miss Saigon.

He was executive producer for Mamma Mia! since it opened in Melbourne in 2001. In 2007-08 he was consultant for Billy Elliot – The Musical at the Capitol Theatre in Sydney
and the 2009-10 Australian tour of Mamma Mia! In 2011 John was involved with the Australian production of Mary Poppins as well as Miss Saigon in Korea. He also serves as Production Consultant/Senior International Production Consultant for Project IX
Australia.

In 2003 Live Performance Australia presented John Robertson with its James Cassius Williamson Award in recognition of his contribution to excellence in Australian performing arts.

- Frank Van Straten, 2007, 2013.

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Biographical references

Lance Campbell: By Popular Demand – The Adelaide Festival Centre Story, Adelaide Festival Centre Trust/Wakefield Press, 1998