I’ve been writing songs for ‘The Lizard of Oz’, an Aussie adaptation of L. Frank Baum’s novel, crafted with kids in mind, and to be performed outdoors next January. There were two challenges for me: forgetting the songs from the famous MGM movie, and forgetting the songs from the famous MGM movie.
Helpfully, the script (Mark Grentell and Peter Cox) is fancy-free, ratbaggy and unselfconscious. This is very much a traditional style here in the real Oz, and a happy legacy of our who-gives-a-stuff theatre of the 1970s.
This, and the fact that Dotty’s companions (an emu, a kookaburra and a platypus) are uniquely Australian, means that I get to play in my own accent.
How To Sing Aussie
We don’t like the letter ‘r’ at the end of a word. Too much hard work. Actually, we don’t pay it much heed in the middle of a lot of words, either. Thus, if your Aussie accent is pretty strong, these two words are identical:
And neither “father” nor “rather” comes close to rhyming with “bother” (sorry Lerner, sorry Sondheim).
Also, if one of Odin’s sons were frozen, and you had to un-freeze him, an Aussie would
That’s the same sound, twice, and it rhymes with pore, paw, shore, sure and Shaw.
Now, I won’t rhyme all these words if I’m writing something for the whole world to sing, but I will for a character from Straya (we also tend to ignore any letter L that’s in the middle).
There are also great words that only Aussies use, like “nong”, which a stupid sort of person, a bit of a galah. “Brung” is great, too: not uniquely Australian, but very popular with Aussie kids.
Hence, Bitza the platypus, who cannot figure out where he comes from, since he seems to be made of bits of other animals, and so he keeps dropping in and out of other accents and foreign phrases …
See, I swim like el pez (that’s fish),
But fish don’t have a lung.
They look at me and say
“Who brung this mongrel?”
I don’t know what the future holds, but I bet I never, ever get to bring off an inner rhyme of “brung” with “mongrel”, ever again.