An outstanding Australian cast has been announced for the highly-anticipated 2023 national tour of the powerful rock drama Rolling Thunder Vietnam. The hand-picked ensemble comprises Brittanie Shipway, Tom Oliver, Christian Charisiou, Jerrod Smith, Imogen Moore and Sam Richardson.
Described by producer Rebecca Blake as “a stellar cast of emerging young stars and exciting theatrical talents”, the performers will feature alongside some of Australia’s most renowned rock musicians in the biggest tour of the acclaimed production to date.
From the time of its 2014 world premiere at QPAC in Brisbane, Rolling Thunder Vietnam has introduced a number of new talents to audiences throughout Australia. “The show is an original Australian work and I’m thrilled that we once again have such an exceptional cast,” Rebecca Blake said. “Some names are already familiar, others are newcomers, and I can’t wait for our audiences to see them light up the stage in this uplifting and moving rock drama.”
Original cast member Tom Oliver (Velvet, The Marcia Hines Band, Wynnum Fringe director) reprises the role of the country soldier Johnny – a lively and endearing character he has made his own since the production’s first triumphant tour. He will be joined by rising young stars Brittanie Shipway (A Letter for Molly, The Sapphires, Big Fish) and Jerrod Smith (Heathers the Musical), both of whom are currently appearing in Laura Murphy’s exhilarating new Australian musical The Lovers for Bell Shakespeare at the Sydney Opera House. In Rolling Thunder Vietnam, Brittanie will play Johnny’s girlfriend Sarah, a loyal and loving country girl who becomes an anti-war protestor, while Jerrod portrays the duty-bound American marine Thomas.
With a number of theatrical successes to his credit, including Cry Baby at Hayes Theatre Co and, more recently, his breakout role as Robbie Hart in the hit touring production of The Wedding Singer, Christian Charisiou plays the conscripted Australian soldier Andy in Rolling Thunder Vietnam. His big musical numbers include Bob Dylan’s blistering All Along the Watchtower and Marvin Gaye’s aching What’s Going On – both ranked by Rolling Stone magazine as among the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
Rounding out the cast are Imogen Moore (Frozen the Musical, The Rocky Horror Show, Muriel’s Wedding) and Sam Richardson (Frozen the Musical, Next to Normal), who perform pivotal supporting roles in the unique theatrical experience combining classic rock songs of the ‘60s and ‘70s, a passionate love story of courage, longing and resilience, and stunning video footage, set amid the tumultuous Vietnam War.
The 2023 national tour opens in mid-April and plays Gold Coast, Toowoomba, Brisbane, Maryborough, Caloundra, Wollongong, Western Sydney, Newcastle, Perth, Adelaide, Sydney, Bendigo, Frankston and Melbourne.
Rolling Thunder Vietnam is inspired by the true stories of numerous Vietnam Veterans and family members, extensive research and actual letters. Written by journalist-writer Bryce Hallett, directed by David Berthold, and with brilliant musical arrangements by Chong Lim AM, the stirring production features songs by Steppenwolf, The Rolling Stones, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Curtis Mayfield, Gladys Knight, Billy Thorpe, Edwin Starr and Paul Simon. They include Magic Carpet Ride, Fortunate Son, The Letter, Black Magic Woman, Help Me Make it Through the Night, War, People Get Ready, Killing Me Softly With His Song and Bridge Over Troubled Water.
Dr Brendan Nelson, the former Director of the Australian War Memorial, is Patron of the 2023 national tour, which is proudly supporting Soldier On, a not-for-profit organisation that provides integrated and holistic support services to Australia’s Defence personnel, contemporary veterans and their families.