Neil Gooding


 Note from Neil Gooding

The idea for Back to the 80’s came to me when I was walking along the streets of Melbourne with a friend. I had a feeling that following the success of the movie and soundtrack of The Wedding Singer that the 80’s had finally moved from being a hideous train-wreck in most people’s memories, to being an era viewed with great nostalgia by young and old.

This same process had happened with the 50’s, the 60’s and the 70’s … so I figured that it was only a matter of time before it logically happened with the 80’s as well. Luckily the 80’s was an era uniquely defined by outrageous fashion, iconic performers, and best of all … by brilliant pop music! It also just happened to be my era.

I barely slept the night that the idea started coming to me. By the time that the sun rose, I was surrounded by long lists of all of my 80’s memories: favourite songs, movies, TV shows, memorable characters, defining events, etc., etc. It turned out that I was a walking encyclopedia of the 80’s – simply by having been a child aged 4 to 11 during those years.

After writing on and off for about a year, Kirwan High School, Townsville, approached me to stage the first production. To my delight, the show actually worked very well. There were just under 20 productions of Back to the 80’s in Australia in that first year of it’s release. It was becoming apparent that the show was finding a market – and an audience. Once all of the music licensing had been sorted out (which is a torturous, tedious process … particularly overseas), the show was ready to go.

These days there are hundreds of productions each year globally. As well as all major English speaking countries including the US, Back to the 80’s has been staged in places that have had me reaching for an atlas.

They include Mexico, Argentina, Malaysia, The Isle Of Man, Sweden, The Netherlands and Germany. Then there is the most recent … and possibly the most obscure licensing request that we have received to date – Oman! The show has been translated into Spanish, traditional Welsh, and is about to be translated into French.

Some of the more memorable productions are:
The World Premiere at Kirwan High School in Townsville (May 2002). Watching your show on stage for the first time is a truly terrifying prospect. But, when it is done in a beautiful 1000 seat theatre, by a cast of over 100, this becomes a bit easier.

The Laycock Street Theatre, Gosford production (February 2004) was basically the first real workshop of the script. The end results were brilliant – and a lot of the additions are still part of the script today.

A Welsh production by Ysgol Y Strade, a high school in Llanelli, Wales. Firstly they translated the script into traditional Welsh. Then, they staged the musical in their hall. After that, they contacted Cameron Mackintosh’s office to see if they could get a West End Theatre for one night. They did – and they tell me that with that performance, they became the first school to perform a full musical in the West End.

I look forward enormously to discovering what unexpected roads Back to the 80’s goes down next (and hopefully to traveling a lot more to see some of them!)


About Neil Gooding.

Most recently, Neil has been one of the producers of Breast Wishes a new Australian musical which had its World Premiere in Sydney, before touring.  This year, Neil also directed and produced (with Ian Stenlake and James Millar) the Australian premiere of Gutenberg! The Musical! which has played successful seasons in Sydney, Melbourne and the Adelaide Cabaret Festival.  Neil was nominated for the 2009 Helpmann Award for Best Direction Of A Musical for his direction of Gutenberg! The Musical!. Neil has also recently directed Nick Christo’s cabaret show The Fabulous Frances Faye. The show was nominated for a Sydney Theatre Critics Award, and was presented in New York at Don’t Tell Mammas.


In 2008, Neil produced (with White Box) the World Premier of The Hatpin starring Caroline O’Connor, Peter Cousens, Barry Crocker AM and Melle Stewart, which then went on to perform at the New York Musical Theatre Festival in September 2008.  Neil also served as the Assistant Director on both of these productions. 


       Neil has also recently established The Pipeline – a not for profit organisation which has been set up to develop new Australian theatrical works – both musicals and plays. The first workshops for The Pipeline will be in early 2010.


For several years, Neil worked at Jacobsen Entertainment, where he was responsible for the financial administration of the Arena Productions of The Man From Snowy River Arena Spectacular,  the  Long Way To The Top concert series, De La Guarda and Dirty Dancing, as well as being the tour accountant on the road with Ja Rule & Ashanti in 2003.


At the start of 2000, Neil established Neil Gooding Productions. The company’s first production was Stephen Sondheim’s ASSASSINS in June 2000, which Neil both Produced and Directed.  This company works on a variety of projects – ranging from staging its own productions, providing production services to external productions, as well as administering the rights to Back To The 80’s! which was written by Neil Gooding in 2001, and is now performed hundreds of times annually across the globe.  Some of the productions staged by Neil Gooding Productions include the Sydney season of Back To The 80’s!, Long Gone Lonesome Cowgirls and The Hatpin.


In 2005, Neil spent several months contracting to Jacobsen Entertainment exploring the potential of overseas productions of  Dirty Dancing.  Neil also worked for Delta Goodrem and toured Australia as her Tour Accountant on her Visaualise Tour. 

Neil also established Fast & Fresh, the under 18 short play competition which is the offshoot of Short & Sweet – the largest short play festival in the world.   2009 marked the fifth year of this successful competition.


As a director, Neil has worked on many projects including Back To The 80’s, The Road To Bethlehem for Short, Sweet & Song (which was awarded the Best Australian Work), the Kookaburra workshop of The Silver Donkey (a new Australian musical by Dean Bryant and Matthew Frank), Keeping Annabelle for Short & Sweet 2007, Listen To My Heart (The Statement Bar) and the two workshops of new Australian musical The Hatpin.  Neil was the Assistant Director  / Ensemble Director for the launch concert of Peter Cousens’ Kookaburra Music Theatre Company, directed by Gale Edwards, and also directed Building A Wing a 10 minute musical for the inaugural Short, Sweet & Song competition.  This piece was voted by the judges as the Winner of the Best Musical.   Neil has just completed directing Climb The Smallest Mountain for Short & Sweet 2010. This piece won both the Best Production Award and the People’s Choice Award.


Neil has been awarded a Bachelor of Commerce and a Bachelor of Law, both from the University of Queensland.