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Tim Finn's Ladies in Black opens in Sydney

AAP logoAAP 4/01/2017 Danielle McGrane

The Ladies in Black are coming home.

The Helpmann Award-winning Australian musical from Tim Finn is opening in Sydney, having started its journey in 2015 as a production from the Queensland Theatre.

But the musical, which was awarded the Helpmann Award for Best New Work, is actually set in Sydney, adapted from the book The Women In Black by Madeleine St John which follows a young woman's foray into fashion retail in the 1950s.

"We had our first preview last night and we were very keen to experience those Sydney touchstones that were scattered throughout the story," Finn said in Sydney on Wednesday.

"Mosman gets a fairly good beating, not a beating actually just a reference, but so does Lindfield and a couple of other spots, Chatswood, and indeed the ripples of awareness and recognition did go through the crowd."

Just over a year after its premiere, the musical has come home to Sydney as part of the Sydney Festival and will then continue on a tour taking in Brisbane, Melbourne and Canberra

It's an impressive feat for a homegrown musical as it's not always easy to get an original work off the ground.

"To take a risk on a completely new work based on a book that's not extremely well known is a huge risk that we were very fortunate to get that first leg up," the former Split Enz frontman told AAP.

"Usually they'll go for a story that's either to a well-established song base, or based on a famous film or whatever it is, and you can see why because it's very hard to get people's attention. But to take a leap of faith like this, we were very fortunate."

The songwriter knew he was on to something special as soon as he picked up the book at Brisbane Airport.

Set in the 1950s, but written in 1993, the story follows 17-year-old Sydney girl Lisa who temporarily joins the shop floor at the city's most prestigious department store, F.G. Goode which director Simon Phillips described as a "very thinly disguised DJs (David Jones)".

As Sydney is at a time of change, moving from the stuffy 1950s into the more liberated 1960s, women's issues, and issues surrounding immigration, are touched upon through Finn's excellent score.

"It's not heavy-handed at all," he said.

"The three Hungarian refugees refer to themselves as 'refos'. They're all very sophisticated and funny people and they interact with the Aussies and you can just see the beginnings of the generosity of spirit that lay underneath all that. It's a lovely reminder of that for Australian audiences," he said.

* Ladies In Black is running at the Sydney Lyric Theatre at The Star until January 22.

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