Three Minute Squiz With… Michael Cassel

Michael Cassel is one of Australia’s most successful theatre impresarios. Mentored by Harry M Miller and trained by Disney in New York, the youthful entrepreneur (and recent convert to The Squiz) has produced everything from Les Mis to Kinky Boots to the current season of the Carole King musical, Beautiful. Here he tackles the Three Minute Squiz

How and where do you Squiz?
On my iPhone, first thing the morning before I get out of bed after reading our daily sales reports!

Let’s play Desert Island Musicals. If you were stranded on a desert island and could only have one musical soundtrack with you, which one would it be?
I’d have to say Hamilton. It’s one of the newest in my collection, so has a few more years on very high rotation!

Where were you born?
Kiama, New South Wales

What was the first album you ever owned?
Culture Club’s Colour by Numbers.

What was the first musical you ever went to? Who took you and did it move you?
It was Harry M Miller’s production of Jesus Christ Superstar. I went with my family and I was 12. It was the first professional production I had seen and I was in awe the scale, theatricality and that incredible rock score performed was incredible. I was hooked and it was from that moment I decided I wanted to be a producer.

What’s your guilty TV-watching secret?
I actually don’t have much time for TV, so I tend to find myself binge-watching on our holidays, usually when laying on the beach! Last year, I finally caught up on House of Cards from Series 1!

What would you say is the most overrated virtue?

You worked for many years in New York with the Disney Theatrical Group. What lessons did you learn about doing business from your Disney experience?
Honesty. Integrity. Success for all parties. Relationships.

What’s your favourite borough in New York, and why?
Manhattan! Too much too choose from. The energy, the pace. The people!

And if money was no object, what hotel would you stay in and what restaurant would you eat at if you went to The Big Apple tomorrow?
I’d stay at the Mandarin Oriental at Columbus Circle it’s our old ‘hood and then I’d walk across to Jean Georges for dinner and order multiple servings of their molten chocolate cake!

Tell us one thing the world doesn’t know about your time with Harry M. Miller?
In my first week on the job, I had to drive Harry to an appointment. It was my first week living in Sydney, and on the job, and I was nervous! Imagine my surprise when the police tapped on my window, having spotted I was driving, unbeknownst to Harry, an unregistered vehicle! I thought I was in terrible trouble when I had to interrupt Harry’s appointment to tell him that the police were outside wanting to tow away his car! Thankfully, it was a car provided to Harry under a sponsorship arrangement so some calls were quickly made to the car company!

Name five people – living or dead you’d bring together for the perfect dinner party.
Oprah, Hugh Jackman, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Kylie Minogue, Obama.

Your favourite writer/book?
Favourite writer – JK Rowling. Favourite book – too many to say! Currently, I’m enjoying reading Harry Potter*with my daughter, Eveleigh.

What skill or talent do you not have but wish you did?
Anything athletic!

You’re about to launch the first international tour of The Lion King. Two questions: (1) Why does the tour launch in Manila? and (2) Would you say you are more Simba or Pumbaa?
We had a great experience opening Les Misrables in Manila in 2016. Great audiences, great local talent to support the production behind the scenes and a really terrific theatre to play. Because of this experience, it was a natural choice to rehearse and open the show in Manila. And I think I’m definitely more Simba!

Which historical figure do you most identify with?
I’m not sure who I identify with, but I do identify with Walt Disney’s quote “If you dream it, you can do it”. My first piano teacher at the age of seven gave me an ornament with this quote which sat on my piano and this quote has always meant a great deal to me when I’m giving something a go. It was only years later did I discover that this was a quote from Disney the Circle of Life!

Australia’s obsession with sports adversely impacts the arts discuss.
Oh, I don’t think it adversely impacts the arts. I think Australian’s have a great propensity to enjoy all forms of entertainment. The latest Live Performance Australia report shows greater participation in the arts than AFL, NRL, soccer, super rugby, cricket and NBL combined. That’s pretty impressive. I do think sport gets more media, sponsorship and promotion and that’s something we as an industry need to work on!

You recently produced the Australian production of Cyndi Lauper’s Kinky Boots. Are you a Time After Time or True Colours man?
Tough call. I’d go with Time After Time.

What would you say is the most currently overlooked news story we should know about?
There’s a lot of talk of stadium infrastructure in Sydney I’d love for there to be some focus on theatre infrastructure too!

*If you purchase any of the Harry Potter books using this link, The Squiz will get a little commission from Booktopia.

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