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Leading Man: Michael Falzon remembered by his co-stars, friends

Michael Falzon, a star of the Australian stage, passed away on June 23 this year. Now, on the cusp of the digital debut of Falzon's passion project Swing on This, his co-stars Luke Kennedy, Matt Lee, Rob Mills and Ben Mingay pen a tribute to their departed friend.

Luke, Matt, Rob, Ben & the Swing On This team

Michael Falzon was one of the great leading men of the Australian stage.

When you think “leading man”, one generally thinks of the leading role in a production and Michael certainly had his fair share of those. However, leadership offstage is equally important, and Michael personified this. Not only was he an incredibly talented and passionate performer but he was an innovator, entrepreneur, with an all or nothing approach to life, which was truly inspiring to witness.

Michael had an impressive career highlights reel and owned some enormous stages - from playing with the BBC Orchestra at the London Coliseum to fronting Queen at the AFL Grand Final. However, Swing On This was his baby. Forged from a passion and respect for the repertoire and a desire to bring together the best creative producers, arrangers, choreographers, musical directors and artists in the world, it was where his heart was, and onstage with the show was his happy place. The ultimate expression of this was presenting and performing the show at the Sydney Opera House with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra.

Swing on This was first conceived for the 2014 Adelaide Cabaret Festival. The essence of the show, much like Michael himself, evolved from motivations to be irreverent, fun, cheeky, classy, smooth and elegant. While inspiration was certainly provided by the original Rat Pack, this was more of a respectful nod of acknowledgement rather than an homage.  Swing on This had its own identity which was drawn generously from all involved in Michael’s original concepts and provocations. One of the truly special elements was reimagining some of the comforting and familiar solo swing classics and delivering them in powerful four-part harmony led by Michael, with an unrivalled camaraderie that existed both on and off the stage.

Michael always insisted on doing things right and ensured that the delivery of Swing on This was never compromised regardless of the challenges of fitting the full complement of horns on stage! His view was that the songs and arrangements were designed for a full 18-piece big band so that was how they should be performed. Fast forward four years and Swing on This joined the Sydney Symphony Orchestra to create the stunning night of music at the Sydney Opera House that you are about to see.

From the very first rehearsal of Swing on This, we knew that we were part of something special; something unique, a platform for us to shine a light on who we were. He simply knew what worked and opened the gate for us to play in the world we loved. We all benefited from his experience and vision and will continue to do so as long as music plays. Michael created his own universe of creativity and we were lucky enough to be invited into it.

Michael, we love you, we miss you and this is for you.

Personally, and professionally, Michael was so supportive of this industry and his friends. The first to lend a hand, lend an ear, lend his voice. He could brighten any mood with a gag, with his wicked sense of fun, and of course that devilishly handsome smile and charisma that oozed from every pore! Michael’s glass was always half-full, he was the master of gratefulness and a fierce friend, taken too soon.

This concert is presented to you in honour of Michael. In lieu of tickets, we would like to encourage you to make a donation to a memorial fund that has been created in Michael’s memory. Your donation will go towards research and clinical trials for germ cell cancer and other lesser-known cancers at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse where Michael was lovingly cared for during his treatment. Chris O’Brien Lifehouse is the largest not-for-profit cancer clinical trial centre in New South Wales. Research and trials are carried out by the same clinicians who treat patients, shortening the path between discovery and new treatments. 

Michael Falzon was our colleague, our provocateur, our motivator, our marshal of excellence, our comedian, and most important of all our dear friend.

Michael, we love you, we miss you and this is for you.

From Luke, Matt, Rob, Ben and the Swing On This team

Donate now to Chris O'Brien Lifehouse here

Sydney Opera House is honoured to feature Sydney Symphony Orchestra's performance of  Swing On This in our digital season. Streaming on demand from Saturday 22 August at 8pm.

Streamread & listen to more at the Opera House