'Permission granted': Taylor Swift's 11th-hour rescue for Sydney theatre show

Singer responds to Belvoir theatre company’s last-ditch plea on Twitter to use her hit Shake It Off after permission had been refused days before opening night

Taylor Swift has rescued a production of Sydney’s Belvoir theatre company at the last minute by granting permission for the use of her song Shake It Off.

The song is a pivotal moment in the new show Seventeen, which opens on Wednesday and features veteran Australian actors playing a group of 17-year-olds on their last day of school.

After Belvoir was informed on Friday that one music publisher had denied permission for the use of the song, it attempted to contact Swift directly via Twitter.

On Tuesday afternoon the pop star responded in person with a brief but welcome message.

Permission granted, @BelvoirSt. Good luck with your opening night :)

— Taylor Swift (@taylorswift13) August 4, 2015

The show’s director, Anne-Louise Sarks, who had attempted to contact Swift directly earlier in the day, was effusive in her thanks.

THANK YOU SO MUCH @taylorswift13!!! I am overwhelmed. Your support for artists is a thing to behold. Thank you. https://t.co/GR1hmtjml7

— Anne-Louise Sarks (@annelouisesarks) August 4, 2015

Thx so much to absolutely everyone who helped with #greygrey4taytay. We couldn't have done it without you. And of course to @taylorswift13!

— Anne-Louise Sarks (@annelouisesarks) August 4, 2015

Earlier on Tuesday Sarks said: “I’m hoping if I can reach Taylor personally, given how generous and supportive she is of her fans, that she might come around.”

Anne-Louise Sarks took to Twitter to appeal to @taylorswift13

Sarks also sent tweets to the actor Russell Crowe, the former federal arts minister Tony Burke and the record label boss Scott Borchetta in the hope of reaching Swift.

Not long after Sarks’s tweets, the hashtag #greygrey4taytay began trending across Australia. Sarks told Guardian Australia Belvoir had wanted “a really iconic pop track that speaks to 2015” for the show, written by the performer and playwright Matthew Whittet.

She said: “It feels like 17-year-olds dancing at a party but obviously we’ve spent a lot of time rehearsing.” The cast includes John Gaden, Barry Otto, Peter Carroll, Maggie Dence, Genevieve Lemon and Anna Volska.

A Belvoir spokeswoman said the company had followed the correct procedures by applying for performance rights to the song through the Australasian Performing Right Association (Apra).

Sarks said that since timings for approvals could be unpredictable it was common practice for theatre companies to proceed with rehearsals before permission was granted. Belvoir was informed on Friday that one of the music publishers had denied permission. Apra has been contacted for comment.

Before Swift’s tweet, Sarks told Guardian Australia: “I’m optimistic. I also have absolutely nothing to lose.”

Sarks said she had had “genius Australian pop writers working on a plan” in case the song could not be used, and cast members were learning new choreography. She said the actors were “total professionals” and were not concerned about the possible last-minute change. “It’s such a brilliant thing to witness them doing this dance, that I want to make it possible however I can,” she said.

Belvoir has run into last-minute rights problems before. In 2014 it cancelled the announced production of American comedy The Philadelphia Story when it was denied the rights by the estate of Philip Barry’s wife. The show was replaced with a version of the Russian playwright Nikolai Gogol’s The Government Inspector.

In 2010 it was forced to reinstate the final scene from Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman, which had been cut from the Simon Stone-directed production, before it was allowed to perform a second season. Although the rights had been agreed before performance, Belvoir’s general manager, Brenna Hobson, said at the time that there had been a miscommunication with the agents.

Seventeen is at Belvoir from 5 August to 13 September


Alexandra Spring

The GuardianTramp

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