The acclaimed National Theatre and Neal Street Productions sensation, The Lehman Trilogy, triumphantly returns to the stage! The production makes its Australian premiere at Theatre Royal Sydney in just three weeks after its multiple-Tony Award-winning success on Broadway.
Adapted by Ben Power from Stefano Massini’s original work, The Lehman Trilogy begins on a cold September morning in 1844, with a young man from Bavaria standing on a New York dockside dreaming of a new life in the new world. As the story unfolds, he is joined by his two brothers, and an American epic begins. 163 years later, the firm they establish—Lehman Brothers—spectacularly collapses into bankruptcy, triggering the largest financial crisis in history.
Narrated by a versatile cast of three, who seamlessly play the Lehman brothers, and a cast of other characters including their sons and grandsons, and helmed by Academy Award winner Sam Mendes, The Lehman Trilogy promises an awe-inspiring spectacle.
Playing for a 5-week Australian season through to 24 March 2024, tickets are available to purchase directly from Theatre Royal Sydney with group booking discounts available.
Production Photography of 2022 LA cast
1. A STORY ABOUT FAMILY
At its heart, this epic tale is about family—making it relatable for everyone. As we see in that first generation of Lehman brothers: commanding oldest brother Henry, fiery middle brother Emanuel, and peace-making youngest brother Mayer.
It’s fascinating to see how subsequent generations view their forefathers: whether they revere their traditions or seek to move away from them, reshaping both the business and the family unit. The closeness of that original trio is never quite replicated, perhaps because they have a particular bond as immigrants. But that rich portrait of a family growing and changing over time gives this often cerebral play real heart, and makes it appealing to any audience.
2. A STACKED CREATIVE TEAM
This is theatre at its most thrilling and intimate: three actors conjuring up worlds between them. Of course, the amazing Lehman trio is also supported by a word class creative team.
- Led by Sam Mendes, founder of London’s acclaimed Donmar Warehouse, director of West End and Broadway hits such as The Ferryman and blockbuster films such as the James Bond films Skyfall and Spectre, and the Oscar-winning, American Beauty.
- Adaptor Ben Power writes for stage and screen with film credits including Munich: The Edge of War and TV series, The Hollow Crown. He is currently collaborating with acclaimed singer-songwriter, PJ Harvey on his latest play, London Tide which debuts at the National Theatre this spring.
- Set designer Es Devlin has worked on everything from the Benedict Cumberbatch-starring Hamlet to Beyoncé shows and her own art exhibitions.
- Katrina Lindsay won an Olivier and a Tony for her Harry Potter and the Cursed Child costumes.
- Lighting designer Jon Clark won an Olivier for The Inheritance and movement director Polly Bennett has worked with Oscar-winner Rami Malek on his portrayal of Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody and Golden Globe and BAFTA-winner Austin Butler for his portrayal of Elvis Presley in Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis.
Photos by Theo Wargo / Getty Images
3. THE PLAY HAS A BEAUTIFUL LIVE PIANO SCORE
Other key members of the Lehman creative team is its composer and sound designer, Nick Powell and music director Candida Caldicott. The talented and experienced pianist, Cat Beveridge, will perform their extraordinarily evocative compositions during every performance.
The music is a thrilling part of the action itself, shifting us between places, time periods and different moods, underscoring the various characters, and adding heft to the play’s most dramatic moments.
It’s a particular treat to have pianist playing the piano score live: interacting with the cast to create a palpable atmosphere. The score also cleverly keeps us in touch with the roots of the story via its European folk song leitmotif.
4. WITNESS AN ACTING MASTERCLASS
It takes incredible skill to portray one character, or two, or three. Well, how about 53?
That’s roughly how many people are brought to life by just three actors. Three is a magic number here: three actors, three brothers, and three parts to this phenomenal piece of theatre, all told in just one awe-inspiring evening.
As well as the founding brothers, the cast play their descendants—like Emanuel’s son Philip and grandson Bobbie—as well as girlfriends, wives, children, business partners and rivals. It’s a true tour de force.
The Sydney run will star Howard Overshown as Emanuel Lehman, Aaron Krohn as Mayer Lehman, and Adrian Schiller as Henry Lehman.
L: 2022 LA Cast, R: Footage of 2021 Cast
5. BASED ON REAL EVENTS
It gives a window into recent history, via the Lehman brothers’ experiences: from selling goods and cotton in the mid 19th century through to the foundation of the New York Stock Exchange in 1887, the stock market crash and Great Depression, the firm’s transformation into an investment bank, and finally the financial crisis of 2008.
It tells us so much about how our way of doing business changed, from the small-scale exchange of tangible goods through to a globally connected system of, essentially, confidence and faith in imaginary numbers. That, in turn, helps us understand how our current capitalist system works—and where it’s vulnerable. The play’s brilliant analogies, like comparing the stock exchange to a man walking across a tightrope, put all of this into entertaining and illuminating layman’s terms.
6. THE PLAY HAS WON NUMEROUS AWARDS
With such incredible creative calibre, it’s not surprising that The Lehman Trilogy has become a major awards magnet. The show was nominated for eight Tony Awards in 2022 and won five of them: Best Play, Best Director for Sam Mendes, Best Scenic Design of a Play for Es Devlin, Best Lighting Design of a Play for Jon Clark, and Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play for Simon Russell Beale.
The original London production was nominated for five Olivier Awards, and its New York transfer also saw it win Outstanding New Broadway Play (plus awards for Director, Outstanding Actor, Lighting, Sound and Video) at the 2022 Outer Critic Circle Awards, and Outstanding Production of a Play at the 2022 Drama League Awards.
Photos by Theo Wargo / Getty Images
7. ON A WORLD JOURNEY
The Lehman brothers travelled from Bavaria to the United States, and now The Lehman Trilogy continues the Lehman’s globetrotting. After The Lehman Trilogy premiered at the National Theatre in 2018, the show then played at the Piccadilly Theatre, transferred to Broadway, and ran in Los Angeles.
Next month it comes to Theatre Royal Sydney, followed by heading to San Francisco. Previous runs in both the UK and the States completely sold out, so we recommend booking early!
8. THE SET DESIGN IS A VISUAL WONDER
Es Devlin’s set design has to be seen to be believed. It takes its cue from that sleek but abandoned Lehman Brothers office in 2008: the glass walls of a recognisable Wall Street skyscraper, with packing boxes strewn around. The stunning main part of the design is a rotating glass cube (the “magical music box called America”), constantly changing our perspective. The actors use those boxes to set up different locations and scrawl on the walls to explain theories to us, or to represent shop-front signs.
There’s also the key addition of Jon Clark’s cinematic lighting and Luke Hall’s video projections, which give it the monochromatic feel of a graphic novel and the mesmerising style of a Hollywood film. It brings us that sense of America through the ages, covering more than 150 years – and yet keeping us within the intimate sphere of just one family, too.
9. REBORN IN A NEW VENUE
The play began its life in 2018 at the National’s Lyttelton Theatre. It transferred to New York’s Park Avenue Armory in 2019, and returned to the UK for a West End run at the Piccadilly Theatre that same year. Another transatlantic trip took place in 2020-2022 with The Lehman Trilogy making its Broadway debut at the Nederlander Theatre and touring to the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles, before returning to London in 2023 for a sold out West End run at the Gillian Lynne Theatre.
Now the show comes to Theatre Royal Sydney, which has been home to the lavish stage adaptation of TINA – The Tina Turner Musical. With a capacity of 1,200, our venue will provide new opportunities for The Lehman Trilogy to dazzle on an epic scale.
10. IT’S A MUST-SEE UNIQUE PIECE OF THEATRE
There is simply nothing else like this—in the West End or anywhere else. Spanning 163 years, over 50 characters, the American Dream, the birth (and downfall) of modern capitalism, faith, family and finance, all told by just three actors and a pianist, it’s theatre at its most expansive and most intimate.
The Lehman Trilogy is a history play that tells us everything about who we are today, and an American tale that has universal resonance. Make sure you don’t miss out on this boundless, audacious, funny and tragic play: the story of how three brothers changed the world.