Born: Established: 13 Aug 1930 Orange ; Died: 6 Sep 2010 Sydney
Writer, lyricist, theatre director.
John McKellar's family moved from Orange (NSW) to Sydney when he was a small child. He later studied at the Sydney Teacher's College and dabbled in university theatre with Gerry Donovan and Lance Mulcahy. In 1953, they presented some material to director/producer William Orr and he included a number of songs and sketches in his revues Merry-Go-Round and Maid in Egypt. After graduating with a teacher's diploma, McKellar spent a brief period teaching in regional New South Wales before returning to the theatre. In the mid to late 1950s, McKellar, Donovan, and Mulcahy contributed much material to the first Phillip Street Theatre revues. These productions included Top of the Bill (1954) and Hat Trick (1955). Shortly after working on Hat Trick, the three collaborators travelled to England, where they sold material for small cabarets and intimate revues.
McKellar returned to Australia after eighteen months and went back to Phillip Street, collaborating with in-house composer Dot Mendoza and writer Eleanor Witcombe on a number of chamber and children's musicals. These included Cross Section (1957), Ride on a Broomstick (1959), The Willow Pattern Plate (1959), and Mistress Money (1960). During the early to mid 1960s, he combined writing television and radio scripts with a career in advertising.
In 1965, McKellar quit the advertising industry and returned to the theatre, writing one of his best remembered revues: A Cup of Tea, a Bex and A Good Lie Down, starring Ruth Cracknell. He followed it in 1968 with But I Wouldn't Want to Live There. Directed by Peter Batey (q.v.), it again starred Cracknell, along with Gloria Dawn and Lyle O'Hara. In 1982, McKellar and Lance Mulchay collaborated on Four Lady Bowlers in a Golden Holden (Kinselas Cabaret Theatre, Sydney). Coming out of retirement in 1996, McKellar produced his own new work, Virtual UnReality, a satirical piece about Sydney. In 2006, he wrote the revue The Attack of the Granny Boomers as part of a Federal Department of Health and Ageing campaign.