“We explore what it means to be connected to another person, whether or not we need to physically see a person in order to maintain any kind of relationship and what that lack of physical connection does,” says Taylor. “We were very much drawing on personal experience.”
The musical doesn’t flinch from the difficulties of long-distance love. “What the whole show is about is not having that connection and slowly but surely it deteriorates until it’s not there at all,” says Bennett. “Every time you see each other you fill it back up a little bit, but it’s like there’s a hole in the bottom of the cup.”
While The Life of Us is deeply informed by their own experience, the original idea for the show bubbled up before Taylor had even met Bennett. In 2013 she was feeling creatively lost, so began following Julia Cameron’s popular self-help book The Artist’s Way to inspire herself. One night she dreamt the plot about a long-distance relationship, right down to exactly how the set should look.
“I’m not the same level of musician and songwriter that Ben is, so I didn’t feel I had the skills to write it on my own,” says Taylor. The concept sat in her journal for years until she became involved with Bennett and shared it as a project for them to work on with the pair co-writing the book and Bennett penning the music and lyrics. “Ben often jokes now when we say goodnight, he’s like please dream up something fantastic,” laughs Taylor.
Despite The Life of Us being the first musical written by either of the two, the show scored them a place at the ASCAP Foundation Musical Theatre Workshop in Los Angeles last year led by Stephen Schwartz, the composer and lyricist behind Broadway hits Godspell, Pippin and Wicked.
The two were the first-ever Australians chosen for a coveted spot on the program, which selects attendees through a worldwide submission process. They received invaluable mentoring from Schwartz and also Winnie Holzman, who wrote the book for Wicked and created the acclaimed teen television drama My So-Called Life.
The songs in The Life of Us feature a strong pop influence, with the pair citing the soaring anthems of Dear Evan Hansen and The Greatest Showman as similar in sound.
“[Schwartz] really guided us on ways to have that pop sensibility but be able to drive a story arc through it,” says Bennett. “That opened my eyes, because he was one of the first people to bring pop music into contemporary musical theatre back in the ’70s.”
For the couple working alongside one another has only strengthened their bond. “It’s the glue that holds us together,” says Taylor. “We fight about a lot of things, but not the musical. That’s been smooth sailing.”
The Life of Us is at Hayes Theatre Co from January 16 to February 9.