Amanda Harrison may be famed for her role as Elphaba in “Wicked”, but if the Melbourne reviews of her very own show “Up Close and Reasonably Personal” are anything to go by, the role of quirky diva may just her most ingenious career move yet.
What can Perth audiences expect during “Up Close and Reasonably Personal?”
The performance is humorous and intimate with a combination of me talking and singing about my life and career. The last time I performed cabaret I was pregnant and a lot has happen since then. Without giving too much away, I start with “Ding Dong the Witch is Dead” by Harold Arlen and include older pieces like “Blue Skies” by Irving Berlin, the “Tennessee Waltz” by Stewart and King, and heading into the 80’s, Maria McKee’s “Show Me Heaven.”
I love how you ask the audience to share their dirty little secrets on anonymous notes during the show. What are some of the best and worst confessions you’ve read out, or kept to yourself?
The theme of the show is confession so it’s only fair that since I’ll be sharing, the audience should too. It’s a fun way for the audience to participate without really participating, if you know what I mean. I receive lots of love notes, which is nice, but not really what I’m looking for. Someone once confessed they fell asleep during Wicked.
You’ve been widely cast as Elphaba in “Wicked,” Ali in “Mamma Mia” and Betty in “Sunset Boulevard” opposite Australian stage royalty, Hugh Jackman. What have been some standout musical experiences for you?
Well, you’ve just named them! “Aspects of Love” of course was very special because it was my first production and a game changer for me. After that “We Will Rock You” in London because it had a long run and that’s where I met my husband. But “Wicked” would have to be the role which people relate to most.
Tell me about your experience at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA)?
I was only there for 6 weeks before I got the role of Betty in “Sunset Boulevard.” But sadly, the show closed after just 4 weeks and I was devastated. I was 22 years old and one minute I’m on stage kissing a superstar and the next unemployed. But I was on the right path to where I was heading.
You’re on your way to dispelling the glamourous illusions of life as a musical star with your Target promotion of “Sunshines & Lollipops.” Care to further shatter the illusion with any other examples?
Being on stage is glamorous but I have the same day-to-day struggles as everyone. And my husband is in the business too and sometimes it’s hard juggling everything. There was a time where I wasn’t working and I certainly wasn’t shopping at Country Road!
Your husband’s in the industry too?
Yes, Scott works behind the scenes in stage production. We’re a nomadic family which is great but has become harder as my two children (who are seven and three) get older. I want to raise them in Australia so they know it’s their home. It’s difficult finding a suitable base but at the moment Melbourne and Sydney are looking like good options.
You’re a social media junkie. I imagine you must gather some of your inspiration from the public. Can you provide any gems people have shared with you?
I see social media as an outlet to express yourself. You get a buzz when you share something and lots of people comment on or like it. I guess it’s narcissistic. You can appreciate people being a part of your life without even knowing them.
You’re an actress, vocalist, comedian and voiceover artist. What other projects are you working on?
Next month I’m performing in “Twisted Broadway” at the Melbourne Arts Centre where we perform songs intended for the opposite gender. I’ll be singing a funny tune called “A Miracle Would Happen” from the musical “The Last Five Years.” “Up Close and Reasonably Personal” will be running in Melbourne in October.
You also give singing lessons and do you have any advice for aspiring performers?
If you really want it, then you need to focus, practice, be ambitious and stay confident. Those four attributes are required, not to mention perseverance. There’s not that many opportunities in Australia so you’ve got to put your heart into it. And practice!
You’re a working mum, got any juggling tips?
You need a supportive partner and a good support network. It’s difficult juggling parenthood while keeping your career moving forward and support is essential.
Apart from my own show and “Twisted Broadway” I have no plans. We’ll just have to see what comes up. I just hope everyone who comes to my show has fun. I had a great response from Melbourne audiences in June, which was nice because it was my own show, as opposed to a character I’m playing.