Not so terrible Muriel
Maggie McKenna’s role as Muriel Heslop has her career off to a stunning start, writes Kris Crane
T his Muriel is anything but terrible. Maggie McKenna, the young star of Muriel’s Wedding: The Musical, is over the moon at her nomination for a Helpmann Award for her portrayal of the marriage-obsessed teenager at the heart of one of Australia’s favourite stories.
The staged remake of Muriel’s Wedding dominated this week’s Helpmann Award nominations, with McKenna getting a nod for best female actor in a musical.
The reality is still sinking in for the 21-yearold after receiving the news via text message.
“I am feeling pretty great to be honest. It is a bit of a shock but it is very exciting,” McKenna says, just hours after the nomination announcement. “I was actually having dinner with my parents and I got a text from a friend saying a I had been nominated.
“It is pretty mind-blowing. I never thought that I would be up against these incredible women — women who I have looked up to for most of my life.”
McKenna, the daughter of comedian Gina Riley and TV producer Rick McKenna, says her biggest fans were overjoyed at the news.
“My parents were very, very excited as well,” she says. “In the end, mum is my biggest supporter and I am her biggest supporter.”
Being the daughter of the Kath and Kim star has been an added pressure for the young Sydneysider. Acutely aware of the comparisons, McKenna has sought to run her own race.
“I think (the pressure builds) for most kids of famous parents, there is the pressure when the people love what your parents do and you get scared that people won’t love what you do the same.”
Boosting her own happiness at her nomination is the broader success of her cast and crew from the Sydney Theatre Company show, which received a total of 11 nominations.
“I am really, really, happy that the team’s hard work and the other cast members’ hard work is being recognised,” McKenna says.
“People put blood sweat and tears into the show. I am so glad that is has been received so well. I love Muriel so much; the team and the cast are so incredible. It was one of the best experiences of my life and I am a completely different person coming out of it.”
Even landing the role of Muriel Heslop came as a huge shock for McKenna, who envisioned years of struggling to succeed in the fickle entertainment industry.
“You get told in (drama) school the first five years when you graduate are the hardest and you do a lot of slog,” she says. “And this just kind of came out of the blue and it was such a shock.”
After graduating LA’s American Musical and Dramatic Academy last October, she saw director Simon Phillips was still casting Muriel.
“So I sent in a tape and then flew out for a workshop, which was like a two-week audition,” she says. “And then I found out I got the role.”
McKenna isn’t the only famous offspring up for their first Helpmann this year. Harry Greenwood, the son of veteran actor Hugo Weaving, is also in the running for a gong — best male supporting actor in a play for Cloud Nine. Dad Hugo is also nominated for best male actor in a play for his performance in The Irresistible Rise of Arturo Ui.
Another standout among the nominees is TV presenter and actor David Campbell — twice nominated for best male actor in a musical for Assassins and Dream Lover.
The new-look 2018 Helpmann Awards will be held on July 15 and 16 in Sydney.
Muriel’siel’s Wedding startar Maggie McKennaMcKenna McKenna directorwithwithdirect torect Simon Phillipspss Phillips aand writerter PJ Hogan; HogagHogan; andand, below, centreMcKennaMcKennacentre stage asMurielasMuriel Heslop.