Not so ter­ri­ble Muriel

Maggie McKenna’s role as Muriel Hes­lop has her ca­reer off to a stun­ning start, writes Kris Crane

The Daily Telegraph (Sydney) - Best Weekend - - NEWS -

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.

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