ON WITH THE SHOW!
A leading lady tells us how she stays healthy for a big production
Amy Lehpamer has been treading the boards for quite a few years, starring in hit musicals such as Rock of Ages and The Sound of Music, and is set to play the role of Grammy Awardwinning songwriter Cynthia Weil in Beautiful: The Carole King Musical.
As she prepares to take on such a big role in a demanding eight-shows-a-week schedule, she shares what it takes to get ready for opening night, and how important eating well, feeling good and staying fit are when it comes to performing at your best.
What have been some of your career highlights to date?
I get very attached to every show I’m in, so this is a tricky one to answer. Dirtyrotten Scoundrels and Rockofages were my first leading roles, so they will always be special. Shanewarne:themusical
was an incredible opportunity to work on new Australian musical theatre. In Once I got to sing and act and play the violin with an extraordinary group of performers. Everything to do with Thesoundofmusic was an actual dream come true. In Dusty I got to play a woman, Dusty Springfield, whose voice I have idolised my whole life. And one thing I’m particularly proud of is the comedy web series I made for the ABC called Donnatelegrams.
You’ve mentioned in the past that Julie Andrews is a musical idol of yours. What was it like to then play Maria in The Sound of Music Australian tour last year? Like so many, I grew up idolising Julie Andrews as Maria and Mary Poppins. The Soundofmusic was practically a babysitter for me as a child - it had me transfixed every time - and the role of Maria was my dream role. I found it surreal that I got to sing those songs and tell that beloved story every night; it was a real privilege.
Tell us a bit about the role you’ll be playing in Beautiful. The show focuses on and celebrates Carole King’s career and success in the 1960s and ’70s, and I’m playing Cynthia Weil. She’s a plucky, determined young woman with a passion for lyric writing. In the musical, we see Cynthia working with and falling for her writing partner, Barry Mann. She strikes up a strong friendship with Carole King, too. They become each other’s sounding boards as they navigate the ups and downs of life and love as working, creative women in the 60s.
It must be incredible to play the part of someone as influential in the music industry as Cynthia Weil. People might not instantly know her name, but most people would easily recognise her hits. Absolutely! It’s daunting to play someone real, but it’s an honour. She has co-penned so many incredible songs – such as You’velostthatlovin’feeling, We’vegottagetoutofthis Place and Saturdaynightat Themovies. To know just how many people have connected with her music over the years, that’s an extraordinary legacy. And I love how driven and independent she is. It’s wonderful that her story is being told alongside Carole’s.
What are you most looking forward to about starring in Beautiful? I adore the music! It’s such a joy to hear and it’s performed so faithfully to the era. The ’60s and ’70s were full of so much colour and sounds that were incredibly revolutionary. It will be exciting to be transported to that time every night.
How do you prepare for a big run of shows – do you think physical fitness is important? Physical and vocal fitness is vital. Each show has its own demands, and the rehearsal period goes some way to preparing you for the intensity of the eight-shows-a-week schedule. But it’s best to be as fit and ready as possible before rehearsals even begin so the physical load isn’t a complete shock to the system. I have singing lessons in the lead-up to rehearsals to make sure the material sits well in my voice, and I make sure my cardio fitness is strong so I can handle the long, physical days. Physical and mental stamina is very important and being active helps my focus a lot.
On performance days, what would your typical routine be? I’m sure eating well and getting lots of good rest is important. I’m definitely not up with the birds, that’s for sure! And when I’m doing a show, my waking hours tend to be on the silent side. Vocal rest is very important, and in general it’s important to be mindful to conserve energy for the show. I meditate once or twice a day, and I tend to have my biggest meal at around brunch/lunch time, with lighter meals before and after the show. I don’t avoid any specific foods, but I’m mindful of my sugar and caffeine intake as they can give me an unwanted spike in energy. In general, I lead a quiet existence outside the theatre!
Do you have any tips or tricks for staying centred and calm on the day of a big event or performance, such as opening night? I’ve been meditating consistently for the past two and a half years, and I’ve found that it’s helped me level out a lot when the pressure is on. That said, nerves always catch me by surprise and are incredibly powerful. I’ve found it impossible to fight them completely. I try to accept that they’re a part of it all, focus on my breathing and trust in my preparation.
Do you get nervous before a show? And if so, how do you overcome it? Absolutely. It does get easier as a season goes on, though. A good warm-up tends to clear away jitters. Moving my body calmly, breathing and getting my voice centred and clear all help. If I feel focused, I feel less nervous.
Is there anything you do to reward yourself after a successful run of shows? I’ve recently got the bug for home decoration, so a piece of art or a rug or some kitchenware tends to be my treat. We performers travel around a lot, and having a base and sense of home can be a relief when you’re living out of a suitcase. It’s lovely to find something for my home that affirms that.
“It’s best to be as fit and ready as possible before rehearsals even begin so it isn’t a shock.”
Amy as Dusty Springfield in the musical, Dusty and Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, below.
Beautiful: The Carole King Musical (right) is a Broadway hit show. It begins its Australian run at the Sydney Lyric Theatre from September 17. For more information and to book tickets for the show, go to beautifulmusical.com.au