Muriel star is wedded to showbiz
“YOU’RE terrible Maggie!”
When you are the daughter of Kath & Kim star Gina Riley and television producer Rick McKenna, chances are you are going to grow up wanting to follow them into showbiz.
“I did, but my parents tried to keep me as far away from performing as possible,” says Maggie McKenna. “But they struggled, it was like holding me on a leash. I was trying to break free. But they’re incredibly supportive and have really helped me with dealing with all the pressure of this, and understanding the business a bit better.”
“This” is Muriel’s Wedding The Musical in which the 20-year-old newcomer has landed the sought-after role of loveable dag Muriel Heslop, after studying in Los Angeles at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy.
McKenna wasn’t even born when JP Hogan’s film Muriel’s Wedding arrived on the big screen in 1994 making a star of Toni Collette. But McKenna grew up watching the movie, which was a favourite of her grandmother’s.
“It’s a film that was in our family household and it’s part of who I am as a person. It’s what I think of as a classic Australian film, and when I was in LA I would show it to my friends,” she says.
Looking uncannily like her mother, McKenna lit up the stage with her megawatt smile when Sydney Theatre Company and Global Creatures announced her casting on Wednesday.
McKenna fell in love with musicals when she saw Wicked at age 12 and knew that’s what she wanted do. She recalls being blown away by Christie Whelan Browne in The Drowsy Chaperone for Melbourne Theatre Company.
“And then, obviously, my mum is one of my biggest inspirations and seeing her in Chicago (as Matron ‘Mama’ Morton in 2009) was an incredible experience,” she says on the STC website.
McKenna was still in LA when friends in Australia told her they had auditioned for the musical of Muriel’s Wedding. “They were still looking for a Muriel so I called my agent straight away — I think it was three in the morning — and I said, ‘please let me send in a tape. I really, really want to be part of this show in any way’. And so I did, and here I am.”
Asked why she chose to do her training in LA, she says: “I really wanted to travel somewhere and grow up a little bit. So, I thought what better way to do that than go somewhere where I don’t know anyone and do it by myself and figure out life there while studying acting? I think for me it was the best thing I could have done, I really matured over there.”
The role of the dorky Muriel, who dreams of escaping her dead-end life in Porpoise Spit by getting married in a fairytale white wedding, marks McKenna’s professional debut. “It’s a very exciting opportunity,” she says, beaming. “I’m still wrapping my head around all of it pretty much.”
MURIEL’S WEDDING THE MUSICAL, ROSLYN PACKER THEATRE, NOVEMBER 6 — JANUARY 27. BOOK: 9250 1777
Maggie Mckenna is making her professional debut in Muriel’s Wedding.