Muriel star is wed­ded to show­biz

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - INSIDER - JO LITSON ARTS WRITER

“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.”


Mag­gie Mckenna is mak­ing her pro­fes­sional de­but in Muriel’s Wed­ding.

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