Facing life after the final curtain
Sydney got to know Amanda Harrison’s musical side when she starred as the greenskinned Elphaba in Wicked. Now she’s back in a new Australian musical called Evie May, opening at the Hayes Theatre Co.
In the interim she has performed her cabaret show Up Close And Reasonably Personal at the Hayes so she knows the intimate space well.
“It is going to be different doing a show (there) but my experience is that it’s a beautiful, intimate space, and the audience is right there at your feet, sharing your emotions and your performance,” she says.
“It’s such an intimate piece. There are only six actors on the stage and essentially it revolves around three characters, so I think it’s the perfect space for its debut.”
The show is set in 1966 on the evening of Sydney’s last ever Tivoli performance. Veteran star Evie May reflects on her somewhat troubled life and career, knowing that as the curtain falls on the Tivoli, her life as a performer is probably ending too.
Composer Naomi Livingston and writer Hugo Chiarella began working on Evie May while performing in the recent Australian tour of Les Miserables.
“The first notion I had was the idea of a performer looking back on her life, and I approached Hugo to build a one-woman show, and then it took on a life of its own from there and became what it is now,” says Livingston.
“The Tivoli idea grew out of the collaboration with Hugo. We felt this amazing part of Australia’s history, that existed for over 70 years, was a fascinating backdrop with which to place our story.”
Harrison, who has just finished touring in The Rocky Horror Show (which bypassed Sydney), plays Evie May, while Loren Hunter plays her younger self, with Kate Champion directing.
“I’m very interested in thinking about the finish of something because although I have a family, it feels like it’s very difficult to continue in this business, at this age, and I have felt that for a number of years,” says Harrison.
“Evie is literally at the precipice of the ending of her career. She doesn’t know how it is going to continue anymore because she is a stage performer and television is taking over, so that is such a big deal for her. I feel quite connected to that because I feel myself on the precipice going ‘Is this worth it? Do I continue?’ — although the choice for Evie May is not really hers, it is shutting down around her. And it’s interesting to explore (what I’d feel) if I had to give my own children away — which is part of Evie’s story; she has to give up her baby. It is a pretty full-on thing to think about as a mother.”
The show uses “two very different musical styles”, says Harrison. “We use what you would call contemporary musical theatre to tell our story but then when we go back into the land of the Tivoli, the musical style is very much of that era.”
Adds Livingston: “When we are expressing the interior world of the characters we have tried as much as possible to keep the tone very contemporary, so that when those Tivoli numbers come up the delight of that nostalgic feel really hits you in the face.” EVIE MAY, HAYES THEATRE CO, OCTOBER 12- NOVEMBER 3. BOOK: HAYESTHEATRE. COM. AU OR 8065 7337
Evie May star Amanda Harrison. Picture:Richard Dobson