WE WILL ROCK YOU (MELBOURNE)
DIARIES... [Index]

menu | next

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amanda Harrison
(Oz)

 

 

 


29 June 2003

In the Melbourne production of We Will Rock You, Amanda is entrusted with carrying one of the most poignant moments, and the title of the song she sings during this reflective interlude is almost prophetic.

When she left the London cast of We Will Rock You to return home to Australia, Amanda exhorted the producers not to forget her. After being scrupulously fair and considering many others during the Australian auditions, they were able to tell Amanda No One But You could play the role of Oz (Meat in the London production), and the part was hers.

Born in Sydney, Amanda has traveled around Australia and to the other side of the world for her craft. Her first break came in 1993 when she made her debut in Aspects of Love playing Jenny. Since then, there has rarely been a time Amanda hasn’t been working. She has, as she says, “been busy!”

“I’ve never really had formal training, apart from short courses at places like the Actors Center. I got into the West Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA) and I did six weeks, but then I was out of there.”

When Amanda applied to WAAPA, she was already involved in the audition process for the part of Betty Schaeffer in Sunset Boulevard. Hearing she had been successful, she decided it was too big an opportunity to give up.

“I figured, why spend three years learning something I had already been offered to do. Nothing is better than on the job training as far as I’m concerned. It would have been good to do something like that, but I’ve never been able to fit it into my life.”

As it turned out, Sunset Boulevard had only a limited run, closing after 7 weeks. Which was, Amanda says laughingly, “a huge bummer!!”

Thankfully her decision to abandon the three-year course in favour of practical experience was proved correct, with Amanda subsequently working in the Australian productions of Les Miserables, The Journey Girl, Mame, The Boy From Oz, and Guys and Dolls.

Then her agent let her know about a competition being held in Cardiff, Wales The Voice of Musical Theater 2000. Applying over the Internet, Amanda was invited to send a show reel and was accepted as a competitor.

“It meant I got a free return flight to the UK and a weeks accommodation in Cardiff where the competition was held. I didn’t realize how big it was until I got there, as that was the inaugural competition. There were three stages. I reached the semi-final. Unfortunately I didn’t win, but I did get £2000 which set me up in London nicely.”

Not having an agent in London, for the first time Amanda had to line up around the block, along with numerous other hopefuls, during the open call for the Mamma Mia auditions.

At her final call back, she auditioned in front of ABBA’s Benny and Bjorn, which she described as, “really bizarre”.

After a year with Mamma Mia, her experience in front of the two ABBA band members stood her in good stead when she auditioned for the London cast of We Will Rock You.

“There were five or six call backs for We Will Rock You. Steadily the number of people on the panel grew more!! By the last time, when I was auditioning for people like Brian May and Roger Taylor and Ben and everybody, it was a pretty nerve-wracking experience.

I was definitely a Queen fan. I remember the parties my parents used to throw and they would have Queen greatest hits playing and we’d race around the house to Fat Bottom Girls and all that stuff. It was fabulous!!

With Queen being the legends they are, it was great to finally be in a room with them, and luckily by that time, having experienced the Mamma Mia auditions, I was a bit more in tune with having to audition in front of big rock stars. It led me to be a bit more relaxed in front of Brian and Roger and all that mob.

There’s techniques involved in not making your heart race so fast… and in gaining your breath so you can actually make sound!!!”
Very candidly, Amanda told me she both did and didn’t enjoy her time with the London production of We Will Rock You. As with anyone away from home for some time, Amanda battled with conflicting emotions.

“Towards the end of my time there I was struggling… With the weather, and not having much money. And homesickness was a big problem for me. Those things were eating away at me.

Unfortunately I spent three winters there and only two summers. I got a lot of winter! That’s the really bad thing about being in London – the winter – so yeah, it was difficult.

But I always enjoyed the show. Yes, you do get bored with things, doing them over and over, but there’s a certain part at the end of the show where we just get to rock out – like stars – and that’s fantastic and it brings you right up again! It’s something to look forward to at the end of all your days.”

In London’s We Will Rock You, Amada played the role of Teen Queen/Madonna. She also understudied the role of Meat (performing that for approximately 5 weeks) and went on three times as the female lead, Scaramouche.

Amanda’s goal in going to London was to gain experience and have the credit to return to Australia in a position of being able to score a leading role.

“Luckily it only took me two and a half years. I was lucky enough to be in a production that was as massive as this is, and I had the opportunity to come back. As soon as I knew they were talking about an Australian production, I said, ‘Don’t you forget me,’ and they didn’t, which was very nice.

It came down to me resigning with the cast change in London and I said, ‘I’m not willing to go on for another year.’ I didn’t do it like, ‘If you don’t give me this, I’m resigning,’ or anything like that. I had made a decision to leave and come home and they knew that. I made it very clear I wanted to come home, and I wanted to be involved in the principals in the production here.”

While Amanda didn’t have to go through the audition process others did for We Will Rock You in Melbourne, her experience was probably more harrowing.

“I remember all the Australians being there in London, and me having to go on that night – for the part – and knowing they were all in the audience and knowing they were all considering me. So in a sense I did audition… It was just in a different arena, a very big one with 2000 people!!!!”

The rest is history and now Australia will get to see Amanda perform the emotional showstopper, No One But You for themselves. She reveals it is the reason she wanted the role.

“Obviously I wanted to play Scaramouche, but in the end I thought that Oz is a better part for me and suits my personality better. But also it’s that I get to sing the torch song. The song that’s going to make everybody cry, which is nice.”
Then part of Amanda’s wonderful cheekiness peeks out as she adds,

“Well, a little tear in the eye, but obviously not sopping, we don’t want the audience to be doing that!!”

**********************************

In the next part of Amanda’s story we chat about rehearsals in Melbourne and what she thinks about the changes Ben Elton has made to her role. We also discuss her part in Michael Falzon (Melbourne’s Galileo) hearing about WWRY, and the phenomenon of the cult fans that have embraced London’s We Will Rock You.

'Bushfire Blonde'