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Kate Hoolihan




Part 2

20 July 03

After shocking everyone in the park with her warm-up for her final audition, Kate left and went across the road into the studio. She laughs as she recalls the bizarre feeling of being introduced to people with whom you feel you are already somewhat familiar.

Kate says, "I went, 'Hi, I'm Kate Hoolihan", and they went, 'yeah, we're from Queen, and this is Ben Elton'. I'm like, 'No really!!!!…Unless you told me I wouldn't have known!'"

Introductions over, Kate's moment of truth arrived… having to sing Who Wants To Live Forever for the person she describes as one of the most incredible lyricists of his time.

"Brian May knows what it means. He knows what that song is all about and I had to get in there and go, well this is my interpretation of your amazing hit song and he just sat there not saying a word. At the end he just said, 'Yeah, good'. That was all he said, but they were the most comforting words I heard the whole time I was in there. It was as though he didn't need to say anything else. I actually felt like I might have the job from that moment. I really did, 'cos he looked at me like, 'Yeah, you know why I wrote that song – you get it.' For someone of his status to make me feel… you're accepted, you understand... there are no words to explain that feeling. I'll never forget that moment for the rest of my life."

With her confidence immeasurably lifted, Kate moved onto performing her scene work with Ben Elton. She had a moment of apprehension when she heard her fellow auditionees rehearsing to themselves. She had prepared her scenes using an accent and no one else was doing so.

"I thought, ‘I'm wrong. What am I doing?’ I[‘m going to walk in there with an accent and they’re going to think, 'what are you doing, you're going to be an Australian?' I felt really intimidated, but I decided to go for it and see what happened."

Kate’s irrepressible confidence didn't take long to reappear. While Ben Elton was having a joke with everyone about another play he had written, Kate decided to interject with what she laughingly calls, "a smartarse comment!" Knowing this could be a make or break moment, Kate told Ben the play he was talking about was good, "but not as good as Silly Cow," another play written by Ben, which she had seen in her first year at University.

"He sort of did a double take and looked at me like, 'you little smartarse, you've done some research haven't you?' It was as though he was thinking, 'Hmmm, I could get along with you'. It was very funny. I thought 'I've either screwed it up now or I've got the job!”

Ben’s enthusiasm and animation alleviated all of Kate’s fears. Her voice still echoing with wonder, Kate tells me, “He took over and did not shut up, he was wonderful because he made me forget I was in an audition. I got swept away by this man and taken on the journey of this show, and he made me want to BE this character. He gave me so many insights into what she would do, and how she acted, and her personal traits.”

So carried away was Kate, while flying home to Sydney, she found herself crying, thinking if she didn’t get the role she would die. The feeling that she could play Scaramouche, and this was a role she could completely immerse herself in was overwhelmingly intense.

However, it was to be almost two excruciating weeks before she would hear the news she was waiting for.

The phone call came while she was at work at the Jeans West store at Broadway. As Kate laughingly says, “the work you do when you’re not working!”

Answering the phone and hearing her agent’s voice, Kate wondered if she wanted to hear what was to be said.

“I said, ‘if it’s bad news, can you just call back later, ‘cos you know, I’m at work, and I would not cope, I couldn’t get to the end of the day.’ “

The next words she heard did not instill her with confidence. Her agent said, “I don’t know how to tell you this…”

By now Kate was sure she didn’t have the role and she was frozen with disappointment, but the next words she heard completely destroyed her equilibrium. Her agent told her she had the role, adding the rider that she must not tell anyone.

Kate didn’t hear anything more than she had the role though, and started shouting very loudly and excitedly to everyone in the shop, “Oh my God! Oh my God! I got it, I got it!!!!” Then she started to laugh and cry. As she says, “I was a slobbering mess!!”

Totally bemused, all of the shop’s customers had stopped to look at her. As she returned to some semblance of normality, Kate heard one of the customers say to another, “Well, I don’t know what she got, but I’d like to get some of it!”

At that point, Kate could hear her agent frantically exhorting her not to tell anyone because the publicity team wanted to make a splash by launching the cast all together.

Keeping it a secret was very hard for Kate, she giggles as she says, “It was the biggest thing in my entire life and I’ve got the biggest mouth in the whole world!!! I was allowed to tell my boyfriend and my parents and that was it. During the weeks, a couple of people said, I hear you’ve got the role…and I had to tell them I got the understudy!!!! It was agony. Not only had I got the most incredible job I’ve ever had, but I had to lie and tell people I didn’t get it, so I couldn’t even celebrate this wonderful amazing thing happening to me.”

Now Kate is well into rehearsals for what she says is the role she was born to play. When I first talked to Kate, long before this ‘chat’ series was conceived, she told me, “As soon as I found out this show was coming to Australia I was obsessed. I couldn't believe Scaramouche could have been written the way she was without the writer knowing me personally!! It's like Ben and the boys went into my brain and picked what would be the ultimate of all roles I could ever want to play and wrote it for me!! I am over the moon!!”

A couple of weeks into rehearsals, Kate revealed they are in a very good position. She and Michael are starting to achieve a lovely balance between them, and she feels their characters will have a very beautiful relationship on stage.

Ben Elton has been incredibly useful to her during his visits to Australia. “I think it was absolutely priceless to have him here for the first couple of weeks. We got an understanding of what the show was supposed to be about, the main idea of it and the style. He knows HOW to get the gags. Tony Edge has been there as well, and with him having worked with Ben for the last year or so on the London production, he knows exactly what Ben wants and how to make Ben’s ideas work. Tony knows how to get the best out of you without you feeling as though you are doing it wrong!!”


Next time with Kate you will have a rare pleasure… she talks with us from her bathtub as she relaxes with a glass of wine after a long day!!! While she soaked we chatted about the challenges she is facing, coping with publicity, and her thoughts on moving from the rehearsal rooms into the theatre for tech week.
From: Bushfire Blonde

Part 1

7 July 03

If you were one of the people startled by a lovely young lady belting out a song in a Melbourne park earlier this year … Kate Hoolihan is sorry, but she doesn’t regret it.

As she proved on the day of her third and final audition for the role of Scaramouche in the Melbourne production of We Will Rock You, Kate will do almost anything she thinks is necessary to be successful in the career she is totally passionate about - no matter how uncomfortable it makes her feel.

Arriving for her final audition, Kate knew she had to have her voice warmed up and ready before she facing the panel.

“I had nowhere else to go, I had no choice, I was so embarrassed but I couldn’t do anything but warm up there in the park. It was crazy, they were all looking at me… but not looking at me, you know, a bit uncomfortable… like, ‘We’re looking at you, but not looking at you’!!! I was singing Somebody To Love in the middle of a park - full out, with a little hand-held tape player in my hand - and I think they must have thought I was like NUTS!!!

From early childhood, Kate traveled a lot, meeting new people and encountering new situations. Her father was in the Royal Australian Air Force and when Kate was five, he was transferred away from Brisbane meaning Kate spent the next eight years moving around, growing up in smaller, country towns.

Her family owned a caravan and they had what were then the quintessential Aussie holidays, packing up and going wherever they wanted, visiting friends and relatives in other states. Kate told me it gave her a huge appreciation of her own homeland.

“I don’t know a lot of people who actually have seen most of their country by the time they are a teenager, and they don’t really have an understanding or appreciation of the country they have grown up in. I am so thankful that I live in such a free, beautiful, amazing, rich environment and country.”

At sixteen, Kate took some time off from school and went on the road with an Elvis impersonation show.

“I was a pretty good kid… a very good student, so they arranged it so I had an extra week off either side of holidays. There was an older girl in the band – about 28 – and she sort of acted as my guardian.” Kate laughs and says, “If anything went wrong, she got into trouble… I was completely guilt free!!”

The Elvis show toured from the Gold Coast to Sydney, Melbourne, Darwin, Alice Springs and Cairns. Kate loved Alice Springs because it is, “just the most amazing wide-open spaces, with nothing for hundreds of miles.”

Kate credits that tour for teaching her about the industry, how to work an audience, what to do and more importantly, what not to do! It also gave her an appreciation of rock’n’roll music.

Around that time, Kate also developed an appreciation for Queen’s music. Knowing a little about them, her interest was piqued when she saw the movie Wayne’s World.

“This is going to sound poxy,” Kate giggles, “ but the first thing I really noticed Queen in was Wayne’s World. Bo Rhap was this amazing song and it gave it a rebirth, and Queen as well I think. That was for my generation. I’m twenty-five so I was a bit young to know about them originally – you know, they were around when I was about 4!! So then I would have been like ‘Yeah, go Queen…’ But they are so much more important to me now.

I really understand who they were and what they were about and why they wrote what they did. And I have an amazing appreciation for the music and their talent. People don’t have any idea how vast their talent is… I don’t understand how there can be these people who can write the way they do and with so much passion and talent, I mean, where does it come from?”

[Laughing together, we both agree we could natter about Queen’s music all night but reluctantly, we move on!!]

Kate’s first professional show appearance since graduating from WAAPA was Mamma Mia! She was part of the ensemble and went on as understudy for the lead of Sophie, However, Mamma Mia! didn’t suit Kate’s style of singing and she felt, “It didn’t allow me to open up my channels and just belt out whatever would come out.”

Having heard about, “an Aussie chick that was over in London doing this rock concert show,” Kate was very interested when she heard We Will Rock You was coming to Australia.

“Technically I found out through my agent. She said We Will Rock You is auditioning for Australia, and I said ‘Are you kidding me????’ I’m like, ‘you’ve got to be joking; I’m perfect for this show. And she was like, ‘Yeah right, just go to the audition and we’ll see how you go from there.’ And I was saying, ‘But you don’t understand, this show is VERY COOL!!’

It was just so right for me. All kinds of musicals are wonderful, and beautiful but they’re not my style. If anyone could pick a musical and say, ‘Oh, what would Kate be most suitable for?’ it would be Rent or We Will Rock You…. and Rent has already been, so…”

After her first audition, Kate found out it wasn’t enough to be able to just belt out the songs.

“I went in and sang Somebody To Love and Who Wants To Live Forever just belting them out, and then they sent me away and said, ‘Come back, but make sure you sing it safely, sit it in your voice a lot safer, so if we decide to give it to you, we know you will manage eight shows a week.’ When they said that I nearly jumped out of my skin, I thought ‘I’m actually being considered!!’

That was in Sydney, and they brought me back about a week later and there were a couple more people on the panel and I sang the songs and did my scenes. Afterwards Tony [Edge, the associate director] said, ‘Don’t change a thing’.

So I was freaking out because I’m thinking ‘what did I do?’ They said things like ‘…really interesting decisions, great instincts, great choices…’ I was thinking, ‘yeah, that’s not going to do me much good, I can’t remember what I did, I can’t remember what I did!!’

By then the songs were quite settled in my voice so I wasn’t worried about them, I was just worried about freaking out when I actually had to get in front of the guys… I knew the Queen guys were going to be there on the third one, so that was really scary.”


In Part 2 Kate tells how she mastered her fears and how she caught Ben Elton’s attention. She also tells us of her ’Meg Ryan’ moment when she learnt she had the part, and takes us behind the scenes into the rehearsal room.

From: Bushfire Blonde