WE WILL ROCK YOU (MELBOURNE)
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Ross Girven

(Khashoggi)

 

 

 

Part 1

21 Jul 03

That Ross Girven is playing the part of Khasoggi in the Melbourne production of We Will Rock You is a tribute to persistence and extraordinary luck. The audition process was full of uncertainty and confusion for him. He tells me frankly, “How it happened, is all part of why this has been such an amazing experience!!”

A few months ago Ross Girven was working on a construction site in Sydney. Despite an impressive and prolific history as an actor in New Zealand, including leading roles in television, plays, opera and musical theatre, it has been difficult for him to break into the Australian scene.

The arrival last year of a baby daughter added to his responsibilities and he and his partner were starting to seriously consider returning to New Zealand. Ross told me, “I knew I could go back to New Zealand and work, go straight back into film and television and theatre plays. Because people know me there, I don’t have to audition there, I get asked if I’d like to do something there, as opposed to having to tide my way through here.”

Ross immediately adds that is not a criticism of Australia, he accepts it as being, “Just the way things are. I’m competing with people who have a 20 year work history here in Australia.”

Hearing he had an audition for the role of Pop in We Will Rock You, he nearly didn’t go along - because it would mean missing a day from work and not being paid.

At the last minute, after talking to his partner, he decided to chance it. He took the day off and went to the audition. About five bars into his song, he was disconcerted when Lynne (the casting agent) and her colleague immediately started talking to each other. As soon as he reached the end, Lynne said, “ OK, we have you here for the wrong character…. now… this is the character called Khasoggi, here’s the script, here’s the music, take this away and we’ll see you again in a couple of weeks time…”

Laughing, Ross says, “Now the story gets kind of complicated – do you want the whole story?” I assure him that we do, so he continues….

After a week or so, someone from Lynne’s office rang Ross and told him he didn’t need to go to the next call back as that was primarily to see how people could move. Knowing he had been in Cats, and because Khashoggi doesn’t have to dance much, they thought he could go straight through to the next round.

Thinking this was a blessing as it meant he wouldn’t have to take another day off work, Ross accepted the decision happily.

More weeks passed and Ross had heard nothing. “I kinda thought ‘Oh, well that’s gone away, they’ve obviously forgotten about me. Then a few weeks later again, my partner Delia was chatting to a friend who told her, ‘Oh, everybody’s going down to Melbourne for the final round of the We Will Rock You auditions.’ Delia said, ’Whaaaaaaaat!!!’ ‘cos we hadn’t heard anything.”

After this, unbeknownst to Ross, Delia decided to take matters into her own hands. Totally disregarding the great showbiz rule - don’t call us, we’ll call you – Delia plucked up her courage and rang Lynne’s assistant to ask what had happened.
Thank goodness she did. It turned out that Ross’s details had been put in the reject stack by mistake and he had been completely overlooked him. Lynne immediately rang Ross’s agent and said, “We had him in the wrong pile… we need him to go to Melbourne on Sunday and here are the flight details.”

Luckily he had learnt the material, because with just a couple of days notice he was on his way to something he says was more intimidating than anything he has ever faced.

“The hardest thing for me was actually going to be meeting Brian May and Roger Taylor and Ben Elton. I’ve been doing auditions for 20 years or more so, walking into a room and having a crack at something is not, you know, doesn’t really frighten me that much any more, but meeting them was like… you know, it was huge, it was a big thing!!!

The funny thing was that I was late, I got a cab and we got stuck in the Melbourne shopping traffic and I was late in arriving. They had actually got up to go - to go and have some lunch - and I actually ran into them in the hallway as I was coming in - totally informally - which was just the best thing ‘cos, you know, I walked in the door and there was Brian May and he just said, ‘Oh hello, I’m Brian May and this is Roger Taylor (in case I didn’t know!!!), oh and here comes Ben, this is Ben Elton….” Which was just fantastic, it took that kind of nervousness away because, they were so nice, very gentle.”

While waiting for everyone to have lunch, Ross prepared himself, warmed up and had a work through with Mike Dixon. When Brian, Roger and Ben returned, they asked him if he wanted to perform his own song, but Ross decided it would be better for his nerves to get straight into it.

“I said, ‘No, we’ll just launch into it and have a go… lets have a crack at it. I did Seven Seas of Rhye.’ I didn’t think it went particularly well, but they were pretty excited about it… I was having trouble with the very top notes. It was one of those annoying things… I knew I could sing them, I just wasn’t!! And Brian was just so lovely, and Mike Dixon, they just kind of gently took me through it… said, ‘look, don’t worry, we’ll take a break here, and do this and do that,’ and that worked itself out really well.”

After that it was on to scene work with Ben, which Ross describes as being much easier. “I just had a great time working with Ben with the scenes, which is kind of more of my strength, ‘cos I don’t call myself a singer, I’m an actor who can sing.”

Ben went through Khashoggi’s scenes with Ross a few times, and then disconcerted Ross by asking him to read some of Pop’s scenes. As Ross said, “I’d completely forgotten them!! But we had a bash around with that as well which was great fun.”
Ross returned to Sydney and tried to wait patiently to hear the outcome. However, he hadn’t finished the audition process just yet…

Realizing they hadn’t heard Ross perform Pop’s song, a request was sent through to the Australian production office. A week later Ross, the producer and a cameraman were in a Sydney theatre putting down These Are The Days Of Our Lives to be sent to the UK for their consideration.

Now Ross had to settle down for a long four week wait to hear if he would get either of the roles for which he had auditioned, knowing that if he hadn’t, he, Delia and baby Grace would be packing up, leaving Australia and returning to New Zealand.

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Next time we hear how Ross came to get the part of Khashoggi, what he thinks about Robert Grubb getting the part of Pop, and coping with the differences in moving from the rehearsal studio to the stage.

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