Following an extensive search, Sydney Theatre Company and Global Creatures have announced, that the lead role in one of the most anticipated shows of 2017 has been won by newcomer Maggie McKenna. The 20-year-old Melbourne born and raised actress has recently returned to Australia from Los Angeles where she trained at the prestigious American Musical and Dramatic Academy (AMDA).
She will make her professional stage debut in the world premiere of Muriel’s Wedding The Musical, a theatrical version of PJ Hogan’s iconic hit film, updated to today by the writer himself, with original music by Kate Miller Heidke and Keir Nuttall, alongside those beloved songs by Benny Andersson, Bjorn Ulvaeus and Stig Anderson, originally written for ABBA.
“When I made the film, Muriel was a difficult part to cast. So my smile was huge when I met Toni Collette, said Hogan. Almost 25 years later I smiled that same smile when I met Maggie McKenna.”
“It’s hard to describe the thrill you get when, after months of searching, you suddenly clap eyes on the person who feels destined to play a role,” said director Simon Phillips. “The odds of that happening are significantly raised when the bar has been set as high as Toni Collette’s performance in the film.”
“But when Maggie McKenna sent us a gambit audition tape from LA, where she was studying at the time, we all felt that thrill. We hustled her back to the country, put her through her paces to check it wasn’t a trick of the camera and all mentally high-fived. It’s going to be a challenging ride for her I’m sure – a huge role to score at the age of 20 – but I feel sure she’s about to take Porpoise Spit by storm,” added Phillips.
Joining the new Muriel on stage is Justine Clarke as the long suffering Betty, with other members of the Heslop clan played by Briallen Clarke (Joanie), Michael Whalley (Perry) and Connor Sweeney (Malcolm), while Helen Dallimore plays the strangely ever-present beauty consultant, Deidre Chambers. Celebrating her marriage to Chook (Aaron Tsindos), Tania Degano is brought to life by Christie Whelan Browne, accompanied by a posse of bridesmaids, two of whom are played by Manon Gunderson Briggs and Laura Murphy.
Brice Nobes, the first guy to ever ask Muriel on a date, is played by Ben Bennett and Stephen Madsen is Olympic swimming hopeful Alexander Shkuratov, coached by Josh Quong Tart’s ruthless Ken. The 28-strong cast also includes Sheridan Harbridge, Mark Hill, Annie Aitken, Kaeng Chan, Tony Cogin, Adrian Li Donni and Kenneth Moraleda.
The dream theatre director/designer team of Simon Phillips and Gabriela Tylesova (Love Never Dies, Ladies in Black and STC’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Dead) lead a stellar creative team which also includes choreographer Andrew Hallsworth, lighting designer Trent Suidgeest, sound designer Michael Waters, musical supervisor Guy Simpson and musical director Isaac Hayward.
It has also been announced that another, final week of performances has been added to the season, which will now close on Saturday 27 January 2018 – with no possible further extension. The production will play at the Roslyn Packer Theatre with previews from 6 November, and opening on Saturday 18 November 2017.
Director: Simon Phillips Confirmed Cast: Annie Aitken, Ben Bennett, Kaeng Chan, Briallen Clarke , Justine Clarke, Tony Cogin, Helen Dallimore, Manon Gunderson Briggs, Sheridan Harbridge, Mark Hill, Adrian Li Donni, Stephen Madsen, Maggie McKenna, Kenneth Moraleda, Laura Murphy, Josh Quong Tart, Connor Sweeney, Aaron Tsindos, Michael Whalley, Christie Whelan Browne Musical Supervisor: Guy Simpson Musical Director: Isaac Hayward Set and Costume Designer: Gabriela Tylesova Choreographer: Andrew Hallsworth Lighting Designer: Trent Suidgeest Sound Designer: Michael Waters
Muriel’s Wedding The Musical
Roslyn Packer Theatre, Hickson Road, Walsh Bay (Sydney)
Season: 18 November 2017 – 27 January 2018 (previews: 6 – 17 November)
Information and Bookings: www.sydneytheatre.com.au
Image: Maggie McKenna – photo by James Green