From the producers of Aladdin, The Lion King and Mary Poppins, one of the most anticpated musicals to hit the Australian stage in 2020, Frozen, was set to open in July when the Covid-19 pandemic closed venues in March and placed the industry into lockdown.
Now, many months later, and as lockdown restrictions have eased, Disney’s award-winning musical is set to make its Australian premiere at Sydney’s Capitol Theatre in December.
Based on the 2013 Oscar-winning film of the same name, Frozen tells the story of a fearless princess, Anna, who sets off on a journey alongside a rugged iceman, his loyal reindeer, and a naive snowman to find her estranged sister, Elsa, whose icy powers have inadvertently trapped their kingdom in an eternal winter.
In the coveted role of Elsa, will be Jemma Rix – one of the countries most prominent leading ladies. Joining her as Anna, will be one of Australia’s most promising and emerging talents, Courtney Monsma.
A graduate from the Queensland Conservatorium Griffith University with a Bachelor of Musical Theatre, Courtney could be seen as Katherine Howard in SIX The Musical at Sydney Opera House prior to the lockdown.
Prior to this, Courtney performed in the Australasian tour of Disney’s Aladdin, while understudying the role of Princess Jasmine, and in the Australian tour of MAMMA MIA!, as well as understudying the role of Sophie. She has also appeared in Opera Queensland’s Kiss Me Kate and was a 2018 finalist for the prestigious Rob Guest Endowment Award.
With rehearsals for Frozen recently commencing in Sydney, Australian Arts Review caught up with Courtney as she prepares to bring the role of Anna to the stage.
You have had to put you life on hold for 6 months – how does that affect your show preparation?
It’s pretty incredible, reflecting on what we do as performers. I think stopping has made me realise that we’re always in a show ready state. So stopping for six months was very interesting, but it was actually quite lovely to come back to the base and realise why I love doing what I do and just knowing what I needed to do to prepare myself for this role.
So in a way, it was nice to have the rest that I was needing after a while of working – which I’m really grateful for. I think, you know, as a performer, you’re always held accountable for how much you do for your own personal development as well. So I was trying to keep singing and keep active as much as I could during the time.
How have you stayed show fit during this time?
I was lucky to be in my hometown of Queensland, so we didn’t have too many restrictions, which meant I was able to go outside and be active – not only for my physical self, but for my mental health.
I was actually taking quite a few zoom singing lessons during the time just to remind myself of the things I already knew, because like singing, it’s like a muscle, so you always have to keep it active as much as you can. So yes, singing lessons online, keeping active outside and just being happy. As a performer, your mental health just relates to every aspect of it.
Mental health is a big issue in the arts industry at the moment – how lucky were you having the support of family and friends?
Being with my family was so helpful during the time. I was very aware of the position that I was in to have that supportive network. On tour, you know you are leaving home and you’re constantly traveling. So I was actually really needing that time with my family, moving forward into this journey.
I’m really grateful that I had that time, but I’m also very aware of the position that I was in and the position that others were in. It’s always about being mindful of that and understanding that everyone is going through a different journey during this time. I’d like to be there for my colleagues and my friends that I’ve worked with before, knowing they might be in a different situation.
You’re no stranger to a Disney show – what’s it like being part of the Disney Family?
The word family is the perfect word to describe it. It is absolutely incredible. I’m so lucky to have worked for Disney so early on in my career and it just sets this incredible benchmark. You’re looked after so well – speaking of mental health, it is a family away from home.
The caliber of the sets and costumes and the people that you get to work with are out of this world. It’s such a global standard that I’m so lucky to be a part of it and to be a part of it in the future.
How relatable are you to the character of Anna?
Very, I think it’s funny – during this time I’ve been watching clips and I rewatched the movie with my family – my mum every second was looking to her right. Being like, that’s you, I’m like mum, I know all of her reactions or responses.
So what I love about Anna is that she leads with her heart, and it’s so obvious in both of the films and in the stage show – I’d like to believe that I do as well. Sometimes leading with the heart is a good thing and a bad thing. I really do relate to her in that sense that she wants something, and she’ll go and get it. Keeping positive is the way that she achieves that. Anna’s quite an incredible role model, especially for everyone, not just children.
How are you feeling about returning to the rehearsal room?
So grateful and excited. It’s gone from a personal journey to a journey. That’s not just about me as a performer, it’s about the industry and about, the people still at home and the people that go to the theatre and the audience members and that’s just in Australia.
I’m really aware that it’s such an exciting time, not just for the people in the room, but for everyone… and to be part of that is hard to really describe it in words. I’m genuinely excited, nervous, of course, it’s like a big jump into reality, but to know that it’s not just me – it is a really nice purpose to have during this time.
FROZEN plays Sydney’s Capitol Theatre from December 2020. For more information, visit: www.frozenthemusical.com.au for details. Checkout Jemma Rix, Courtney and the Cast of FROZEN in a short video from the rehearsal room here!
Image: Courtney Monsma (supplied)