Amanda Harrison: Wife, Mother, Diva – Up Close and Reasonably Personal

Amanda Harrison takes to the cabaret stage for the first time in seven years performing at Sydney’s Slide on Thursday October 3 with her new show Up Close and Reasonably Personal. She recently caught up with AussieTheatre’s David Allen about the show.

Amanda Harrison. Image by Blueprint Studios
Amanda Harrison. Image by Blueprint Studios

I’m late! I’m waiting for a phone call at work and from the hullabaloo that’s surrounded it all day you’d think lives were at stake. I understand the urgency and I’m tapping a pen impatiently and glancing at the clock as the seconds tick faster past 4:30pm. You see as much as I want this phone call, I am also bursting to make another one to someone else entirely – and how can I not be distracted by the notion that I’m about to talk to one of Australia’s biggest music theatre stars.

Amanda Harrison is an actress who’s career truly did hit the ground running. She made her professional debut as Jenny in Aspects of Love in Melbourne in 1993 and went on to star in some of the biggest stage musicals to tour Australia. She has sung for Queen star Brian May, performed at Carnegie Hall, played on the West End, racked up tens of thousands of YouTube hits as Elphaba in Wicked and created the role of Paula in An Officer and a Gentleman. Her career truly has run the gamut and when work is finally over I’m calling her knowing I’m eight minutes late and regretting every single one of them.

Amanda answers the phone and is completely unconcerned that I’m late. We dive straight into the interview and I ask her what prompted the decision to do a one woman show.

“Well earlier this year I was part of the Green Room Project as a mentor, and I was working alongside Matt Ward. He had a spot free for a cabaret on the Gold Coast and he wanted to know if I was interested. I knew I wasn’t busy so I said yes. He asked me if I had a show. I didn’t. So I made the show.”

“I sat down with the wonderful James Millar and he asked me to bring a list of songs that I love and then he made me fight for them. I had to defend my choices and explain just what that song said about me and about my life and how I thought it would fit in the show. We kept a shortlist and then James interviewed me about some topics I wanted to cover and then very cleverly wrote a show that fit them all in together and told a story about me and my life so far.”

Amanda’s new show is called Up Close and Reasonably Personal. I’m drawn to the second part of the title. Why “reasonably” personal?

Amanda laughs: “I didn’t want that kind of big reveal show. This is a show where people will get to learn something new about me but it’s not going to be warts and all. I very much play myself. There are no characters…” she pauses. “Well maybe one – we’ll see! This is more about my life since I’ve had two children and life has changed for me as a mother, as a wife and as a singer since then.”

As a performer, Amanda is one of Australia’s most popular leading ladies. She has a staggering following on YouTube (some of her videos have over 50 thousand views) and social media. This came largely from her involvement in the international smash hit Wicked whose Australian contingent of Elphaba’s went on to become some of the most popular in the world. What sort of impact has this had on her as a performer?

“Do you know – I wasn’t really aware of YouTube before Wicked,” says Amanda candidly. “It just wasn’t something I ever thought about. And then suddenly it was there and it was being made such a big deal about and I became aware of this daunting social media aspect of my profession. There can be so much commentary now about your performance and it can be very overwhelming and that’s actually something I talk about in the show.”

The last time I saw Amanda Harrison perform on a cabaret stage was as part of Trevor Ashley’s Showqueen series at Ginger’s in Sydney, where she sang “The Story Goes On” from the musical Baby and proceeded to blow the roof off with a stunning performance! I ask about her history with cabaret and how it fits into her life as a performer.

“My first cabaret was actually called The Story Goes On and that was back in 2006. Up Close is my second cabaret. It won’t be my first time at Slide. I was a guest performer there with Michael Falzon’s show earlier this year and I’ve performed there at a few other events, but I’ve never done a solo show there before. The show’s going to be very exciting for me. It’s quite the mixture! There’s some 80’s pop songs, some music theatre songs – it’s all songs I’ve loved at some point in my life. There’s also going to be some fun and hilarity – it’s a James Millar show after all! I’m really looking forward to it and I think audiences can expect a very light and humorous night.”

Up Close and Personal made it’s debut in July on the Gold Coast where it was a resounding success.

“James is writing and tweaking it a bit before the Sydney show which is very good of him. He’s really written me a very clever and witty show. I get very nervous before performing and so assuming I can remember my lines,” she laughs, “I’m sure it will all go fine!”

And as for what the future holds…

“I’m very much looking forward to performing in Shanghai later this year. David Harris and I will be performing in a concert tribute to the creators of Miss Saigon and Les Mis – Boublil and Schonberg – alongside Michael Ball and Lea Salonga. That’s something I’m really looking forward to and I’ve been going over my lines and preparing for that. It’s called Do You Hear the People Sing? and it’s opening at the Grand Theatre in Shanghai in November. I’ll be performing at Broadway Unplugged too this year, but most of all right now, I’m just concentrating on being a mum. That’s what has inspired this cabaret show, being a wife and a mum and being a performer and fitting it all together.”

Amanda Harrison: Up Close and Reasonably Personal will play at Sydney’s Slide Lounge on Thursday October 3.

Tickets are available through the Slide Lounge website.

Given the popularity of this incredible performer, best book sooner rather than later. It looks set to be quite the show!

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