Getting to Know You: Emma Jarman from The King and I

Opera Australia and John Frost’s production of The King and I opened in Brisbane earlier this month, marking the professional music theatre debut of many up-and-coming performers. AussieTheatre is thrilled to be featuring a new interview series entitled Getting To Know You to introduce these new artists to their music theatre audience!

Today we speak with Emma Jarman, an accomplished singer, dancer and musician who has trained in many facets of the arts including Flamenco dancing, ballet, studies in violin/viola, voice and musicianship.

Emma has worked extensively with her brother, composer Paul Jarman, as a vocalist on several of his CDs as well as performing his work at the 2003 Rugby World Cup Final. Her partner, Jay Johns, is also a member of the arts community, currently preparing to compete as one of the top four dancers in So You Think You Can Dance Australia this week.

Getting To Know You

Emma Jarman
Emma Jarman

What is your role in the production?

I am a part of the Female Ensemble. In this particular production I am required to perform a number of different roles including; a wife, a peasant and a Royal dancer. I also play the role of Little Eva in the Act II Ballet: ‘The Small House of Uncle Thomas’.

When did you know you wanted to become a performer?

When I was 12 years old I watched the movie Centre Stage – and went on to watch it at least 5 times a day, every day, during my school holidays – and I particularly loved the final dance in the movie because it reminded me so much of one of my favourite films The Red Shoes. From that day onwards I practiced in my pointe shoes morning and night, and knew that I would never stop until I could be on the stage one day.

Where did you train?

I began my singing training at the very young age of 3, as the youngest-ever chorister in the SBS Choir, and then went into the Sydney Children’s Choir. I began my dance training at 5, in Flamenco at the G.G.Y. School of Dance. I then took up Ballet and continued training at the Castlereagh School of Performing Arts, before beginning my Full-time training. I studied in London at the Urdang Academy for 2 months, and then came back to Sydney to study for 18 months at Ev&Bow Full Time Dance Training Centre with Sarah Boulter.

What was your reaction when you discovered you had been cast in this show?

Coincidently, I actually found out I got the job with a friend of mine who was also successful! We were running around, jumping, yelling, screaming, crying, singing…. It was one of the best moments of my life.

Your first musical theatre job has you performing with award winning veterans of the stage and screen – Lisa McCune, Marty Rhone, Teddy Tahu Rhodes – what have you learnt from working with such an experienced cast?

Wow… how amazing it is indeed to be sharing the stage every night with such renowned performers! What I’ve really learnt is how hard they really do work for their roles. They are always studying up, asking for notes, offering suggestions – they are so humble and kind – they even join in the vocal and physical warm ups with us!

The King and I features an incredible 15 minute Jerome Robbins ballet in Act 2 – how do you keep yourself fit and ready for the performance every night?

Emma Jarman (front right) as Little Eva in The King and I
Emma Jarman (front right) as Little Eva in The King and I

In the Ballet, ‘The Small House of Uncle Thomas’, I am very honoured to be playing the role of the character Little Eva. My movements as Eva are dainty and soft, and while they do require a lot of control, I do not do any strong quick movements like the rest of the ensemble! However, I have needed to do a lot of preparation for my role as the character. I have needed to do quite a bit of research on the book ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’ (which the Ballet and the characters are based on), and on many different adaptations of this particular character; to find exactly how I wished to present Little Eva to the audience, which best fit the story.

Describe the production for us in three words.

Magnificent. Astounding. Breathtaking.

What has been the most exciting/memorable moment so far (rehearsals or at the theatre)?

Our very first preview performance, in front of our first audience, and bowing to standing ovation!!

Is there anything you have learned during this contract about the music theatre (or theatre) industry which surprised you?

What surprised me the most, which I had absolutely no idea about, is that the backstage tracking must be just as rehearsed as the onstage performing. We need to drop off our props at the same spot in the same line of traffic, run to our quick change areas the same way and change at the same speed every night to then run to side stage to be ready to go on. With everybody running back stage it can be quite dangerous, but this is why we have to make sure we run the same way, past and through the same people, every time!

What is your go-to ‘belt it out in the shower’ song?

I never really have one particular song I always sing in the shower, but right now I’ve been singing songs mainly from the show! Rogers and Hammerstein’s music is so beautiful and so catchy, I am so thankful to be a part of this amazing musical!

For more information about The King and I and to book tickets for Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney, visit

Check out our fantastic photo feature by Oliver Toth here

Erin James

Erin James is's former Editor in Chief and a performer on both stage and screen. Credits include My Fair Lady, South Pacific and The King and I (Opera Australia), Love Never Dies and Cats (Really Useful Group), Blood Brothers (Enda Markey Presents), A Place To Call Home (Foxtel/Channel 7) and the feature film The Little Death (written and directed by Josh Lawson).

Erin James

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