Debora Krizak started her career in musical theatre in 2004 in Mel Brooks’ The Producers. Since then, she has since gone from strength to strength in show to show, including Titanic, Calendar Girls, Shangai Lady Killer, her Helpmann nominated performance as Sheila in A Chorus Line, and most recently, she toured with Hayes Theatre Company’s Sweet Charity. She’s now appearing as Erma in Anything Goes. And along the way, on top of all of that, Krizak started a family: she gave birth to twins in 2008.
Whilst Krizak was performing in the Brisbane season of Anything Goes (it opens tonight at the Sydney Opera House), we managed to chat with her on her walk home from the show – one of the few moments she has free – about the show, her career, her family and how she has balanced it all.
What has been a highlight of the Anything Goes experience so far?
The highlights are always opening night. Melbourne Opening was particularly fabulous; we had a fantastic preview season and a fantastic opening night. There are so many highlights though; the rehearsal room, working with extraordinary people, there’s always a laugh to be had. The highlight is just being out there on stage with such a high calibre of people.
What’s your favourite moment in the show?
One of my favourite scenes is with Wayne Scott Kermond and Gerry Connolly where we re-enact something happening in a cabin on the boat, and it lends itself to a lot of physical comedy, in a small, constricted space. A lot of slapstick, and these guys are the masters of physical comedy so it’s great to be up there with them.
And also the end of the show because the whole cast are up there on stage together. A lot of us don’t get to work with everybody; my character comes on and off, mainly with one or two characters at a time. And at the end of the show we revisit Anything Goes. It’s really nice to come out and be involved in that finale.
Are you excited to bring the show to Sydney?
I’m so excited. I’ve spent 155 days travelling this year. Straight off the back of Sweet Charity I went into Anything Goes, which rehearsed and opened in Melbourne. It’s always nice to be home and resume your normal life again. And of course it’s nice to have your friends and family around. My kids and my husband are, for the first time, my special guests at opening night. It’ll be great to be home, I can’t wait.
How have you managed to achieve any sort of work/life balance, with your crazy work schedule and your family?
I’m fortunate that my husband works in the industry, and when time calls for it he can work from home. The kids used to travel with me but now I can’t pull them out of school for that long so they miss up to 3-4 weeks per term so they can visit, and I home-school them whilst doing 8 shows a week. We all work together as a unit to get it done. I’m usually exhausted but it’s not until you stop that you realise just how busy you are. I’m quite happy with a frantic lifestyle.
Any tips for other working mothers or performers balancing family and work?
I didn’t even do my first musical theatre show until I was 29, so I was at that stage when I was thinking about children already. So I guess the motto is, you take what comes in life. There’s a lot of luck, opportunity meets preparation, if all of those things fall into line and having a family does as well – fantastic! If they don’t, there’s a time when you get to a point where you choose. Putting my energy into my family is the first thing on my radar. Include the family as much as possible and have as much work life balance as you can.
Has anyone tried to tell you that you can’t ‘have it all’?
Sometimes my own mother will call me and say ‘I think you’re going to have a heart attack if you keep going at this pace’. Because she only gets to talk to me when I’m in my dressing room putting on my wig and make up, because that’s the only time I can stop long enough to talk to anyone (as you can tell, as I am currently walking home). Nobody has told me not to do it. These opportunities came along at an age where I had enough life experience to know what’s right for me. We all find ways to make it work.
What has been a highlight of your career?
One of the biggest highlights, professionally, was the role of Sheila in A Chorus Line. I grew up as a child seeing the original movie and then having that life experience I really connected to that show. And being nominated for my first Helpmann award – I didn’t think it would ever happen!
Also having the opportunity to work in independent theatre and being able to put the Hayes on the map with Sweet Charity, was very rewarding as it opened up doors for so many other people. And it gave me the opportunity to be seen in a role I normally wouldn’t be cast in.
Personally, doing some wonderful charity work over the years has been a highlight. Working with the Susa Mama charity in Papua New Guinea. That was a personal highlight.
Do your kids enjoy watching you perform?
My kids are totally disinterested. My daughter likes the wigs and make up but she’s not interested in watching me on stage. They’re both into sports but not so much musicals. Opening night of Anything Goes in Sydney will be the first one they’ve seen. They came to Sweet Charity and lasted 20 minutes and then the nanny took them to the museum that happened to be showing plaster casts of vaginas, so the reservations I had about them seeing Sweet Charity were wiped out when I found out about that.
Do you have any dream roles or plans for the future?
There’s so many good, strong female roles around that I would love to do. I’d love to do some straight plays. I would love to play the leading player in Pippin.
I’m going into another show the very next day Anything Goes finishes. At the moment future plans are probably sitting on a beach somewhere and hoping my career’s not over just yet. It would nice to relax for a minute, but you take the work when it’s there.
Catch Deb Krizak in Anything Goes at the Opera House now! For bookings and more information, visit anythinggoesmusical.com.au.