In conversation with Elise McCann, star of Everybody Loves Lucy

Elise McCann is bringing her brand new cabaret – Everybody Loves Lucy – to the Hayes Theatre Co this week and we caught up with her for a chat about the show, the industry and what makes her tick!

Elise McCann in Everybody Loves Lucy. Image by Blueprint Studios
Elise McCann in Everybody Loves Lucy. Image by Blueprint Studios

What’s your name and what do you do?

Elise McCann! I am an excessively fast and verbose talker, prone to exaggeration. But for money I am an actor, singer and dancer.

What’s your most underrated or unknown talent?

I was a big sewer, and won the state design competition when I was at school and did a bunch of courses with Whitehouse (School of Design) – I don’t really sew that much anymore, but love it when I do!

What makes you laugh?

Being tickled, Funny people – Tom Sharah, Lucy Maunder, Sheridan Harbridge. And of course excellent comediennes like Lucille Ball!

What are you reading?

A book I started a year ago and haven’t gotten round to finishing, called Grace and Grit by Ken Wilber

What city do you live in and why?

Sydney, because my mum and sister and nephew are here. And there is a greater number of sunshiny days. But I would also happily live in Melbourne, or New York.

What’s the most used app on your phone?

Probably my emails – but otherwise Daily quotes, and embarrassingly… Jewel Mania… I started thanks to the amazing Natalie Alexopoulos, and my phone keeps dying before I finish the whole thing, so my OCD tendency requires me to go back and start over. I am at level 229 right now… its really quite ridiculous.

What three things can’t you live without?

Photos of my family and friends; earrings; and tea.

The world needs more…

laughter and compassion

The world needs less…


Why Lucille Ball?

She is one of the most influential women of entertainment history. She is intelligent, and dedicated and passionate and completely hilarious. She and Desi and I Love Lucy changed the shape and face of Television and what it was to be a housewife in America in the 1950s.

Elise McCann in Everybody Loves Lucy. Image by Blueprint Studios
Elise McCann in Everybody Loves Lucy. Image by Blueprint Studios

What should the world know about Lucille Ball, but doesn’t?

She often didn’t know – and didn’t think – what she did was funny. She would spend hours rehearsing every sketch to make it as honest (within the ridiculous, extraordinary circumstance) as it could be, and then she would trust that honesty. Most people thought she was an improviser, but she rehearsed everything!

Describe the process of putting together your own show?

It’s been long, in that the wonderful Lisa Campbell came up with the idea about a year ago. But short in that, Richard Carroll and myself only took on the task of writing the show about 3-4 months ago. And our amazing team has been assembled in just the last 2-3 months! I had been researching Lucy since around June/July last year so I had a bank of information and ideas that had been bouncing around, but we didn’t put anything down onto paper until quite recently in the scheme of things.

We knew that because Lucille Ball was so funny, and so much of her humour was based in physical comedy and timing – we needed a team of funny, intelligent and creative individuals who could help make an iconic woman and TV show involving lots of characters, props and sets to bounce off – into essentially a one woman show, which could tour interstate efficiently, so had to have limited set, props and other characters. We were basically asking a lot, but always figured: aim high and adjust if needed!

How did you assemble your team?

Nigel Ubrihien was on board as MD from day one, I have worked with him a number of times and we knew we wanted someone musically gifted like he is, but who is also hilarious and brave and excited by the idea of playing roles and voicing characters in the show. With Nigel we knew we could have a show where the musical director was engaging more as an actor than solely on a musical level.

[pull_left]Assume everything is possible and has potential until proven otherwise[/pull_left]

Once Richard and I took over writing the initial piece – we then knew we wanted to get a dramaturg and excellent director on board to help us shape it into something really interesting and dramatic and funny!! So Rich, Lisa and myself talked a lot and we sought out recommendations, and were lucky that the incredibly talented and hilarious both – Helen Dallimore (director) and Merridy Eastmen (Dramaturg) were excited by our script and our ideas and jumped in with us. We love that these women are both so intelligent, so funny themselves and also both excellent actors, so for me – that was excellent as they could speak my language and have literally been in my shoes. And it has been such a privilege and honor to work with these two women!

After we had Helen on board, we all agreed we needed a funny and generous choreographer who could think outside the box. Lucille was such a physical woman (and a dancer and model in her early days), and so we knew we would need to use choreography and movement to help generate some tribute to her physical sketches and slapstick humour, and who better than the most supportive and generous and funny dancing man himself – Mr Christopher Horsey. Helen introduced us to our wonderful lighting designer Alex Berlage, and Rich and Lisa had worked with Benjamin Moir on wigs and makeup in Sweet Charity, so they were both absolutely wonderful additions. Kurt Sneddon had done all of our photography back in September last year, he is so easy and fun and talented, and we couldn’t have asked for better publicity shots. And when you combine that with the gorgeous and talented Milled Achi who did our poster and image design, we kind of lucked out! SO basically it all happened incrementally.

Our team grew as we went along and realised what we needed and when. I’m so proud and honoured to be working with all these phenomenal people though. It is basically a team of brilliant champions!!

What tools do you need to be creative?

Good and fun people to bounce ideas off, my sneakers cos I get a lot of my ideas when Im running, and a ‘yes, and’ policy; assume everything is possible and has potential until proven otherwise.

Which show(s) do you think people should drop everything and see?

Theatre in Australia this year has been exceptional so far! And there are still so many exciting things on, and still to come.

In the Hayes Cabaret Season I would say:

  • Johanna Allen, Songs that Got Away (We have run lines together and this is a beautifully written must see);
  • DC sings John Bucchino (Legends the pair of them, and the album is Awesome!);
  • Blake Bowden and Phil Scot, Mario (Beautiful music and hilarious and talented humans!);
  • Tom Sharah, that 90’s Show (I am a child of the 90s and can NOT wait to see this talented man sing this stuff!!),
  • Toby Francis, Love and Death and An American Guitar (That man can SANG!!)

Clearly I can’t decide and happen to think that there are too many extremely talented people performing in Sydney soon!

What was the last piece of theatre/film/TV that really left an impression on you?

I just got back from New York and whilst in town I saw – and loved – Bridges of Maddison County. It was truly moving. A beautiful score, with excellent actors and wonderful direction and design that was so honest and simple and complex at the same time. It is the kind of Musical Theatre piece that makes me want to do Music Theatre.

If you could change one thing about the Australian theatre industry, what would that be?

The size of the market – we need more work here. There are so many talented creators and artists, but there just isn’t enough market demand to supply enough work.

With only a limited number of seats left for each performance of Everybody Loves Lucy at the Hayes Theatre (less than five for at least two of them!) it is important to BOOK YOUR TICKETS. 

For more information on Everybody Loves Lucy and Elise McCann’s upcoming tour, visit her website 

Matt Edwards

Matt is a past owner of AussieTheatre, working as digital director from 2011 to 2019. He is also a performer, most recently appeared in the Australian tour of Mamma Mia! and previously in the Australian/NZ tour of CATS and Enda Markey's acclaimed production of Blood Brothers. As well as performing Matt keeps himself busy in the digital side of the arts working with web design agency Emptyhead Digital

Matt Edwards

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