Caroline O’Connor is a national treasure.
Taking not only Australia but the world by storm, she has a list of credits that would rival even the greatest performers of all time, with her name a staple on both Broadway and the West End. From West Side Story to Cabaret, Anastasia to Showboat, Funny Girl to Anything Goes, she is a chameleon on the musical stage. She is also known for her performance in Joanna Murray-Smith’s Bombshells, a play written especially for her. Other stage credits include Oklahoma, The Hatpin, Sweeney Todd, A Christmas Story: The Musical, Mack and Mabel, A Chorus Line, Damn Yankees, Piaf, The Rink, The Boy From Oz, and The Rise and Fall of Little Voice. When she isn’t showing off her formidable triple-threat skills, she can be seen on the screen in films such as Moulin Rouge and De-Lovely.
Now, she’s marking her post-COVID return with her new show, From Broadway With Love, opening this week at QPAC in Brisbane.
COVID-19 threw a spanner in the works for shows all around the globe, with Caroline no exception. She was performing as part of a Spiegeltent show named Teatro ZinZanni when the pandemic hit. “I was in Chicago… so I had to get myself back quick smart.”
The Australian theatre industry is one of the only in the world that is getting back on its feet in 2021. “It’s so daunting,” Caroline said. “I have so many friends in America and England, and there’s just no sign of it for them.”
Her new show, From Broadway With Love, is a mix of songs that she’s performed in shows before, as well as some that she just loves to sing. However, when you have such an impressive list of credits, it proves difficult to pick songs just a few songs for a setlist. “You have to consider the arrangements too, and that’s quite time consuming,” she commented. “Most people don’t realise that putting a show together is big – costumes, arrangements, rehearsal time… I had to think about that. And also because Daniel is such a busy guy, what new material could we add that would be nice?”
It’s hard too, because sometimes I look at it and think “Oh, how many ballads have I got?” and you start to realise that maybe it’s not even, you don’t want people sitting there and falling asleep. So I try to keep it balanced with a mix of uptempo, midtempo, and ballads.
Caroline has worked with MD Daniel Edmonds before, and considers him a close friend. “Daniel… a magnificent musician, orchestrator, arranger, MD, and just general good person. I’m so lucky, I’ve been working with him for years. A lot of this show is stuff we did in Birdland in New York a few years ago, so it’s nice to revisit it. But we did think about what songs would make sense with what’s really going on at the moment. He’s been amazing, he just knows me so well, and he’s done such a good job at putting everything together.”
After the year that was 2020, to say Caroline is excited to get back on stage would be an understatement.
I think I’m going to get quite emotional. I haven’t had that rush… I went to visit the theatre the other day, and it’s such a beautiful and intimate spot, very classy. But I thought god, I actually think I’ll get emotional. The whole “not working” has been horrific for so many people. All those young people who’ve just graduated have nowhere to go… I think the first show especially will be very emotional and happy.
Caroline O’Connor: From Broadway With Love plays at QPAC from Wednesday 10th March to Saturday 13th March.
Tickets and more information are available at www.qpac.com.au