Jemma Rix talks Jekyll and Hyde

In just a few short days, the 25th Anniversary Concert production of Jekyll and Hyde will open at Melbourne’s Hamer Hall.

Jemma Rix

With a star studded cast including Anthony Warlow in the title role and Broadway’s Amanda Lea Lavergne as Lisa, it’s finally time for Australia to experience the dark world of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

Jemma Rix is the tour’s Lucy, a role she was set to play in 2015. An absolute powerhouse performer, Jemma is most well known for her performance as Elphaba in multiple tours of Wicked (both nationally and internationally), performing the role over 1,200 times. She since originated roles in the Australian tours of Ghost the Musical (Molly Jensen) and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Wizard of Oz (The Wicked Witch of the West). Most recently, she was seen as the alternate Eva Perón in the Australian Tour of Evita, alongside Tina Arena.

Are you excited to finally be doing Jekyll and Hyde?

I had a bit of a false start with the production in 2015, and that was sort of when I became quite obsessed, particularly with Linda Eder’s voice, who originated Lucy. Just hearing her qualities of sound, her hardcore belt and her beautiful soft, floating head voice. The haunting notes… it was exciting for me as a singer to be able to do that. So when it didn’t end up happening it was kind of devastating, I wanted to really learn it. I love singing this music, there’s something about how Frank Wildhorn writes for singers, it’s just… it’s a real pleasure. So yes, exciting! I get to do it!

Jemma Rix as Elphaba in Wicked
Jemma Rix as Elphaba in Wicked

You’ve played some of the most vocally demanding roles in your career, with Lucy being no exception – what are the most important things for maintaining vocal health?

Having a teacher really keeps you in check to make sure you’re doing everything safely. Because what happens is when you get into a show, to do any bad technique consistently for 8 shows a week, you start to dig yourself into a hole that you can’t get out of. I think the number 1 is working with the safest way to sing everything before you start doing that 8 show a week load so that you never really get into that trouble. And once I start doing those 8 shows a week I don’t have singing lessons because you need to rest. Definitely in the lead up, I like to really nut out my voice, exactly where I want it to sit, so that it feels comfortable. Then it’s the boring stuff – once you’re in a workload, you don’t go out to loud venues where you have to yell over the music or people… when you sign off on the dotted line for a show, depending on the role, but for a more challenging one, you sign off your life for a little while. But it’s not forever, and if it’s a role that’s awesome it’s so rewarding in different ways that it’s worth it. You say “see ya life, see you in 8 months and we can have a couple drinks later.” Obviously since this is a concert performance it’s not really the case, I’d love to do more because for me, I love actually doing the monotony of lots of shows because you find more and more detail every time you do it. We’re only doing 3 concerts, I reckon by the time I get to the 3rd I’ll only just be getting it!

What have you done to prepare for the role?

I’m working on my accent, there’s not a lot of scene work since it’s set as a concert format, but there still will be a story flowing through the songs. Just doing that, repetition, learning the lyrics, making sure they’re stuck in my brain. And it’s a very interesting thing because it’s this weird balance of being super prepared but not too prepared because the director will come in and say “no, change this!” So you have to be sort of ready to adapt.

Anthony Warlow and Jemma Rix

Are you excited about working with Anthony Warlow?

I think that’s kind of the weirdest thing about it. You know, when you meet someone you’ve looked up to your whole life… it’s kind of this nervous excitement energy, because you’re actually going to be working alongside them. Alex Rathgeber, who is also going to be in the company as well, and I were talking about it. He grew up listening to the Jekyll and Hyde concept recording – and he’s worked with Anthony before, but I think there’s something different when you’re working on the actual music that got you into the industry in the first place. When I was with Tina Arena as the alternate [Eva] for Evita, it was the same sort fo thing. I’ve looked up to her my whole life, admired her voice so much. And I was next to her when she first started singing “Don’t Cry For Me Argentina” for the first time in rehearsals, and I had tears just coming down my face because you just… feel very grateful. You never really think you’re going to be in that position to be with someone you idolise. And hearing Anthony Warlow singing “This Is The Moment” and watching him work on his craft and how he develops a character, that’s… you’re like the observer, watching this happen, smothered in goosebumps. It’s awesome.

Why do you think the story of Jekyll and Hyde has fascinated us for so long?

I think that people find it fascinating… the struggle between good and evil. We find that fascinating as humans. We have those two characteristics in us, one way or another. That human part of the story that we find interesting and connect to. With this particular production, it’s the music that then matches that and the emotions that match with that. I think Frank Wildhorn has written the music so beautifully that every song has such beautiful ethereal, gothic, dark tones… you know when things sort of marinate together to make a beautiful connection of an essence? And in this production, they’re going to have it as a concert, not a full fledged show. So the orchestra will be on stage, so the audience can not just listen to the beautiful music, but see it played. With musical theatre [the orchestra] are always hiding under the stage, so with this you get to see the artistry of the musicians playing the beautiful music with the story being told. It’s a special element that people may not think was going to happen.

Concertworks presents Jekyll and Hyde – The 25th Anniversary Concert

Friday 25th and Saturday 26th October | Hamer Hall, Arts Centre Melbourne

Saturday 2nd November | Darling Harbour Theatre, ICC Sydney

For tickets and more information, please visit the Concertworks website.

Gabi Bergman

Gabi Bergman is a Melbourne-based performer and educator. She holds a Double Arts degree in Theatre Studies and Film/Screen Studies and a Master of Teaching (Secondary Education). Gabi has always been an avid lover of theatre, specifically musicals, and spends way too much money than she’d like to admit on tickets. Her most prized possession is her crate of theatre programs.

Gabi Bergman

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