Jersey Boys: Interview with Emily Cascarino

Winner of’s Rising Star Competition, Emily Cascarino, chats with Benjamin Neutze.
Emily Cascarino

Emily Cascarino has always reminded me of the ‘good old days’ of theatre. I’ve known her since I was about 13, and her performance style and work ethic has always seemed like a product of a time when your success as a performer depended on two things – how hard you worked and whether you could bring something new to the table.

I guess that isn’t all that surprising when according to Emily, the most useful thing that young performers can do is listen and learn from more experienced performers.

“The real training that you get is from absorbing the knowledge of everyone around you,” Emily says. “Especially people who have been in the business for years. Just sit and listen and talk to them and squeeze every drop of knowledge that they have.”

“Everything from performance skills through to the little things like the way you talk to people, the way you handle different situations, they’re all important and they’re things that you can learn from just listening.”

Emily’s way of performing is probably also a product of her family. Throughout her childhood, her parents owned a drama school in south-western Sydney, and were constantly involved in amateur theatre groups. “It was just something I grew up with and eventually just fell into really,” she says.

If you grew up in the Cascarino house, it was inevitable that you’d end up loving musical theatre. The walls of her parents’ living room are adorned with posters from amateur productions that her mum, Angela, directed and on a large shelf in the corner is a cast album collection, which was a constant source of envy for all local musical-obsessed teenagers. I remember being told that her father, David, bought a new cast recording every week, explaining the massive collection.

All of this helped prepare Emily for the challenge of being the female swing in Jersey Boys. Emily only had two weeks to rehearse for her first performances in the show as Mary Delgado, Frankie Valli’s wife. In her second two weeks of rehearsal (while playing Mary) she learnt the other two female roles in the show. Emily is no stranger to covering leading roles, having last year been a swing in the Australian tour of Mamma Mia, performing the roles of Sophie, Ali and Lisa, but says that coming into an already established cast, with such a short rehearsal period is a completely new experience.

“I was going on for Mary for my first couple of shows, and she’s a really brash, harsh character with a lot of kick to her and in some ways is the complete opposite to who I am. So I was worried that the audience wouldn’t take my interpretation of the character too well. But they laughed in all the places they were supposed to and clapped at the end, so I guess they liked it!”

Emily says that the cast have been extremely welcoming and supportive of everything she does, but she’s had to brush up on her ping-pong skills to truly fit in. “There’s a table under the stage and they’ve been playing for almost two years now, so they’ve managed to get pretty good at it. Me and one of the other swings who is also new are practicing secretly when there’s nobody else there, to try and make sure that we can enter at an acceptable level.”

But Emily has no problem picking up new skills, as she’s shown by learning all three female roles in Jersey Boys within four weeks. It’s this tenacity and sheer determination that will surely see Emily’s career continue to grow and prosper.

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