The Rob Guest Endowment commemorates the life and achievements of one of Australia’s most respected musical theatre performers, Rob Guest, who passed away suddenly in 2008.
Now in it’s 10th year, the six finalists compete for a prize of $20,000 intended to help them gain the performance experience, media training, guidance and a public image to become a leading artist in the Australian musical theatre industry.
Previous winners have included Georgina Hopson, Daniel Assetta, Joshua Robson, Samantha Leigh Dodemaide, Glenn Hill, Blake Bowden, Francine Cain and Danielle Matthews.
Over the next two weeks, in the lead up to the November 19th final, we will be getting to know each of the six finalists a little better. Now it is time to meet out fourth finalist: Courtney Monsma
Courtney was accepted into the Queensland Conservatorium Griffith University Bachelor of Musical Theatre program immediately after graduating high school. Under the direction of Associate Professor Paul Sabey, she played ‘Charity’ in Sweet Charity, ‘Carmen’ in The Life; and toured with the production of I Love You, You’re Perfect Now Change (Bris, Syd, Melb)
In third year she played ‘Maria’ in the Queensland Conservatorium’s production of West Side Story and appeared in Opera Queensland’s Kiss Me Kate. She debuted professionally as an Ensemble/Sophie Cover in the Australian tour of MAMMA MIA! and is heading on to Disney’s touring production of Aladdin in 2019 as an ensemble member/cover Princess Jasmine.
Tell us about yourself
Hello! I’m Courtney Monsma and I am twenty one years old. I was born in Adelaide but grew up on the Gold Coast, Queensland with my family and I’m a middle child. I have a massive passion for musical theatre and you will constantly find me singing. I grew up in the valley meaning I could sing as loud as I desired without bothering the neighbours. I have always been inspired by my sister who, with me, are the only ones in my family to show this interest. Without performing, I couldn’t express who I am and how much I enjoy sharing my joy with whoever will listen.
When did you know you wanted to be a performer?
I made my parents enrol me to dance as a tiny tot at the age of four but the first time I was exposed to musical theatre was seeing my sister play the title role in the Arts Centres Summer School production of Annie, which was actually workshopped by Rob Guest. I remember sitting there at eight years old, vicariously living through my sister and thinking how much I wanted to be up on that stage; I was transfixed. I then auditioned for my first community theatre production from a newspaper advert for Gypsy where I got to experience the magic as Baby June, it then never stopped.
What is your training background?
I started dance training at an early age then picked up theatre through community theatre in my hometown. Whilst studying music, drama and dance at school I attended NAPA for further musical training and trained with a girls troupe Zoop Co. After graduation I went on to study for three years at the Queensland Conservatorium of Music Griffith University receiving a Bachelor of Musical Theatre. I continue to train dance, voice and acting, you can never stop learning and growing.
What does Rob Guest’s legacy mean to you?
Unfortunately I didn’t have the honour of meeting Rob Guest, but he was a household name for me at a young age and onward. The legacy for me means a continuous recognition of his achievements and the effect he had on the community and industry. It is an honour to be recognised as an emerging artist and the endowment acts as a support network for growth that he would have nurtured.
It is so beautiful that although some didn’t get the chance to work with Rob, his legacy is assisting many in following their dreams and goals, thats why this legacy is so effecting for me and has impacted my journey along with many.
This can be a tough industry. What keeps you going?
It comes with struggles and more I am yet to to uncover. However, the thing that keeps me going is the love I have that makes me who I am! The industry is constantly making me strive for more, to work harder, and to dream bigger. My support from family and loved ones and the recognition/upkeep of mental health is very important to keep me going. At the end of the day I couldn’t see myself doing anything else, my enjoyment and love will always outweigh when the going gets tough.
What is the best advice you have been given?
I have a few! My parents brought me up to always be thankful, humble and appreciative; from competition awards to professional work, to always be proud and grounded. Head of university course Prof. Paul Sabey gave me great advice on giving yourself ten minutes after an audition to ponder, then to let it go.
In my final year of university I got to sing and be workshopped by Sierra Boggess and she shared this advice; “You are enough, you are so enough, it’s unbelievable how enough you are.”
Overall, by many mentors along the way, I’ve learnt the importance of hard work and being good to work with.
You are currently appearing in Mamma Mia! What has been the best thing about the experience?
I couldn’t fault it. The best thing about the experience, looking back, is how much I have learnt and the friends and mentors I have luckily met. Getting the opportunity to perform for audiences over Australia and to see how much happiness can be shared reminds me how special this experience, and show, has been. I’ve really enjoyed covering a role and the challenge of stepping into new shoes. I will never forget when I first went on for my cover to see my cast mates side stage cheering me on. Truly I had the time of my life… I had to.
You are about the appear in Aladdin the Musical. Were you a Disney fan growing up?
I have always been a huge Disney fan and particularly obsessed with the Princess’s. I remember going to bed as a child and making sure my hands were clasped how Snow Whites in her casket and when I woke to realise I’d changed positions I would be really upset. Disney has been a foundation for my morals in life and a constant reminder to dream big; a dream is a wish your heart makes.
What is your dream role, now or in the future?
I could find documents I have written with lists of roles I’d love to play as thats what I’d do in my spare time… but if I narrow it down I would say;
Belle in Beauty and the Beast, Clara in Light in the Piazza, Eponine in Les Mis, Katherine in Newsies, Bonnie Parker in Bonnie and Clyde, Anastasia. One day I’d love to play Mama Rose in Gypsy and Jenna in Waitress.