Experience the phenomenon of one of the most successful musicals of all time, when Cameron Mackintosh’s new production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s legendary show comes to Melbourne. Dance Writer exclusively speaks with Jayde Westaby (Madame Giry) and Mietta White (Meg Giry) in the Australian production of Phantom of the Opera, opening at Melbourne’s Art Centre from November 2022.
JAYDE WESTABY (MADAME GIRY)
As a UK born performer, how does Australian musical theatre compare to the West End?
I am really enjoying Australian musical theatre. I think the biggest difference is probably that there are fewer shows over here compared to the UK so there is slightly less opportunity for work. The standard of work over here is excellent.
What’s it like performing for an Australian production like Phantom of the Opera?
I feel very honoured to be playing Madame Giry in the Australian production of Phantom of the Opera. I am enjoying it immensely. It is a very different musical and role for me which is challenging and totally rewarding. I enjoy the power that Madame Giry holds within the story and on stage.
What do you love most about performing in musical theatre? When did this passion begin for you? Can you describe the moment you wanted to perform professionally?
I am very passionate about Musical Theatre and I believe it’s so exciting playing a huge variety of roles within different styles and genres. I started dancing from a very early age and then later singing and acting came along. I saw my first “big show” in London when I was about eight years old and I knew then and there that was what I wanted to do.
Can you describe your journey in the performing arts including your tuition at Bird College and the credits that followed?
I was fortunate to receive (in my opinion) the best training at Bird College of Performing Arts in London. They taught me that I had to be able to sing, dance and act, otherwise known as “triple threat” and gave me a solid work ethic. My first show upon graduating was Beauty and the Beast, which was just beautiful. I have worked in many different shows in the West end or on tour in the UK. It’s hard to pick a favourite but I loved playing Anita in West Side Story as I got to showcase all my skills as a triple threat performer and it’s a classic.
What made you come to Australia? When did you arrive and where did you first reside?
When my Australian partner (Sean Mulligan) and I had our son we decided to move over to Australia to give him this incredible lifestyle. We arrived in 2015 in Sydney.
What motto do you live by in your career?
I believe that you can never stop learning as a Musical Theatre performer and I gain so much inspiration and knowledge from all the creatives, cast and people I have been lucky enough to work with.
MIETTA WHITE (MEG GIRY)
Congratulations on being cast in Phantom of the Opera! How did you react when you found out the news of your successful audition? Describe the audition process for your role.
The audition process was extremely positive. After a self tape, I had to pass each dance round before being considered for the role as Meg truly has to be apart of the ballet chorus.
Finding out about landing the job was quite special. I’m very lucky to share a unique relationship with my agent, who happens to also be my dad, so the news coming from him, teary eyed and all was a true celebration of the journey I’ve been on.
Can you outline the rehearsal process for Phantom of the Opera and what it was like working with the creative team, particularly on such a professional scale?
The creative team, both associate and resident teams were a joy to work with so from day one it felt as though we were creating something special. There was a constant buzz in the air as we were very aware of the impacts of covid, individually and as a company from last year’s postponement, so we moved quickly. From the creatives, there was immense passion and love for the history of the show which only fuelled us to make sure our version honoured that.
What can audiences expect when watching this classic production? How have the reactions been from Sydney spectators?
The show is such an iconic piece of theatre. Not only is it a visual feast, but the score is soaring and powerful. All of the cast and crew are incredible. I always love hearing the audience gasping in shock for the moments with the chandelier, that’s been a constant throughout the run so far.
At what point in your journey did you decide to pursue performing arts as a career? What was it like when you made your theatre debut in Annie?
Well, my parents met while in the original cast of Cats in Australia, and continue to be heavily involved in theatre. Seeing them create and sustain their respective careers in the arts, always gave me a strong sense of possibility and direction. I connect so much with storytelling, whether that be through dance, singing or acting, I believe it’s one of the most important things we can do as people, is to come together in the reflections of shared experiences, transformations and catharsis.
Where do you hope to take your career in the next five years? Would you describe yourself as a dancer who sings or singer who dances?
It is never the same, your circumstances change each time. You’re dealing with people all around you, whether it’s the audience, crew or cast, you’re constantly navigating how to work together to achieve a shared goal. The audience plays an immense part in this and that’s why theatre is so incredible. I’d like to travel lots, now that we can move about more freely again. If I could have my work take me to places across the world that would be the dream.
How long have you been represented by Ian White Management for? What direction did you take after your schooling in Melbourne?
Fortunately for me Ian White Management took me under their wing when I was cast in Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, which was meant to mount 2020 – my first professional show as an adult. I was in Year 12 at the time, so was planning to leave school to go on tour, which then the world went off course. From a very young age I knew that I just wanted to try my hand at entering the industry once I was old enough, but who knows what the next few years may have in store, I’m excited for whatever comes next.
Phantom of the Opera is performing at the State Theatre, Arts Centre Melbourne from 2 November 2022.
Tickets to Phantom of the Opera are now on sale. Purchase your tickets HERE.