The Fame Reporter interviewed Australian performers from The Australian Ballet Cameron Holmes and Dimity Azoury starring in An American in Paris the Musical as the alternate lead roles of Jerry Mulligan and Lize Dassin respectively. The Broadway smash hit musical is currently playing in Brisbane at QPAC’s Lyric Theatre from 8-30 January for the Australian Premiere before it embarks on its national tour.
Hailed as a tour de force for its inventive choreography, the four-time Tony Award®-winning Broadway musical tells the entrancing story of a young American soldier and a beautiful French girl, set against the iconic backdrop of the most romantic city in the world.
This buoyant, beautiful and breathtaking musical stars the charismatic Broadway and West End leads Robbie Fairchild and Leanne Cope, reprising their show-stopping turns as the American GI Jerry Mulligan and the young Parisian dancer Lise. The production features two of Australia’s leading lights, Cameron Holmes and Dimity Azoury who will alternate in the lead roles, supported by an outstanding Australian cast and ensemble drawn from the worlds of ballet and musical theatre.
Cameron started dancing at the age of three at his mother’s dance school, Donna Jean’s Danceforce. He progressed to full-time ballet training at Tanya Pearson’s Classical Coaching Academy in 2016. He first performed with The Australian Ballet in its 2017/18 season of Storytime Ballet: The Sleeping Beauty. He joined The Australian Ballet in 2018. Cameron also sings and acts; he danced his first role, Small Boy in Billy Elliot the Musical, at the age of eight, and had the honour of leading Elton John onstage on premiere night.
Dimity began dancing at the age of four in her hometown of Queanbeyan, New South Wales. She studied for eleven years at the Kim Harvey School of Dance in Canberra before moving to The Australian Ballet in 2005. She was accepted into The Australian Ballet in 2008, where she has had the opportunity to travel to Paris, London, New York, Japan, San Francisco and Los Angeles. She has loved working with many choreographers including Nicole Fonte, Graeme Murphy, Tim Harbour, Stephen Page and Stephen Baynes. Dimity was promoted to soloist in 2015 following her debut as Baroness von Rothbart in Graeme Murphy’s Swan Lake, to senior artist in 2017 to principal artist in 2019.
We talked to Dimity and Cameron about learning a new way of performing going from ballet to the musical theatre world, what they love about their characters, their dream choreographers to work with and more.
Welcome to The Fame Reporter Dimity and Cameron, what sparked your interest in performing initially for you both?
D: The magic of the theatre. I always loved getting on stage. I loved dancing but as soon as it involved performing to a live audience in a theatre I just loved that transformative feeling. Being taken to another world.
C: I started dancing because my Mum was a dance teacher so I was just brought up into it – I have always enjoyed it. It is that feeling of being on stage and telling a story that is magical. With music and dance there is such an awesome feeling when you connect with an audience you feel something and they feel something. I think that is why I come back to ballet and dancing.
What drew you to be involved in An American in Paris the Musical?
C: For me, it is something totally different from the ballet I have been doing. I haven’t been doing it for as long as Dim, this is my 4th year with The Australian Ballet. This was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up, this role is so unique, it is singing, dancing and acting.
I did musical theatre growing up so it was just a way for me to reconnect with the musical theatre world. This is a once in a lifetime kind of role.
D: This is a co production with The Australian Ballet so David Hallberg our boss gathered a bunch of us together and said ‘we are doing this co production and we are going to hold a little singing workshop and we would love some Australian Ballet representation in it’. At the time I said why not I will go to the singing workshop this will be hilarious because I can’t sing. Then the process kind of just steamrolled then the world stopped and we were locked down.
I thought this will be a fun little project to audition for and learn some song and dance as well as acting scene work – that was something I had never done before. Then all of a sudden I was auditioning over Zoom with creatives from New York and Chris Wheeldon the choreographer. I thought this has escalated, then I got the role.
I was going into my 15th year with The Australian Ballet and I haven’t done anything else other than dance on stage for 15 years. This was an opportunity to act, vocalise, learn how to sing, dance different styles and be in a different part of the arts industry.
Like Cam said it is a once in a lifetime opportunity. There is not really any other musicals that call for a ballet dancer first and singer second.
What do you love about your characters Jerry and Lise respectively?
C: There are a lot of similarities between Jerry and myself. We are both young, naïve and really upbeat and bubbly. Jerry won’t let Lise slip through his fingers. He is so infatuated with this girl and throughout the entire ballet you see him as a very happy guy. It is very easy and fun to play Jerry.
D: With Lise they have given her a lot more depth in the musical then she had in the film. In the musical she is Jewish she has been hiding throughout WWII and now she is back into society and auditioning for a ballet. I really enjoyed all of the research into WWII and trying to tap into and understand what it would have been like to reintegrate into society after that experience.
But then also finding love and feeling those really basic human emotions with that background has been really fun.
What is your favourite scene or number in the show choreography-wise?
D: I love the song Liza. I don’t sing it but Cam sings to me. We have a scene first where he is trying to convince me to meet up with him and I’m sort of saying no and Jerry is persistent.
The dance is really old school Hollywood and it is really upbeat I just finish it with a complete grin on my face.
C: That is a fantastic scene even for me. My favourite scene is at the beginning of the musical a song called ‘I’ve Got Beginner’s Luck.’ Again I am trying to charm Lise. I turn this store that she is working at into full chaos by song and dance again. It just a fun chaotic number.
Living the dream of doing a Gene Kelly style is awesome.
What is the most rewarding and challenging part of this show?
C: The rewarding part is that feeling of coming off stage to an audience and you can kind of transport yourself. The most challenging part is still the singing – it is still a work in progress but that part is both rewarding and challenging.
D: For me, the rewarding part is learning the new skills. Learning how to act with your voice as well as dancing. I have actually really enjoyed the acting side of things. The challenging part is also navigating the differences with the musical theatre world and embracing that too.
It is slightly different and with learning these new skills we have had very little time to develop the acting and singing skills. It is something that purely the musical theatre singers and actors in this cast have been doing for many years.
It is about trying to catch up to that and even the two beautiful Broadway leads who are the originals Robbie Fairchild and Leanne Cope they had a year to develop their characters, voices and skills before they first performed.
We are the alternates so we have ensemble roles for the alternate shows and I love that we are in the deep end. After 2 years of not doing anything it is actually so lovely to feel uncomfortable.
Coming from the Australian Ballet what do you love about the merging of the Ballet and musical theatre worlds in this show?
D: It is the people. I have loved meeting all these amazing people and they all so lovely and they all have voices of angels and they also willing to help us as well.
C: It is a fantastic cast, everyone is really supportive and lovely.
Dimity – What have you learnt from dancing all around the world and being taught by infamous choreographers?
D: So much. I have learned how to deal with things when you are thrown in the deep end. The different styles, personality, challenges physical and mentally. After 15 years of doing it professionally I feel like I can actually cope with a lot, it is part of the day to day.
Cameron – What is your favourite memory from being apart of Billy Elliot and what is Elton John like in person?
I was 8 years old so unfortunately can’t remember an awful lot. I do actually remember bringing Elton John on stage on opening night. It was very sweet and I didn’t realise the full gravity of meeting him but now I am such a huge fan.
But what really stood out for me and I still remember this to this day. It was the first preview actually I did this row of pushups and I had this line I was saying ‘Jesus Jesus Jesus.’ That was my line, I had such a responsive crowd and they all laughed and as an 8 year old when you make the whole audience laugh I laughed myself. I was laughing on stage – I was like this is amazing I am making everyone laugh. That explains who I am now. That is my fondest memory of the show for sure.
Why do you think dance is important and how do you think it contributes to staying healthy, active and igniting creativity?
C: Dance, like any artform it is expressing yourself so with music and using your body and allows you to be physical. I did dance to socialise as well. I had a bunch of friends and wanted to keep doing that.
What 3 performers or dancers dead or alive would you love to have a dinner party with?
D: Leslie Caron – Lise in movie, she was a ballerina during challenging times.
C: Gene Kelly – Jerry Mulligan in the movie, to pick his brain and understand that dancing style. His movement is like no other and I think I could learn a lot from him.
Mikhail Baryshnikov – A pioneer in the ballet world I would also love to learn from him.
D: Benedicte Bemet – From the company and a brilliant dancer and my friend.
Audrey Hepburn – She was a ballerina.
Why should audiences come along and see An American in Paris?
D: It is a pretty fantastic production.
Audiences will leave feeling joyous and happy and I think that is what everyone needs at the moment.
C: It is an old fashioned Hollywood production turned into a musical. It is really happy but still got the depth in there.
Fame Reporter Word Play
An American in Paris?
Favourite style of dance?
C: Old fashioned jazz ballet
D: I could do anything but Ballet or Ballet Contemporary
Favourite ballet move or word?
D: Coupé brisé derrière
C: Double Tours
D: When I was a kid it was Phantom of the Opera
Both: An American in Paris
Dream Choreographer to work with?
D: Hofesh Shechter
C: Chris Wheeldon
Favourite song in An American in Paris?
D: But not for me
C: I’ve Got Beginner’s Luck
Dressing Room necessity?
D: Alicia Vikander
C: Skiing in Canada
D: Live in Tasmania
TV Show Binge?
D: Fraid on ABC and The Letdown
Finally, favourite thing about performing?
C: Having an audience connection
Thank-you Dimity and Cameron for joining us at The Fame Reporter and we wish you all the best for An American in Paris Musical at QPAC!
An American in Paris
Playing at Lyric Theatre, QPAC
8 – 30 January 2022
Other tour dates
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All photos – Supplied and Darren Thomas