The Fame Reporter interviewed the incredible Australian West End performer and Co-Artistic Director of MM Creative Productions, Amy Manford. Amy is producing and starring in ‘Disney 100 The Concert’ a celebration of 100 years of the Walt Disney Company touring Sydney, Gold Coast and Perth in 2023.
Disney Concerts and MM Creative Productions are excited to invite you to celebrate a centenary of magical moments with Disney 100: The Concert!
Be dazzled as a cast of Australian musical theatre stars, symphony orchestra and maestra Jessica Gethin bring your favourite Disney animated film scores to life.
Become part of our world in 2023, as Disney 100: The Concert arrives in a city near you.
We sat down with producer and performer Amy Manford and talked about her involvement in Disney 100 The Concert, what she has loved about being part of female run production company – MM Creative Productions, her role in Phantom of the Opera globally and more.
Welcome to The Fame Reporter Amy, what sparked your interest in performing initially?
When I was younger I was obsessed with performing for people. Whether it be putting on a play in the backyard for my parents or making up a dance with my friends. I was directing and starring in all my home films when I was 10. So I really always loved performing in front of anyone who would watch.
To be honest when I was younger I was actually more into sport. I started off in rhythmic gymnastics and went to nationals then got into pole vaulting and went to nationals for that too.
That probably proved that I was wiling to work hard at anything and everything I could make happen for myself. I also had always played the violin, so I was really into music as well and started getting into singing more.
Then I attended WAAPA for university for my Bachelor of Music in Perth. Following that I went over to London to study my Masters in Performance for Opera at the Royal College of Music, which is this amazing giant castle of a music school and its across from the Royal Albert Hall and looks like Hogwarts.
I got to sing at Buckingham Palace for King Charles and I met all of the Royals, it was a really cool experience.
I auditioned for Phantom of the Opera one day on a whim, I got the audition from a friend of a friend of a friend. Usually you don’t get an audition unless you have an agent or you are already established.
5 days later I was standing in front of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Cameron McIntosh at the theatre and found out I had the role a couple of days later. I hadn’t even graduated college yet.
I finished the rest of my degree then went on a holiday and I performed in Phantom of the Opera in London on the West End for 2 years and all around the world and ended up bringing it back to Australia. I feel very lucky and grateful.
What enticed you to want to start MM Creative Productions and what is special about being a powerful female duo production company with Genevieve McCarthy?
Genevieve and I have known each other pretty much our whole lives. But we become a lot closer when we were both living in London. She also studied her Masters but in Musical Theatre at the Royal Academy of Music which is very similar to the college I went to.
So we met up in London and started talking about our hopes and dreams and where our careers would go after performing.
We obviously always hope we are performing in some aspects but we talked about other ventures and how we would love to put on our own concerts. We said one day let’s bring this topic up again when we are 40 years old, have children and want to do something else.
Around a year later we both found ourselves back in Perth because of Covid. Perth at that time was the only place that was open and able to do any sort of live performance in the whole world at that stage. We thought we can’t pass up this opportunity so we put together this concert with an 80 piece orchestra, 3 singers and we filled the Perth Concert Hall with a show called ‘The Magical Music of Animation.’ We put that show together in 5 weeks.
We really really loved the process and through that, Disney in America also got to know us and what kind of work we were able to do. They were impressed by what we managed to pull off in such a short period of time. Our passion for the brand helped.
A year later they entrusted us with a Disney concert called ‘A dream is a wish’, which we put on with the West Australian Sympony Orchestra – 65 piece and we sold out 3 shows in Perth that time. Disney then gave us the coveted rights to Disney 100 The Concert which we are taking on an Australian tour and celebrates the past 100 years of Disney.
So we feel very fortunate and excited to bring this amazing concert to Australia. I think I am right in saying it will be the premiere concert worldwide.
We have been working really close with Disney globally to create a specific program that caters to Australian audiences and make it very special.
In terms of being female producers we are very passionate about being a female-run production company, there isn’t many around.
Where possible we have our beautiful conductor, Jessica Gethin, she is a well-known conductor around the world, our stage manager Erin Coubrough used to work for the West Australian Ballet, she’s really talented. We have a brilliant team of women working with us.
What is it about Disney and in particular the Disney 100 Concert that made you want to bring it to Australian stages?
How could you not? Most people grew up with Disney in Australia, we definitely have lots of favourite films that we all loved growing up as well as beautiful new songs that have been released.
I think there is a real strong taste for it in Australia and that is proven by the fact that we sold out four shows at the Sydney Opera House.
We are showcasing the most popular films from the past 100 years from the beginning being Pinocchio, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty all the way up to the most recent award-winning film Encanto.
It is a beautiful concert for everyone, we have a 65 piece orchestra, 6 singers, a giant LED screen which will be playing all of the original Disney footage, world-class special effects, confetti, fireworks and bubbles.
Where possible, each time we think about these concerts we think about ourselves being audience members, with what we want to see. We want to do the best by the Disney brand and we have pulled out all the stops for this.
This really is a concert for everyone, if I wasn’t in it I would be going with my girl or guy friends, having a glass of champagne and reliving all my favourite Disney moments from my childhood.
The same goes if you have a niece, a daughter or a son who loves Disney it is great to bring them along
To have them experience these beautiful films and songs in a fun accessible way and witness a full symphony orchestra, which is really special to see something like that at that age.
Hearing these songs on a CD or TV is one thing, but hearing them played live by so many musicians and singers is really a once in a lifetime experience.
What is it you enjoy about casting the performers for your concerts and what do you love about this group of people for Disney 100 tour in particular?
Every single person is just perfect for the track they have been cast for.
We have people who are amazing tap dancers, incredible singers and a lot of our cast members have actually already played Disney characters on Broadway, in Australia and everyone we have got has been specifically picked for every single song they are performing.
We are really excited to work with everyone. The casting process was really fun, who doesn’t love watching everyone’s different takes on these Disney songs, it was amazing to see all the interpretations of all the most famous tracks in the Disney songbook.
What do you love about playing Christine Daae in Phantom and what are some of your future dreams?
Christine Daae has been a huge dream role for a lot of women around the world and I feel very very lucky that I have been one of those people that have been fortunate enough to play her numerous times in different productions.
It has been cool to rediscover her in a different light with the brand-new Australian production, which was quite different to the original one I did on the West End. There was some cool specific details in there that made me think about Christine in a new light. The music is absolutely gorgeous.
As a singer you always sing it in the shower and you hope that one day you will sing it in front of an audience with an orchestra on stage in those stunning costumes. It is pretty cool to have been able to do that so many times.
The most fun thing about it is the people I get to work with, everyone is just so much fun and we have the best time backstage. We are always laughing, it is such a serious production you would be surprised what goes on in the wings as soon as we step off stage.
I think that is why Phantom of the Opera has been running for so long because if you change out one of the main characters the whole vibe of the show changes. I think that is why people keep coming back to see different actor’s interpretations.
Why should Gold Coast audiences come along and see Disney 100?
I think that Gold Coast audiences should go see this beautiful concert because it is going to be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity at this outdoor theatre called Home of the Arts.
The outdoor theatre allows us to have all of these extras things like fireworks, a cool atmosphere, with food trucks and you can have a picnic.
With Perth it is the same thing, who doesn’t love Disney, it is a beautiful show how could we not bring it to those places.
Fame Reporter Word Play
Phantom of the Opera
Home of the Arts
Any secret talents
I can do the over splits on a chair
Savoury or Sweet
Phantom of the Opera
Dressing Room necessity
The guy from Mulan – Li Shang
Favourite Disney song
Part of your world – to sing or
Make a man out of you
Place you want to travel to
Australian theatre scene
Phantom of the Opera
Favourite Disney character
All of them
Make an album
TV Show Binge
Finally, favourite thing about performing
Telling a story to audiences
Thank-you Amy for joining us at The Fame Reporter and we wish you all the best for Disney 100 The Concert tour!
HOME OF THE ARTS
With Symphony Orchestra
FRIDAY 31 March 2023: 7pm
SATURDAY 1 April 2023: 7pm
Perth Symphony Orchestra
FRIDAY 21 April 2023: 7pm
SATURDAY 22 April 2023 : 11.30am and 4pm
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