The Fame Reporter interviewed the incredible Natalie Abbott starring as Muriel in Muriel’s Wedding the musical. She is having a glorious time in the lead role as the iconic awkward and flawed Muriel Heslop in the original Australian musical based on the infamous 1994 film.
Much like Muriel Heslop, Natalie left her small coastal town and moved to the big smoke – Sydney, where she began her Bachelor of Music degree in Musical Theatre at the Australian Institute of Music (AIM) under the guidance of an array of illustrious industry professionals, like the wonderful Jennifer Murphy and Greg Crease, whose wisdom and passion has been an incredible inspiration to her. In 2015, Natalie was cast in the AIM production of The Witches of Eastwick as Jane Smart, directed by Tony Cogin.
In 2016/2017 Natalie was lucky enough to be a part of Supply Evolutions production of Bare: A Pop Opera, directed by Hannah Barn where she was cast as one of her dream roles, Nadia McConnell.
Natalie is so thrilled that her professional debut is in Muriel’s Wedding the Musical.
‘Muriel’s Wedding’ is a new Australian musical with music and lyrics by Kate Miller-Heike and Keir Nuttall and a book by PJ Hogan (Writer and Director of the 1994 film).
We talked to Natalie about her reaction when she landed the iconic Australian role of Muriel in her professional musical theatre debut, the importance of strong female friendships and more.
See our interview below!
Welcome to The Fame Reporter Natalie, what sparked your interest in performing initially?
Thank you so much! My family was my first audience and I’ve been performing for as long as I can remember for them. What started as a solo Spice Girl tribute concert at the age of three, developed into a love and passion as I got older. There has simply never been anything I’ve loved more than performing.
How did you react when you landed the beyond iconic role of Muriel in Muriel’s Wedding the musical?
I was a blubbering mess of happiness and joy. I was in the middle of a shopping centre when I got the news so I has to be subtle about it.
A subtle blubbering mess of happiness and joy.
What about your character drew you to audition and what is your ultimate favourite moment in the show?
When I saw the Sydney production I found myself thinking ‘ha.. I do that..’ or ‘ahh yep, I’ve been there…’ which is quite rare for someone like me, especially in musical theatre land.
Muriel is such a special character because she is so flawed and real and I related to her on so many levels.
My ultimate favourite part of the show is the song and scene into Amazing that I get to perform with Stefanie. It’s such a pivotal and beautiful moment between Rhonda and Muriel and is the first time Muriel is told her worth.
What has been the most rewarding and challenging parts about performing in this classic Australian story?
The audience reactions are the most rewarding thing. I purposely try not to look out into the audience until the end but, hearing people laugh and react to the infamous lines, hearing sniffles in the sad bits and meeting audience members afterwards and hearing their thoughts on the show is always so rewarding. Seeing the affect this show has on people is amazing.
I personally love the stories of partners being dragged to the show against their will and accidentally loving it and wanting to see it again, and that happens more than you’d think.
Challenges for me is the content of the show. For anyone who’s seen the movie (it’s on Netflix now there is no excuse), you know the story line has some heavy content – domestic abuse, depression, suicide, illness, bullying and body image issues – just to name a few.
We, in the cast, ride that roller coaster of emotions every time we step on stage and some of these issues are very close to home for us.
We are so incredibly lucky that the script is the genius work of PJ Hogan and it’s got all that stuff that’s paired with perfect comedy.
What 3 performers dead or alive would you love to have a dinner party with?
What do love about Muriel and Rhonda’s friendship in the show and why do you believe it is important to have strong female friendships?
Muzzo and Rhondy love each other so dearly. They complement each other so well as a quirky fun team and by accepting their differences as individuals they build each other up just as friends are meant to do.
They see the beauty and magic in one another and it’s my most favourite thing in the world that they don’t need no man, they only need each other.
Female friendship is so important in life AND in theatre and media. More and more strong female characters and female friendships are being written every day but Rhonda and Muriel are one of the originals and have inspired so many people out there.
One of my favourite things to hear at stage door at the end of the night is “I’m here with my Muriel/Rhonda” it makes my heart warm and everyone needs their Rhonda or Muriel and I personally wouldn’t be here without my real life Rhonda forcing me to audition.
Do you have a role in musical theatre/straight theatre that you are dying to play?
It used to be Muriel Heslop in Muriel’s Wedding The Musical, but now I think it’s Jenna from Waitress the musical.
What is it like being part of a brand new Australian musical and performing music from incredible Aussie musicians Kate Miller Heike and Keir Nuttall?
Before I was cast, my friends and I would literally blast the Muriel’s Wedding soundtrack in the car and drive around and sing it at the top of our lungs (which really helped me out come audition time because I knew all the lyrics).
I am a huge fan of this musical before I was cast so I pinch myself that I get to sing these songs that I love by these incredible Australian artists and creators.
In my highly unbiased opinion, the soundtrack alone stands up against anything currently on Broadway with its witty, hilarious and heartbreaking lyrics and motifs that will get stuck in your head for days. Kate and Keir are pure geniuses.
In comparison to the 1994 film of the same name what is different about this musical version?
There’s more singing in the musical, that’s for sure. But Muriel has also been brought into the digital age now. Social media is such a heavy presence in the musical and that’s where Muriel thrives, so much so that you’d think it was always written this way.
Also, you find out what happens to Brice Nobes and the swimmer is now Russian and called Alexander.
What do you hope audiences take away from Muriel’s Wedding?
I hope Muriel’s Wedding makes audiences feel things. I hope people recognise characters from their own lives. I hope it makes them want to call their Mums or Besties and tell them how much they love them. I hope they go away thinking that lying is bad and don’t steal money.
I hope it changes the way people see themselves and become more accepting of their quirks and see the beauty in their differences.
Fame Reporter Word Play
Comedy or Drama
Kate and Keir
Go-to Karaoke song
Never tear us apart – INXS
Any secret talents
Smiling at strangers
What an arsehole (if I can’t say that I’ll say… “rouge allure”)
Dressing Room necessity
Snacks and a kettle
Favourite Muriel’s Wedding Quote
“This is my new life, I’m a new person… I’m changing my name to Mariel”
Muriel’s Wedding Ensemble
Favourite piece of clothing from Muriel’s wardrobe
Polka dot dress she wears to Tania and Chooks wedding in the opening scene
Best moment in Muriel’s Wedding ride so far
Getting my first professional standing ovation with my beautiful cast mates
Favourite song in Muriel’s Wedding the musical and favourite to perform
Favourite song is Isn’t Any Ordinary Night but my favourite to perform every night is Mr and Mrs Shkuratov
Can’t live without
Place you want to travel to
Do what I love and love what I do
TV Show Binge
Finally, favourite thing about performing
Stepping into someone else’s shoes.
Thank-you Natalie for joining us at The Fame Reporter and we wish you all the best for Muriel’s Wedding at QPAC’s Lyric Theatre in Brisbane from 19 September – 26 October!
Don’t miss out on witnessing the classic Australian film brought to life on stage and snap up your TICKETS here.
Follow Natalie’s adventures on social media here!
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All photos – Supplied