Photo Credit – Supplied (Sarah Morrison)
The Fame Reporter interviewed the talented and down – to – earth Brisbane local, Sarah Morrison.
Sarah is absolutely beside herself to be playing the iconic ABBA musical lead role of Sophie Sheridan, in the new Australian production of Mamma Mia. However, she initially underestimated the character she is currently portraying in her hometown.
The triple threat began her career as a member of the Children’s Chorus with Opera Queensland, before gaining her Bachelor of Arts in Music Theatre at the Ballarat Arts Academy. Sarah went on to play ‘Tracy’ in Dust for Queens Theatre/Brisbane’s Powerhouse and toured internationally with a number of children’s musicals for Nickelodeon and Pen2Stage before being cast in the breakthrough lead role of ‘Lisa’, in Ladies in Black which enjoyed sellout seasons at both the Queensland and Melbourne Theatre Companies. Sarah has recently finished a return national tour of Ladies in Black.
Additional theatre roles include Charlie’s delightful sister ‘Sally’ in You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown (Vass Productions/Alex Theatre), Dust (Hubcap Productions), Meet the Nicktoons (Pen 2 Stage), Hansel and Gretel and La Bohème (Opera Queensland), and Third World Blues (Company Eleven). Sarah has also appeared in television shows like The Doctor Blake Mysteries and Making Dust for ABC Artscape.
Get tickets to Mamma Mia in which she plays the optimistic but complicated, Sophie. The show is playing at the Lyric Theatre, QPAC until 4 February 2018 and then travels around Australia!
Book your seats here – http://bit.ly/2g2GMYV
Interviewed by Founder of The Fame Reporter, Ellen Goddard.
We talked to Sarah about her career thus far in the musical theatre industry including her reaction when being cast in the joyful musical, Mamma Mia, what being in Ladies in Black taught her, her favourite dressing room essential and more, check out the interview below!
Photo credit – James D. Morgan (Sarah Morrison & Stephen Mahy)
Welcome to The Fame Reporter Sarah, what was it that sparked your interest in acting/musical theatre initially?
I was a really shy and reserved kid and when I was about 8 years old in an attempt to help me come out of my shell, my Mum and Dad put me in a very basic drama class once a week at my primary school. It was just drama games really, nothing full on. It was to try and get me started, but that kind of lit the spark for me I think.
As a fellow Brisbane girl, what do you believe, if anything, that Brisbane offers that differs from the Sydney & Melbourne musical theatre scenes?
I think what’s great about Brisbane, particularly being involved in Queensland Theatre in the last couple of years, is with Sam Strong and how he’s worked tirelessly to re-brand that company. The quality has always been there, but I think finally the spotlight is being shone on Brisbane for the theatre and arts industry produced here.
It is absolutely on par with the bigger cities like Sydney and Melbourne certainly as a performer myself and having grown up here there’s nothing quite like coming home.
“We don’t just say this, but Brisbane audiences are incredible, every performer loves coming to Brisbane because it’s just
different and so unique.”
People still get dressed up (in Brisbane), not to say that people don’t get dressed up everywhere else, but people really get dolled up to go to the theatre here. It is an occasion for the people of Brisbane and they come to say hello at stage door and that doesn’t happen everywhere, it’s lovely. The audiences come out to have a really good time and we feel that on stage. It’s so refreshing and warmer too!
How was your experience attending Ballarat Arts Academy? How did that experience affect your current career progression?
I went to the Queensland Conservatorium for 2 years and when I was there they didn’t offer musical theatre. There was a once a week class and so I was studying Classical Voice – more Opera and it just wasn’t for me. I was doing musical theatre as an extracurricular on the side and I really had a passion for that. I was unhappy and I knew I was a bit of a square peg in a round hole in terms of singing the repertoire that I was. I said it’s got to be now or never and bit the bullet and auditioned for a few schools and got into a couple.
Eventually I went with Ballarat, I was 19 at the time. It wasn’t even just choosing a different university, it was up and moving to a different state. I learnt a lot more skills than just how to act, sing and dance better, it was a lot about how to be a grown up and do all of those sorts of things as well. It was a full learning experience.
One of the real benefits about a school like Ballarat is it’s proximity to one of the big cities like Melbourne it’s easy to go see theatre, just a train ride away. That is one of the many ways you can get better at your own craft as well is watching other people do it and learning from them. That is absolutely a huge resource having the East End of Melbourne and theatre district with all the shows that come through there. Also when you go through any 3 year course, you should have the skills that you need to hopefully have a crack at making it in the professional sense.
What 4 performers dead or alive would you love to have a dinner party with and why?
I love Carey Mulligan and would love to have dinner with her. Her stuff is amazing. Cate Blanchett, obsessed with her. Marion Cotillard yes can she please come I love her. Finally Robyn Nevin, I’d really love to meet her.
What enticed you to audition for the smash hit Australian show Ladies in Black & what did it teach you while you were on tour?
I was talking to a girlfriend, we were having coffee and just catching up. She said I went to this audition last week, it’s a new Australian musical but this is the 3rd round of auditions and one of the lead characters they can’t cast. I said ‘oh I haven’t heard anything about it’ and she said ‘actually why haven’t you auditioned, you’d be perfect?’ I sent it to my agent and said ‘I’d really love to audition’, they said ‘leave it with us we’ll have a look.’
I was literally in a cab on the way to the airport, I was going to Qatar as I was doing a kids show. My agent calls me and said we’ve got you an audition for Thursday and said ‘I’m on the way to Qatar but I really want to audition, do you think they’ll take a video submission?’ By the time I get to Qatar they said ‘yes they will here’s 2 songs and 2 scenes’. This of course was a new show and sometimes when it’s an established show you can at least find something on YouTube. I’m on the other side of the world furiously emailing people asking if someone please put a backing track and a vocal guide down for me, so I can learn these songs.
Anyway a crazy 48 hours later, this audition video was in a tiny little hotel room, I didn’t even have shoes on. I was so jet – lagged and I said, I’ve just got to get this down and send it off. They said they would love for me to come in for a workshop day and table read. I was told I’d probably be there from 10am to 6pm and after our afternoon tea break at 3pm, Simon Philips (Director) and Tim Finn (Music and Lyrics) came back and said ‘actually Sarah that’s all we need to see today’ and of course in your mind you go ‘oh no I didn’t get it’, they are sending me home early. I found out the next day they wanted to offer me the role and it was certainly a quantum leap from doing children’s shows, to playing the lead role in a new Australian show.
‘It didn’t hit me that I was playing the lead role until when we were blocking the curtain call’
I thought of course I knew I had an important role, which sounds so silly but I was so overwhelmed with everything going on, it was just such a full body all senses experience. It wasn’t until I was like ‘oh god I’m bowing last, oh ok.’ It’s so rare to revisit the same role and have the opportunity to tweak it or come back to it with fresh eyes. I will forever look at that show holding a very dear place in my heart, as do everyone involved in both durations of it – very special.
What do you like about stage work versus film and TV?
Stage I love obviously you get these long contracts and time to really flesh it out. Whereas film you might get one or two goes and that’s it and you have to leave it behind. I mean there’s pros and cons to both. I love the stage that the audience is live and on any given night it can really help or challenge you to flex yourself a little bit. You have to work around them as much as your working around every other element going on live around you. I mean there’s nothing quite like it.
Even when things go wrong and you have to work on your feet the adrenaline in that (obviously you don’t want things to go wrong all the time), I love that you can grow with the show. Everyone you’re touring with you grow with and become a family, it’s quite special.
Photo credit – James D. Morgan (Jessica Di Costa, Sarah Morrison & Monique Salle)
How did you react when you were cast in the leading role of Sophie in Mamma Mia and what did you like about the role?
Well I had just landed at Brisbane Airport and my Dad had just picked me up from the terminal. Literally when I said ‘Hi Dad’ and put my suitcase in the car, I had missed a call from my agent. My stomach just went into knots immediately. They said I got it and I was just screaming and it was really lovely to share that with my Dad. You just could not wipe the smile off my face.
I think with Sophie, (Mamma Mia) being one of the first shows I ever saw at the Lyric Theatre, QPAC when I was 12 years old, I still get goosebumps and a little choked up because I went with my Mum on a Mother/Daughter date. It was a really big treat because those tickets are quite expensive and it was a big deal. I still get choked up when I see Mums and Daughters in the audience or when I come out stage door and there’s Mums and Daughters around the same age I was. Particularly in this show, the song Slipping through my fingers is just beautiful. There’s something really special about Mother/Daughter bonds that you can’t really quite describe, you just feel it. It is full circle and it gives me shivers.
Also I think I absolutely hands down underestimated Sophie. I saw her as, not that she’s one dimensional but I didn’t see her in the way that I do now. I saw her as this girl who’s gone and created a lot of trouble in a selfish way, inviting three potential Dads to the Island and creating all this drama. I saw her as more being the vehicle for this story, but then you dig deeper and there’s so much more going on.
‘Sophie’s so much more than that and being an absolute feminist myself and having the joy of playing someone like Lisa in Ladies in Black who is a central female character, who’s got no romantic ties and all she wants is to better herself and get an education, Sophie has
She has grown up just her and her Mum, two women doing it by themselves on the Island. I don’t think she wants to find her Dad because she thinks that having that man in her life will complete her, she’s doing it because she can and she wants to. Sophie is a fiercely independent young woman and has taken advantage of that opportunity. I really dig that about her and that she’s super capable. She gets that from her role model, Donna. This character who just went to an Island and did it all.
‘I’m sort of proud of Sophie and I’ve really had an unexpected love affair with this character in a sense that there’s a lot more going on than I first gave her credit for.’
What’s the most challenging and rewarding part about playing Sophie?
Challenging – it’s been a really great stretch for me vocally. Ladies in Black sat in a very comfortable place for me because I was playing a 17 year old girl and that’s a really easy place to sing from and a beautiful innocence to have. Now I’m 20 years old in this show and Sophie’s different to Lisa in a 100 ways as she’s a lot more worldly I suppose and a bit more advanced in certain areas.
For me, singing pop has been a great challenge and I have loved it, to have a belt every night is so great. Also getting to sing some beautiful ballads and I’m really lucky I get a lovely broad stretch of repertoire as Sophie. I have touched on this but a big reward has been creating MY Sophie, this show has been around for 18 years and the role has been done a hundred different times by who knows how many different actresses. I’ve really loved exploring and making her my own and this is my Sophie and it’s been really special.
Is there any role in any musical theatre or straight theatre show you are dying to play?
There’s so many, if anything the list just gets longer. Growing up I had an obsession with Mary Poppins for a very long time. Also Steel Magnolias, I would love to play Shelby. I’d also be a thrill to do Shakespeare, everything. My first passion is acting I love to do straight theatre, I love musicals as well and I’m so lucky that because I can hold a tune that affords me different opportunities in that area, but I’d love to do plays.
Who or what inspires you?
At the moment my cast are incredibly inspiring. I’ve never worked on a show this big before, this is my first big commercial show. In Ladies in Black there was only 11 of us and it was such an ensemble show. But Mamma Mia is a cast of 30 and that’s just the cast then you have the band, stage management, company management, sound etc. We have a huge touring company and it’s a real first for me.
‘I’m really inspired by that (cast) family watching everyone come to work everyday.’
I had my first show off the other week because I was so sick and I couldn’t believe the love that poured from everyone, wishing me better and I can’t describe it. It made me feel so special and loved. I feel the same way about them and it’s been a huge 3 months going from rehearsals into Canberra, Brisbane into Christmas and New Years everyone is working so hard and they are bringing it every night and it’s so awesome.
Fame Reporter speed round
Duck, I love ducks.
Favourite ABBA song?
Essential Dressing Room necessity?
A lot of food. I snack. Specifically snacks, I am always snacking. I’m pretty sure in most of the videos I have uploaded there is always a box of Shapes – BBQ shapes,
If you were stuck on a Greek Island in real life what would accompany you?
Music, my UE Boom.
Favourite number to perform and favourite you don’t sing?
Voulez Vous, because it’s Hens/Bucks night it’s so much fun and Chiquitita it’s hilarious.
Broadway celebrity crush?
Ben Platt. I saw him in Book of Mormon 4 years ago.
Vincent by Don Mclean.
Place you most want to travel to?
I really want to go to Iceland.
Finally, favourite thing about theatre?
There’s magic that happens there and everyone’s apart of it whether you are onstage, backstage or in the audience, it’s magic.
Thank-you Sarah for being our guest at The Fame Reporter we wish you all the best and chookas for the Australian tour of Mamma Mia.