The Fame Reporter interviewed Australian performers, Marcus Corowa and Irena Lysiuk, playing Frank Doyle and Rose Morris respectively in the historical romance Australian Musical ‘The Sunshine Club’. Presented by Queensland Theatre playing at QPAC’s Playhouse Theatre from 9 to 30 July 2022.
Singer-songwriter and actor Marcus Corowa will fill the boots of Frank Doyle. An award-winning artist of Aboriginal and South Sea Islander heritage from Bowen, Corowa recently seduced audiences as one of The Drifters in Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, with other credits including Opera Australia’s Bran Nue Dae and Sydney Theatre Company’s The Secret River.
Soprano and The Voice alumni Irena Lysiuk will play Rose Morris, the girl of Frank’s dreams and the Reverend’s daughter. A Queensland Conservatorium graduate, Lysiuk has worked extensively with Opera Queensland and The Little Red Company, recently appearing in The Marriage of Figaro and Your Song for them respectively.
We talked to Marcus and Irena about what enticed them to want to join ‘The Sunshine Club’ Musical, their favourite 40s/50s trends, the obstacles interracial couples face in this show which are still present today and more.
Welcome to The Fame Reporter Marcus and Irena, how does it feel to be part of the revival of a classic Australian musical ‘The Sunshine Club’?
Marcus: It feels incredible to be part of The Sunshine Club. It really is so special.
Irena: I was totally overwhelmed when I found out after the auditions that I was going to be a part of this revival! I’ve never worked with Queensland Theatre before, an absolute dream of mine, let alone worked on an Australian First Nations musical. It’s indescribable how brilliant I feel.
What is ‘The Sunshine Club’ about for those who don’t know?
M: The Sunshine Club follows the story of Indigenous soldier Frank Doyle. He returns from the war and thinks he has earned the same rights as everyone else. He soon finds out that this is not the case and his hopes, dreams and ambitions are slowly stripped away.
I: When Frank Doyle (Marcus Corowa), comes back to Brisbane after fighting for his country in WWII, he is crushed by the reality that life back home hasn’t changed for blacks at all. After not being let into Cloudland, Frank starts his own club which is quite the opposite, The Sunshine Club. And you’ll have to come and see it to know what eventuates between Frank and his white, childhood sweetheart, Rose.
Please tell us a little about Rose Morris and Frank Doyle? What tempted you to want to play these roles?
M: Rose Morris is Frank’s childhood friend. They grew up together. However, Rose and Frank grow up to have different lives. Rose is sheltered from the world and lives a privileged life. Frank has experienced the harsh extremities of life and yet still remains optimistic that things can be different.
Rose and Frank gravitate to each other when Frank comes back from war. They love each other but then they are faced with the realities of being together. Playing Frank is something that I’m really interested in exploring. In some cases it’s something that I can really relate to.
I: Rose Morris is a young singer, the Reverend Morris’s daughter and lifelong neighbour of Frank. She has grown up around indigenous people, Aunty Faith (Roxanne McDonald) is her second mother, and she is kind yet totally naive to her own privilege. She is leaving for London in five months to study voice but there’s one thing keeping her – Frank.
What 3 performers dead or alive would you love to have a dinner party with?
M: Michael Jackson, Bill Withers, Prince.
I: Maria Callas. Eva Cassidy. Beyonce.
What is one of your favourite things about the 40s and 50s that you wish could come back in 2022?
M: The suspenders.
I: The hair and the fashion. Come on silhouettes! And maybe the lack of apps…
How would you describe the music in this production?
M: The music is clever. For me, John Rodgers takes your ear slightly away from where it wants to go. It’s kind of refreshing.
I: Romantic and eclectic. John Rodgers uses different styles of the time in the umbrella of jazz, classical and contemporary music. Though varied, they all still sound like John!
How does this love story shine light on reconciliation and treating people equally no matter their ethnicity? Do you believe there is still work to be done today regarding this important issue?
M: It highlights all the themes.
We’ve come along way but there is still a long, long way to go.
I: Yes. This story, though set in the 40s, highlights the obstacles interracial couples and indigenous Australians have always faced. Though some things have improved – racism, judgment and persecution from others is still here in 2022.
This love story and the character development for Pearl, Frank’s sister, both highlight atrocities of the past and the problems of the present.
What is one of your proudest achievements and what are some of your future dreams?
M: My proudest achievement is having a career in the arts. I don’t take that for granted. I left my job at Australia Post to do that. It’s been a journey.
I: Being nommed for Best Actress for Your Song at the Matildas this year was such an honour. Future dreams are really to love and share live theatre for as long as I can!
What can audiences look forward to when they come and see ‘The Sunshine Club’ at QPAC?
M: Audiences can look forward to a magical show that has all the highs and lows.
Expect to be moved.
I: Beautiful music, a banging band and stunning choreography.
A story that hugs you.
Fame Reporter Word Play
The Sunshine Club
M: Lack of diversity
M: Girl next door
M: Mover and Shaker
M: Bran Nue Dae
Favourite dance move
Most memorable role to date
I: My character in Your Song
M: Willie (Bran Nue Dae)
Favourite mantra when you are down
I: Fake it ‘til you make it
M: You’re enough.
Favourite ‘The Sunshine Club’ song
I: Passionfruit Vine
M: ‘Dare To Dream’
M: Beautiful: The Carole King Musical
Savoury or Sweet
Dressing Room necessity
I: Mouth wash
M: The Sunshine Club, haha!
Who would play you in the musical of your life
I: Kristen Chenoweth
M: Not sure.
Place you want to travel to
I: South America
TV Show Binge
I: Parks and Rec
Finally, favourite thing about performing
I: Sharing stories
M: Expression and having a voice.
Thank-you for joining us at The Fame Reporter and we wish you all the best for The Sunshine Club Musical at QPAC!
All photos and videos – Supplied