The Fame Reporter interviewed captivating performer, Ryan Gonzalez. Ryan is starring in ‘To Barbra, With Love – An 80th Birthday Celebration’ of the legendary Barbra Streisand, playing at the Concert Hall, QPAC from 3 – 4 February.
To Barbra With Love, the highly successful celebration of the inimitable Barbra Streisand, is set to be remounted in Brisbane with Camerata – Queensland’s Chamber Orchestra. Premiered with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra at Hamer Hall earlier this year, the concert was acclaimed by audiences and critics alike.
Two of Australia’s hottest musical theatre talents – Elise McCann (Matilda The Musical, Merrily We Roll Along) and Ryan Gonzalez (they/them) (Moulin Rouge! The Musical, Jersey Boys) – join Australia’s own musical theatre royalty Caroline O’Connor and genre-hopping vocalist Katie Noonan for these not-to-be-missed concerts.
We sat down with performer Ryan Gonzalez and talked about their involvement in ‘To Barbra With Love, what they have learned being part of the Australian arts industry, their role in Moulin Rouge and more.
Welcome to The Fame Reporter Ryan, what about ‘To Barbra With Love’ enticed you to want to be involved in the show and what does the show entail?
I was completely enticed by the concept. A celebration of Barbra’s greatest hits, celebrating her 80th birthday and with a symphony orchestra? There was nothing not to love, and the minute I heard I said, yes. The icing on the cake was the announcement of the tour around Australia. It is such a beautifully put together show and pays tribute to the icon herself. For me, the show entails a lot of vocal range, some vocal stamina and my acting chops. All Barbra traits through and through.
I think to truly salute Barbra you have to connect with the songs the way she does and handle them with the care and the artistry that she performs with.
Do you have a role in theatre that you are dying to play?
Ha! This is a great question. I have had a couple of roles as a young teenager that I was dying to play, and fortunately I got to play them. Frankie Valli and Usnavi De La Vega. Both massive roles and I adored playing them so much. I must say I am dying to play the Emcee in Cabaret. That’s definitely on the bucket list. Anita from West Side Story would be heaven. But I am really interested in new works. I love creating characters so hopefully something new!
What do you love about Barbra’s story and how she achieved immense longevity and success during her over 60 year career?
Barbra knows no bounds. She is truly limitless. She has done it all. She really said at every twist and turn of her career – but what if I did it my way, and she was correct. I think the main thing about Barbra I observe is that she is always trying to out do herself, and not in a competitive way, but in a creative way. She masters something and then finds something else to master and continues to create a legacy for herself that is multifaceted and uniquely hers.
I think the biggest lesson you can learn from Barbra is to challenge yourself to be the best yourself you can be. Always be a student.
What is one thing you have discovered about yourself and society during your involvement in the arts industry within Australia?
I think what is interesting about theatre and society and Australia is that, we rely heavily on the arts for everything. For joy, creativity, escapism. But Australia has taken a very long time to acknowledge it. Theatre is live and an exchange of energy, it is very rare to have something effect you as immediately as theatre does.
Theatre has the power to change people’s minds, just by immersing yourself in it. So, I guess it hurts when theatre or performing arts industry gets put on the back burner, because it is blindingly obvious how essential theatre and art is to our communities.
In regard to myself, I used to refer to performing as ‘just performing’. As ‘just singing/just dancing’, like it didn’t really make a difference. But it’s just not true. It is interesting when you see performers diminishing their art and creativity because they feel it is inferior to other work, or it is inferior to society. We have learnt growing up loving theatre that theatre isn’t essential, when it is.
I have discovered, I affect a lot of people who come and see a show, and it isn’t just a hobby anymore, it is my job to move people and to inspire and represent change in people’s minds. It is a brilliant job to have, and I am so happy to have discovered my true purpose.
What 3 performers dead or alive would you love to have a dinner party with?
This is a great question. Okay I have to have Patti LuPone and Stanley Tucci. My third spot has to go to Prince. What an icon.
What do you love about your role as Santiago in Moulin Rogue The Musical and what are some of your future dreams?
Santiago is such a dream. I love the freedom the character has built into it.
He wears his heart on his sleeve and believes in the power of his bohemian lifestyle and bringing art alive, by the artists and for the artists.
My favourite number to perform is the top of act two, Backstage Romance. It is such a challenging moment in the show, and it requires everything I have, all of the skills. And getting to play with Samantha Dodemaide as Nini is the highlight of my entire show. We are so well matched in energy and chemistry, and we’re also very good mates offstage we laugh ALOT.
As for my future dreams. I don’t wanna give them away too much. I like to work in the background in silence.
Hopefully I can do more concerts saluting Queer Icons with symphony and chamber orchestras!
How thrilled are you to be performing with Camerata – Queensland’s Chamber Orchestra with your brilliant co-stars?
We are so keen to be performing with Camerata. They are iconic and genius and I cannot wait to hear them play out these incredible arrangements. It is always so intriguing working with a new orchestra in such a short amount of preparation time. Each performance is slightly unique and different from the last.
It is fun for me and my co-stars Caroline O’Connor, Katie Noonan and Elise McCann to really lean into Orchestra’s like Camerata – Queensland’s Chamber Orchestra and allow them to inform us of their interpretation of the music, led by the incredible Vanessa Scammell.
How important is representation in the theatre and arts community in general?
I don’t think we realise how important representation is in the theatre and arts communities. Our art soars when we include and collaborate with Bla(c)k, Indigenous, People of Colour, people of low socioeconomic backgrounds, disability (cognitive/psychological/physical), body diverse, transgender and gender diverse identifying artists.
For an industry that has a job connecting people, including the very people that it is connecting with is essential. It is the only way for the Australian theatrical and arts community to move forward and start evolving to create better theatre.
Theatre is made to relay the world around us back to an audience. Let’s include everyone that makes up that world.
Why should audiences come along and see ‘To Barbra With Love’?
I think audiences that love Barbra must come to see it. I think if you love music theatre you have to come see it. If you love 70’s pop you have to come see it. If you love disco you have to come see it. Plus, you never want to miss an opportunity to see a chamber orchestra in action, in my humble opinion.
There is so much packed into this concert, I really mean it when I say there is something for everybody.
Fame Reporter Word Play
To Barbra with Love
Favourite mantra when you are down
This is only for now.
Any secret talents
I’m quite a good cook
Probably In the Heights
Savoury or Sweet
Favourite Moulin Rogue song
Roxanne of course
The Bogo Pogo
Dressing Room necessity
Truth Beauty Freedom Love
Can’t live without
Is attracting (a quote from Will and Grace) haha
Favourite recording or performing artist
At the moment I am in love with Durand Bernarr
Favourite Barbra Streisand song
Place you want to travel to
Peanut Butter Pretzels
TV Show Binge
Finally, favourite thing about performing
The immediacy and electricity and the discipline
Thank-you Ryan for joining us at The Fame Reporter and we wish you all the best for To Barbra With Love at QPAC!
Concert Hall, QPAC
Playing from 3 – 4 February 2023