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Event Spotlight: Q&A with Legally Blonde's Lucy Durack

Thursday 2 May 2013

Event Spotlight: Q&A with Legally Blonde's Lucy Durack

31-year-old Lucy Durack has had an incredible 12 months, the star of Legally Blonde The Musical is not only one of the most sought after triple-threats in Australian musical theatre, she also released an album and penetrated the silver screen this year with a role alongside fellow newcomer Ronan Keating. We chat to Durack about the production’s audition process, her everlasting patriotism and why the music theatre world is more competitive here than anywhere else.

In 2008, MTV ran a ruthless talent search show called Legally Blonde — The Musical: The Search for Elle Woods, it painted the audition process as extremely grueling and competitive. Can you tell us a bit about the audition process for the Australian adaptation?

I auditioned over 8 months for the role of Elle Woods, at the time I was doing the Australian tour of the musical Wicked, playing Glinda the Good Witch - which at the time was in Adelaide and then Perth - filming a cameo in the film Goddess and the telemovie Dripping In Chocolate, both filming in Sydney and auditioning for Legally Blonde in Melbourne, Sydney and then London; it was a crazy time!

The final week was more of a workshop with the London creative team and on the final day I met Jerry Mitchell - the original Broadway director and choreographer of Legally Blonde (as well as loads of other shows!) - for the first time and he gave me the role on the spot! It was quite a grueling process, so to have the ending be such a nice one, was a real treat - and a real relief!

Why do you think you were picked for the principal role?

I have a good work ethic, I fit the character description, I'm currently blonde and I have a fairly good skill set- I've actually got a degree in musical theatre (Hehe- I know that sounds like a fake degree but it's not!). Elle has to sing, act and dance, so that is important and then on top of that Elle has to be believable and vulnerable - if Elle is vulnerable, then the audience will root for her - and that is very important to the whole experience of seeing Legally Blonde. Those last qualities are hard to see in yourself but that is what Jerry Mitchell thinks are the most important ones and he seemed to think I have enough of them to get me across the line- which I am very grateful for!

Rob Mills who played Warner Huntington III (before taking on his role in Grease) was also your cast mate from Wicked - Legally Blonde actually marks your third show together - do the top musical theatre productions tend to feature a lot of the same actors?

Sometimes they do- certainly not all the time- and people can still get lucky breaks (like I did in Wicked!), but there are a lot of other parts of being in a musical than meets the eye, things you don't know you're good at or even if you like doing until you're learning it on the job. There is endless publicity and backing it all up eight shows a week, week after week is not as easy as it may seem- so I guess it's sort of like insurance: If you have people that fit the bill and are tried and tested you know they'll be able to handle it and I guess that's a win for the producers? Also having a sort of 'name' or celebrity type person in the form of someone like Rob Mills will get a different demographic to come and see the show, which is of course a win for everyone. Mills is also a great guy to work with- so it's a win all round.

How competitive is the musical theatre world in Australia compared to overseas?

I guess it is more competitive in some ways as there are less shows, but then again there are not only more shows but more people vying for them overseas so I'm not really sure. I visit London and New York and love that there are so many new and exciting shows and amazing performers over there but I think Australian companies really stand up pretty well next to them. People in Australia are always very grateful to be in the show they are in so are known to have a great work ethic, which I think is something to be proud of. 

You’ve mentioned you’ve branched out to film recently with your cameo in Goddess, starring Ronan Keating and Magda Szubanski, was a spot on the silver screen always part of your career plan?

I always dreamed of doing something on the silver screen so working on this was a real dream come true, and one of the happiest working experiences of my life - one that I'll always treasure.

Do you have plans to perform overseas?

My family live in Perth and to have the career I have, I've lived pretty much between Sydney and Melbourne with a few months in Brisbane and Adelaide here and there for the better part of the last 10 years. I'm a big family person and being away from my family is definitely the biggest sacrifice I've had to make, but at least we are only two or three hours apart (depending on the time of the year) in terms of time zones, which means I can stay much more connected to them than if I lived overseas.

Having my family as a very regular part of my life is a major priority to me, so while I think it would be very exciting to spend a stint of time working overseas - and certainly would if it was for a certain period of time - I plan to base myself primarily in Australia. I am also very proud of our Australian industry, so I'm a happy camper.

You’ve also recorded an album, can you tell us about it? 

I had the great joy of getting to record an album with ABC Music last year. It's full of songs I have always loved and I even worked with some incredible songwriters and had a hand in writing a couple of new songs as well. There are a lot of lush strings and horns played by amazing musicians on the album too - orchestrated really beautifully - all of which was a real luxury for me. It is largely jazz, with a bit of soul and it is made up of songs that make me feel good- in the hope that it makes others feel good too.

What advice do you have for those wanting to achieve a career like yours, and are there any particular courses you advocate to do so?

I did a Bachelor of Arts (Music Theatre) at the WA Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA), which I loved, but there are lots of great courses out there and lots of great classes. I think the full time courses are great as you get to immerse yourself completely in it but I also know plenty of great artists that have gone from job to job and learned on the job and that's worked wonders for them, so everyone has a different way to getting there. For those starting out, performance experience is so useful so, within reason, say yes to all performance opportunities. But mostly, work hard and stay positive; I truly believe if you can do this, you'll get there. 

What’s the biggest misconception about musical theatre?

I think films and TV shows often depict the industry as backstabbing and nasty, which has not at all been my experience. The more I go on, the more I meet amazing, kind, generous industry professionals who are supportive and lovely to each other; it seems the more successful, the lovelier people tend to be. It's hard to know what comes first, the chicken or the egg, but it's inspiring either way.


Legally Blonde The Musical kicks off its Melbourne run next Thursday at the Princess Theatre and continues until August 25.

- Poppy Reid