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The stars of Frozen talk musicals, magic and expectations

musicals Feb 04, 2021

One of Sydney's hottest musicals has been playing to such acclaim that the season has been extended several times, with performances now running until the end of May. Disney's Frozen the Musical is a must-see, not only because of the beloved storyline but for the talented cast and creatives who bring the magic to life on stage. We caught up with Jemma Rix (Elsa) and Courtney Monsma (Anna) to talk about life as musical theatre stars.

What is your favourite musical (aside from Frozen of course!)? What was the musical you saw that made you want to star in a musical?

JR: I’m a massive fan of Hamilton. I literally listen to the cast recording every day and I’ve watched the production on Disney+ too many times to count. Lin-Manuel Miranda has written such deep lyrics that move me to tears and I absolutely love all the clever musical beats and rhythms. I’m so excited to see the Australian production of it soon.

When I was 19, I saw We Will Rock You. I remember being in awe watching Amanda Harrison singing 'No One But You'. I started to audition for shows after that so you can imagine how beside myself I was when I was cast as her Elphaba standby in the original production of Wicked in Australia.

CM: I am a massive theatre fan but as of late my favourite show is SIX! I love its concept and I could listen to the soundtrack for hours on end and never bore of it. The first musical I watched was a production of Annie where my older sister played the role. I remember sitting there and realising that musical theatre was my dream.

I remember sitting there and realising that musical theatre was my dream. – Courtney

Both Elphaba (Wicked) and Elsa are complex, misunderstood characters. Jemma, how would you compare the two roles?

JR: Elphaba is outspoken, brave and courageous about her differences. When she feels safe to put her defences down, people can see her kindness, compassion and vulnerabilities.

Elsa can’t show any emotion because of what it might do to people, so she locks herself away to protect others. Both characters are incredibly kind, compassionate and vulnerable but they express it through different ways. I love when Elsa discovers that love will thaw and from that discovery, she becomes free.

Anna is optimistic, courageous and accident-prone. How much do you relate to her character, Courtney – how similar do you think you are?

CM: I think I am strikingly similar to Anna and her characteristics! I’m always leading from my heart in all I do always trying to look on the bright side. I never aim to give up and I admire that quality in Anna! As Anna says, I’m a tornado, with pigtails. I feel that.

As Anna says, I’m a tornado, with pigtails. – Courtney

What was it like going into rehearsal the first day? Were there any challenges? Any huge laughs?

JR: I was incredibly nervous because I had been in Victoria for the massive lockdown period so I hadn’t been performing very much. I had practiced everything in my own lounge room but not in front of other people so my nerves were very high on the first day. The creatives and the cast were all so welcoming and kind so we all settled into learning the show together and having so much fun discovering our characters.

I was incredibly nervous because I had been in Victoria for the massive lockdown period so I hadn’t been performing very much. – Jemma

CM: Going into rehearsals on the first day was so exciting! The energy in the room was buzzing, I was very nervous but knew I wasn’t alone, as this show means a great deal to all those involved. Putting like-minded people in a room there were lots of laughs muffled through masks of course!

What’s the scene you most enjoy performing in front of a live audience (without giving too much away)?

JR: It has to be ‘Let It Go’. I love hearing the audience reaction every night. It is such an iconic moment; I still pinch myself that I get to play Elsa eight times a week.

I still pinch myself that I get to play Elsa eight times a week. – Jemma

CM: I always really enjoy performing 'First Time in Forever'. By bringing the excitement in the role I think audiences begin to join Anna on her journey and feel that excitement also. It’s a beautiful privilege to do that and every night you can feel the electricity!

... every night you can feel the electricity! – Courtney

Where do you think the magic lies in Frozen and Disney?

JR: I think it’s a combination of things that make it so wonderful. The love, strength and bond between sisters. Elsa embracing who she is instead of living in fear. Anna not needing a Prince to save her. The music is so powerful and catchy. It can make you laugh and cry. Children and adults can learn from these messages that are the fabric of the show and that’s why I believe so many people love it so much.

The music is so powerful and catchy. It can make you laugh and cry. – Jemma

CM: Frozen is filled with magic, not just physically with the precision of the costumes, sets and special effects, but with the truth and heart brought by all members of the show. Disney itself has universal themes that connect people of all ages and this story is so beautifully crafted for a current audience.

Jemma, you need to perform ‘Let It Go’ almost every day for months. Some parents would have very mixed feelings about doing that – how do you keep it interesting and different?

JR: I’ve learnt this from being in other shows over the years, which is to always stay in the moment. I turn off my ‘Jemma thoughts’ and sit completely inside my character. Doing this, keeps me completely in the moment so it always feels fresh and truthful eight times a week.

I turn off my ‘Jemma thoughts’ and sit completely inside my character. – Jemma

There are several new songs in Frozen, which is the one you love the most?

JR: I love singing 'Monster' in Act 2. Musically it is awesome to sing but I also love the lyrics because she is asking herself deep questions about who she is. Elsa decides to not run or hide anymore and face who she truly is and do the right thing no matter what that outcome may be for her.

Courtney, you recently played one of the queens in SIX and now you’re playing a feisty Disney princess. How would you compare the two?

CM: Both roles, knowing or without knowing, hold their feminine power and lead from their individual self rather than that of a man. Both Howard and Anna rise from the patriarchy at some point in their journey and they wear their crowns well. Katherine Howard taught me to stand tall and walk confidently (as a performer and person); this has helped massively when playing Anna’s never-ending optimism for life and the belief in her own ability to save her sister.

Both Howard and Anna rise from the patriarchy at some point in their journey and they wear their crowns well. – Courtney

Frozen and Anna are so beloved, how do you balance audience expectation with your own interpretations?

CM: Bringing to life an iconic animation character comes with expectation. However, my process relied a lot in the truth of finding 'my' Anna. Finding the similar qualities that bring her to life in the film. Once this felt matched internally, there is so much room to trust and play on stage! As long as I stay true to her nature, I let go of other expectations.

Who is secretly your favourite character in Frozen?

JR: Olaf. He makes me laugh every day! His childlike joy is so wonderful. I love hearing the audience belly laugh at what he says on stage each night.

CM: Secretly I love Elsa (it’s not so secret, being her sister and all). I think she is a beautiful, simple yet complex character and the way Jemma portrays this character makes me love her even more!

Tickets to Frozen the Musical start from $49.50; purchase your tickets between now and 11:59PM (AEDT), Sunday 14 February and automatically go into the draw to win a special Frozen VIP upgrade experience and merchandise package with a total value of $262.

Catherine Mah

Catherine likes to run, eat and read but not simultaneously. If you can't find her doing these things, she's most likely sleeping.