The Bangalow Theatre Company have once again taken on a much-loved musical, with the cast in full-throttle rehearsal mode ahead of their November opening night for Chicago. Julia Keast, who plays Velma, the musical lead, spoke with The Echo.
What’s your background in musical theatre?
I trained in all facets of dance, singing and acting. I started performing professionally at 16 but didn’t do my first musical until I was 24. It was in Italy (where I lived for three years) and it was a spin-off of the movie Dirty Dancing. I played the female supporting lead. The songs in the show were in English (this is quite common in Europe) but acted in Italian and in hindsight I must have been pretty terrible – my Italian was decent but my accent was not! When I returned to Australia (I lived in Europe for almost nine years) I performed in 42nd St, Guys and Dolls and Candyman.
How did you come to be in the region?
I grew up in Banora Point and went to Kingscliff High and my family still live in the area, so at heart I feel like a local BUT I am currently living in Brizzy – we can just take a moment to let that sink in; it has been a hell of a commute for rehearsals!
How did you get involved with the BTC?
One of my oldest and dearest friends in the world is Anouska Gammon. She is the founder of BTC and also choreographer of the show. Anouska and I were chatting about the upcoming auditions for Chicago (it is a dancer’s dream show) and in the excitement of possibly seeing each other weekly and working/dancing together I decided I should audition. Being a part of something she was involved in creatively was irresistible. I had also seen BTC’s previous production of Little Shop of Horrors and was familiar with director Jo Franklin’s excellent work. I didn’t expect to be cast as lead; I retired professionally seven years ago. That was a happy surprise.
What do you think of the BTC as a regional company?
It’s a wonderful regional company. They provide so much support and opportunity within the community to come together through theatre. There is so much local talent that would remain unseen and unheard without BTC. Anouska, Jo (Franklin – director) and Adrienne-Megan (our producer) are incredible women who have brought a deeper sense of performance, art and love to the community. I believe that they will take BTC from strength to strength unearthing new talent and showcasing the brilliant people of the region.
What are the major performing challenges for you as Velma?
It’s a hugely physical show with lots of singing. I mentioned earlier that I haven’t performed in about seven years; I also had a couple of children in that time too, so while my brain is saying ‘do this, Jules’ my body says ‘hahahahahaha NO’. It’s a fantastic challenge!
What should we expect for the local season?
You should prepare to be entertained! Chicagois for everyone! (Well maybe not the small kids – it is also about murder and adultery.)
It is ALL THAT JAZZ!
BTC’S CHICAGO – A&I HALL, BANGALOW
Doors at 6.30pm. Show commences at 7.30pm. Fri November 3 (opening night), 4, 5, and 9–11 Nov. Tickets on sale now at