A Chat With Elise McCann
Triple Threat performer Elise McCann (Miss Honey from Matilda The Musical) plays Cathy in Ensemble Theatre's production of the Jason Robert Brown musical The Last Five Years, from 29 March to 27 April, 2019.
Two young and ambitious New Yorkers. Cathy is an actor. Jamie is a writer. They fall in love and dive head first into a relationship. What could possibly go wrong?
The Last Five Years chronicles the couple’s passionate romance from both perspectives: Jamie from the beginning with all the optimism of young love, looking to the future; Cathy with the hurt and disappointment of its end, looking backwards. Somewhere in between their story overlaps.
On the eve of the production, Elise chats about her passion for musical theatre, and her career.
Is there a moment in your life that first sparked your interest in performing and musical theatre?
When I was 7 I was a Ruffle’s Chip packet in the Sydney Easter Parade with my dance school. No one could recognize me, it was hot, completely unglamorous and a super long walk – but I loved the whole thing and I think that was my first ‘public performance’ that excited me to do more.
Which of your roles has been your favourite so far?
It’s hard to go past Miss Honey. I not only got to work on genuinely amazing material, with an awesome creative and production team, but the cast were constantly inspiring, the audiences were the best I’ve ever had and so invested in us and the show, and the role itself was beautiful. It was a rare and special opportunity to play a complex and challenging woman. One who is full of so much heart and kindness but suffering from huge fear, self doubt and abuse. She has a challenging but really satisfying journey and by the end of the play she gets to overcome that pain and living that each day was a real personal gift.
For Matilda you originally auditioned for the role of Mrs. Wormwood. What was it like landing the role of Miss Honey instead and then winning both a Sydney Theatre Award and Helpmann Award for it?
Umm, this is the most cliche answer but it was frickin’ awesome! I was surprised and nervous and scared and excited all at once. I didn’t expect to win one award let alone two awards, I didn’t even know I’d been nominated for the Sydney Theatre award until a friend messaged congratulating me. Overall, I feel very lucky and proud. I worked really hard and have done so my whole career – it’s not been an overnight or quick journey to get an opportunity like the above, and it is a part of my life I am consciously and consistently grateful for and will never forget.
Singing, acting or dancing? You can only choose one!
Eeek! Can I make it two? I think acting and telling the truth of the story, whether it be through words, song or a dance, is the most important thing. I’d rather watch someone act the hell out of a song than someone just sing it beautifully. But then music, and singing in particular for me, speak to some whole other part of my soul and I think reach people in a different way. So I don’t know – if I HAVE to choose one … maybe singing??
You’re about to perform at Ensemble Theatre for the musical The Last Five Years. What are you most excited about?
I have loved this show since 2003 when my friend Amy gave me a ripped version of the original cast album. I played it incessantly in my car on the way to drama school. So when the opportunity to actually perform this show came up I jumped so quickly! I am so excited about all of it, but mostly about sharing this show that I have loved with a whole bunch of people that have probably never even heard of it, and hopefully making them fall for it as much as I did.
Image: Elise McCann and Christian Charisiou