Transcript of Michael Cormick chat
This transcript has been edited slightly for clarity. Listen to the podcast (39:01)
Jackie – The following podcast is brought to you by the Creative Arts Curriculum Team from Secondary Learners Educational Standards Directorate of the New South Wales Department of Education. As we commence this podcast today, let us acknowledge the traditional custodians of all the lands on which this podcast will be played around New South Wales. Their art, storytelling, music and dance along with all first nations people hold the memories, the traditions, the culture and hopes of Aboriginal Australia. Let us acknowledge with honour and respect our elders past, present and future, especially those Aboriginal people in our presence today who have and still do guide us with their wisdom.
Welcome to the creative cast podcast series. I'm Jackie King on I'm a creative arts project officer for the New South Wales Department of Education. Today I'm excited to be having an industry chat with one of Australia's music theatre legends having performed roles in Beauty and the Beast, Joseph, Grease and Phantom of the Opera. Please welcome Michael Cormick.
Hi, Michael. Thank you so much for joining us today.
Michael – Hi Jackie, how are you?
Jackie – I'm great, thank you. I'm really excited for this chat today because you're one of our national stars of my favourite genre of entertainment, music theatre. That's what I'm really passionate about and interested in, so I'm really eager to discuss your journey and how you came to be on the stage. So I was just wondering if you could start by maybe telling us a little bit about your youth and where your interest in music or the theatre began?
Michael – Well, as my brothers and family would say, I was born to be on the stage, which is quite interesting. But you know what? I've got five older brothers and two younger sisters. None of them have anything to do with it or anything to do with music. So really, I think in many ways kind I was just born with it, and I always, you know, loved to sing and did all that and used to put on plays at home for the family, to the disgust and I think sometimes the unwillingness of my brothers who were forced to come in and watch the show. I used my sisters as the backup girls, and if they were incorrect in their timing or anything, that whole show would stop and the diva would walk out – meaning me. It was definitely theatrical from the beginning. I then sang in church and believe it or not, I was incredibly shy. Yeah, that's changed, but I was so shy. I used to hide, you know, from the congregation, and I'd either be upstairs in the pulpit or have to face the back, you know, to be able to cope with doing it. I think then, through school actually which we'll get to later, it was encouraged, you know, to bring this out a little more. I ended up doing a school talent quest when I must have been, like 14, 13 something like that. I really resisted, but my school teachers were the ones who went “come on, you can do this, you've got to do it”. And it was one of those moments where I walked out on the stage and, you know, in the Hollywood movies where the orchestra starts playing, you know, I heard my own voice through this amplified microphone, it was really a moment for me when I went “oh wow, okay, what's that”. And it's such a powerful thing to realize, you know, that you have a talent, I suppose, and to me it's always about an energy exchange, and I could feel that immediately. So that was something that kind of definitely tipped something in my brain to go “okay, this is what I love”. And really, I think the end of day wasn't the adoration, it's just that kind of energy going “wow, this is special, whatever it is”, so I went along.
Jackie – ‘The bug’
Michael – Yeah! I won that talent quest. And I unbeknownst to me John Proper, who was the producer of ‘New Faces’ – now, you're too young to even remember that, right?
Jackie – Yeah.
Michael – ‘New Faces’ was like the equivalent to ‘The Voice’ today.
Jackie – Okay, I grew up with ‘Young Talent Time’
Michael – It was around the same time, and Bert Newton was actually the host of ‘New Faces’. My parents said, I think it was a Friday or something, “um, we're going for a drive with just you and us, and you should wear something nice”. I was like, “um, just me and we're going for a ride? this is really suspect”. I mean, with eight children… and I had no real idea what was happening until we pulled up at Channel Nine and I was like, “here we go”.
Jackie – How nerve racking!
Michael – How nerve racking! But something about me it was like a duck to water, you know? I got in there and did the whole thing and won that thing and then won that year – and that's where it all began. And from then on, from 14, that was it. That's all I've ever done. Jackie – Sure. So, what was your first music theatre performance?
Michael – The first show I did was ‘Cats’.
Jackie – Munkustrap?
Michael – Yeah. How do you know?
Jackie – I did a little bit of reading.
Michael – There you go. I was kind of asked to come into that because I have never thought – I wanted to be a pop star, so I had no interest in musical theatre at all. They asked me to come in and audition for that and because I wasn't primarily a dancer, I'd done a few classes and things, went and auditioned and yeah, they offered me that role. So I took over with Deborah Byrne as my co-star then and it was pretty amazing, yeah. And that kind of gave me the bug, the musical theatre bug.
Jackie – I'm familiar with ‘Cats’, but I don't know the characters that well, is Munkustrap a heavy dancing role?
Michael - No, it's not actually. It is more the kind of young prince if you like, you know, he’s the head of the street gang. ‘Cats’ is a very particular taste in its story, I mean, the music's amazing, but the T S Elliot poems were sort of drawn together through this one song ‘Memory’ that a young Andrew Lloyd Webber went away for one weekend and wrote. Now I think it brings in possibly the most amount of money of any song in the world.
Jackie – The song memory, my son is eight and he does a bit of dancing and he absolutely loves ‘Cats’, asks for it to be put on all the time. I'm not a huge fan of cats myself.
Michael – I can’t say anything.
Jackie – But he loves it. When I was in about Year 8 I saw you in Grease, actually, as Kenickie in the arena spectacular at the Newcastle Entertainment Centre. Did you enjoy doing like a big production that in those arenas like Grease was?
Michael - You know, it was really quite amazing because that we had a great cast with that one. We were meant to do – this is to explain to whoever's listening – it was an arena of 10,000 people and each week we do open somewhere new within Australia. We were meant to do one tour of that around Australia, and we ended up doing four. It was so hugely successful. And yeah, what a fantastic gig for me, I mean, it was just quite wonderful. Danni Minogue played Rizzo and I got to play the naughty Kenickie. As you’d remember, you know, my car went up and actually flew into the air and it had 100,000 fibre optic lights popping out of it and I was on the bonnet. I don't know how we get away with it now, um, doing (singing) “go greased lightning” on the bonnet, you know standing there with no strings attached
Jackie – No harness? There’s no way you'd get away with that now.
Michael – It was so thrilling, actually, that was a really amazing show for us. Yeah.
Jackie – One of the highlights of that show was Anthony Warlow coming down from the top, did he have to sit up the top for the whole show?
Michael – No. For the second act he did, yeah. He’d go up with the band, remember the band used to go up on the record player, on the record? They flew up, so he was up there for – yeah, the whole of the second act.
Jackie – Yeah, wow.
Michael – He’d fly down as an angel and do that one song. Amazing.
Jackie – I know, it was really cool. I really loved that. And I think for me, I think I was in about Year 8 at the time at school, that was like a really big, big inspiration for myself as a performer. In talking about inspiration, my husband is also quite into theatre, and he saw you in ‘Joseph’ as the Pharaoh, and he always talks about the bus trip home from school – it was a school excursion – and the bus trip home, and all of the girls talking about Michael Cormick as the Pharaoh in ‘Joseph’.
Michael – (Laughing) Yeah, look, you know, when I was younger obviously they were the kind of roles, you know, the juvenile lead, you know, naughty boy kind of roles, which is great. You know, that's kind of the sex symbol of the show if you like. Again, what an amazing production that is and to work with the incredible Tina Arena, who's one of my great mates, it's just that quality. David Dixon you know, it was just beautiful. And I love that show. You know, I saw it in London last year, they've done a new production completely kind of changed it. Jason Donovan was in that as the Pharaoh, and it was fantastic. It was really, really cool to see that reinvented again. So I'd say, you know, keep your eyes out, that one might be back very soon.
Jackie – Oh, really? Okay. Obviously, I can't not talk to you about working with Hugh Jackman in ‘Beauty and the Beast’, where you played the Beast and won a Mo award for your role in that show. One of my favourite songs is ‘If I can't Love Her’ – such a glorious song. Can you talk about being in ‘Beauty and the Beast’?
Michael – Well, you know, I suppose in a way in Australia, that was my big break as such. I remember going to the auditions and again it was one of those moments, the pre-audition where the Australian casting team, you know, said, they wanted me to come in for Gaston because I played all those other roles. And, you know I said “no I want to do the other one”. Like, “what other one?”. I was like “The Beast!”. Anyway, I went in to sing the material and just try it out with them. And again, that was like the orchestra coming in and we all stopped and looked at each other and went “Oh, yeah”. So, that was amazing to get that role and, of course beautiful Rachel Beck played Belle. Now she still my dearest friend and you know, I'm godfather to her daughters, we're very, very, very close. And the young guy then who was unknown, who had just finished ‘Corelli’ was Hugh Jackman. It was Hugh's first musical ever. You know, we all became very close and that, Bert Newton was in there. We had an amazing, again what an amazing experience to create. This was the first show out of America, you know, they'd done it in Broadway and I think LA, then we kind of came here and did the huge production here. Now that was lavish. It's incredible. I mean, to have that form of production. There's something very, very special about that because I've become in a way, it was the first huge kind of lavish, multi-million dollar production we've had since Phantom, you know, like the Phantom I was in. Can you believe it was like, three hours of makeup, every show.
Jackie – I can believe that.
Michael – To get all of that on, and then it came off. You did the magic for me to become the Prince. So on matinee days I'd go straight back into makeup.
Jackie – So it obviously had to come off quite quickly, too mid show, and I'm sure you're not going to reveal the magic of how that happens.
Michael – I have never even told my mum.
Jackie – Oh really?
Michael – No, because we were explained to at the time that, you know, illusion, magic is magic and, you know, it's the best to keep it where it is. It's an illusion, and it's created for that reason. And really, I think that particular – I was going to say trick, it's not a trick – but that illusion, that's one of my favourites ever. I went to see the show on Broadway before I started and I was like, “wow, how am I going to do that? I don't know what they're doing”. For those of you who didn't see it, it's the Beast basically levitates off the ground and then spins mid-air and then turns into the handsome groom and then comes, you know, levitating down. So it's really something.
Jackie – It is magical. It's not the only show where you've had a bit of magic, though. There's a bit of magic in ‘Phantom’ too where he does his disappearing trick. So I was reading your bio and, did you play the Phantom and Raoul in two different productions on the West End?
Michael – Yeah, yeah, yeah. So they were different times, obviously. Yeah. One was a lot younger. You know, when I first went in, when I first got to London, I auditioned for Raoul in Phantom of the Opera and a couple of other things I was auditioning for at the same time and I eventually got, they asked me to do Raoul. So that was a really exciting time, too, because I think I was like, the second year in. So it was really fresh. And it was the time where people would still queue around the corner and, you know, fly in from wherever in the world to come and see it. So it was pretty amazing, very exciting.
Jackie – I watched a documentary once on ‘Phantom’ and they said in Australia the chandelier comes down the fastest in Australia than it does anywhere else in the world, apparently, because our WHS laws were a little bit looser anywhere else. Which, I guess, you know, you were able to fly on a car with no harness in 1998. Would you say that? Do you think the chandelier comes down fast in Australia?
Michael - I don't know, because uncannily I never did the production here. You know, Marina Prior and I often work together. Not on Phantom, obviously, but you know, we'll sing the duet from ‘Phantom’ and things only because I did it London and she and she did it here. And we will often we sing the duet ‘All I Ask of You’ and it was so drilled into us that the timing is exactly the same whenever we sing and you just cannot divert from that after doing it for so long because there's a particular way that the phrasing goes and all of that. So you know, the first time was sang it could do it in 10 years time and do it exactly the same way.
Jackie – Because you rehearsed it so much.
Michael – Yeah!
Jackie – What would you say some of the comparisons are between the industry here in Australia and the industry overseas, or the West End, where you've also worked.
Michael – Comparatively well, look, obviously the business is larger, especially in musical theatre on the West End and Broadway. Well, it was, I mean, and it will come back. It's a lot larger, so there's more competition, I suppose, and also there are more performers, and there's more of a sense of family. I mean of actually, ‘the industry’ as such, because there's obviously more shows. So within the West End, you can go to, say, any bar after a show or specific bars where you know there's gonna be other performers, you know, and that's always great fun. Here we have a beautiful industry, and it's just a lot smaller. We don't have as many shows either, so that could make it slightly more difficult. I mean, if you're in the West End there's more chance of getting a job because there's more shows, you know.
Jackie – Is that right?
Michael – Yeah, yeah, because we only have a few productions going at a time and if they're all cast, they're gone. Whereas say, in the UK, you've got then so many touring versions and the smaller shows and fringe shows and – yeah, many more opportunities as such.
Jackie – I wouldn't have thought of it like that. I would have thought it would be harder.
Michael – Yeah, it can be harder, but there is more. So there were more people vying for the job as well, but yeah, but there's a lot more to be looked at.
Jackie – So, you obviously have done a few Andrew Lloyd Webber shows, and I saw that you were in the Andrew Lloyd Webber, the Australasian tour of his concerts. How was that? And what songs in what shows did you represent in that tour?
Michael – Well, uncannily ‘Phantom’, because it was also mash up of many things. So ‘Sunset Boulevard’, which is fantastic, I never never got to play that role. But there was a combination of many things, so we would all, I think there were eight of us so it would all combine and depending, it sort of mashes up all the shows. But it culminated in ‘Phantom’, of course, being the most prolific and famous, I suppose. So yeah, it was great. It was great fun. I mean, beautiful cast yet again. Great singers. And, you know, and I've kind of done quite a bit of work closely with Andrew. Sorry, Sir Andrew – no its Lord Andrew now, isn't it?
Jackie – I wouldn't want to say, just so I'm not disrespectful, but, yes, he has been knighted.
Michael – Yeah. Yeah. It's been great to, you know, sing his music. Actually, I had an occasion where I was in London and I had auditioned for Phantom when they asked me to come to Andrew's apartment, “would you do that tomorrow?” and I was like, “yeah fine, what do we need to bring?” and they said nothing. So I turned up 24 years old, bought a new suit. Was very nervous, anyway I got up into his penthouse, and there he is sitting there and 10 people on the couches. I was like, “…what's this?” and he said, “Michael, what do you want to sing for us?”. I said “well I didn't bring anything”. He said “don't worry, well, do you know this from Evita? Do you know this from Jesus Christ Superstar?”. Uh, I didn't know any of these songs. I mean, how embarrassing. And he said, “oh don't worry, just sing this”, and I said, “well, I don't read music”. And he's like, “oh, God, this is looking really good, isn't it?”. I was the first person to sing ‘Love Changes Everything’. So they wanted somebody sing it and test it out. Yeah, I was the first one to do.
Jackie – Wow, that's funny. I was going to try and get to talk to you about doing ‘Blood Brothers’ because ‘Blood Brothers ‘is one of those really special shows to me. I've done it twice in the amateur theatre scene, but one of the productions I did had Jon English in it. And when you say you were asked to perform one of these songs and you just didn't know any of them – I got into a situation once. We were performing with Jon to promote the show, and Jon called me on to stage to, sing ‘Six Ribbons’ with him to do the to-re-ly a bit, and I didn't know it. And he goes, but everybody knows it. No, no, I'm a bit younger than that and I didn't know it. So yeah, it's hard when somebody expects that you just know the songs because they're out there.
Michael – I should have been a little clever when I was going to have to go to his apartment. You know, I should have kind of known his songs, but again, I wanted to be a pop star at that time. I was over there going to get a recording contract. I wanted to be like Jason Donovan.
Jackie – So did you ever pursue that pop star side of things? Or did theatre just ended up being you're calling?
Michael – Well at that age, yes, I did have contracts with EMI in London. And you know, it's always difficult, that sort of thing, because you can record and you could be under contract and nothing happens. And that's, ah, part of the illusion of the business that people don't see, you know. But then, yeah, the musical theatre did sort of take its bug, and it really is a bug, because within that you create families as I was saying before, and there's something very special about that.
Jackie – I would tend to agree. I have only ever done sort of amateur, and a little bit of pro-am, but you get so close to the people that you are spending all of that time with.
Before we go on to schools, the last thing I wanted to talk about is you're doing your own cabaret show, the music of Burt Bacharach, and I found that interesting to read because I feel like a lot of people who do musical theatre – they're taken with the music Burt Bacharach and often do sort of cabaret shows. What is it about Burt's music that has inspired you for your one man show?
Michael – Two things. It's storytelling, which I think is really important, and within theatre that's what we try to do, you know, to tell stories, and he does that within one song. You know, there's always a beautiful story or a sad story or whatever it may be, but it is about storytelling. And melody wise, it's really just entrancing, and actually it’s a lot harder to sing than a lot of people think. I do love Bacharach’s stuff. The other one that I love is Stephen Sondheim because again,
Jackie – Also very difficult!
Michael – Yeah, very difficult, just incredible writing for a singer to be able to get your teeth into, you know, and it's got something about it that's again about the story. If you could get that across that's possibly, you know, the best thing we could do as artists.
Jackie – Do you have a favourite role that you have done at all over your career?
Michael – That's always a hard question because they're all so different, you know, they're all really different. I do love, obviously the big, meaty roles like the Beast, and like Phantom. I think the favourite is the next one, the one coming up.
Jackie – That's true. Have you got one coming up?
Michael – No, not at this point. Nothing I can talk about.
Not that you can, fair enough, fair enough. Last question before we get onto schools. I saw you've done some royal command performances, and I'm a real sucker for the Royals and watching different shows about royalty, I'm actually watching a whole series on The Tudors at the moment. What was performing in a royal command performance like?
Michael – Like any kind of concert. Whatever things have planned for you, you know you're in collaboration. Just depends on what you're doing. You know, at that time, I was singing out of Les Miserables, which I've never actually got to do that show either. Uh, there was one other time when I did – it was a poem, an unknown author has written a poem ‘Do Not Stand At My Grave and Weep’. I was approached by people to record it. They'd written lyrics, um, which, you know, I did dub the funeral song because basically it's the most popular poem at funerals. So some reason I got to do a royal command performance with that one, so that was pretty amazing, yeah. And the full orchestra, it was gorgeous. You know, Royal Albert Hall, which you just you feel, I suppose, the history in those places, and because of its reputation that could make you nervous alone, you know.
Jackie – I bet that and so many amazing people have sort of stood on those stages, to then also do that yourself, that would be amazing.
Michael – Like when I did the Melbourne Cup last year and somebody said to me “you know, you shouldn't be nervous, it's only eight billion people you're performing too”. I was like – okay, okay, take a deep breath.
Jackie – That would make me more nervous. So, some of the steps that you talk to get to your career. You said that you had never really done like an acting school or music theatre school or anything like that. So, you said you did ‘New Faces’ and then moved on from there. What was some of the steps that you sort of feel you took that were important to be having the career that you've got today?
Michael – You know, again, I went along with nature, I suppose, and instinct. I left school probably too young because, you know, at that point I was being offered all of these things because I started to do regular television like the Don Lane show, Bert Newton shows, Mike Walsh, you know, and I was the young boy, with this big old voice. Then it was often cruise ships, things like that so I left school, you know, probably too young and went off and was in showbiz and kind of learned on the boards, you know? And then I suppose it's always about connections? And yet not even that, you know, it's just about knowing what's going on because even going up to London, I knew nobody and they used to have – this is old school – you used to have a paper called ‘The Stage’ and would have all the auditions written in it, and so you'd look it up and then just turn up. But now it's a very different process. You know, I remember standing in a line with 2000 boys for a musical called ‘Time’, and got to my place in the queue and they said “oh, we like you, can you come back this afternoon?”. And I had an audition for ‘Les Miserables’ the same day, so I had to have two different outfits obviously – one was a rock star and the other was a ‘Les Mis’ look. I thought “I’ve got to get changed on the way” so I went up to Charing Cross Road. I was walking along and thought “where can I get changed”. I saw a phone booth and went “ah, Superman could do it, So could I”. So I ran back and forth, you know, to auditions all day. Anyway, I got both gigs, which was quite nice.
Jackie – Oh, so were they on at the same time? Did you have to make a choice?
Michael – Yeah, and so I went with ‘Time’ because it was more of a rock musical. Like I said, I want to be a pop star, but it's all interesting.
Jackie – That is interesting. So we'll get onto schools. Did you said you left school young, what age did you finish school?
Michael – 16
Jackie – 16. So that's sort of, Year 9, Year 10. Year 10. Okay, so when you were at school, did you do any sort of creative or performing arts subjects? Like, did you study creative or performing arts as a subject at school?
Michael – What we had was music and drama, you know, that's what it was called, and I suppose in a way they were my saviour, you know, because obviously they were my favourite subjects and they were my favourite teachers. But again, I would sort of stress that I was really shy. You know, my two teachers, Judy Wardale who was drama and Carleen Selderson who ended up becoming friends later on, they were the encouraging force that would actually have even made me go and do that talent quest that night, you know, they were the ones going “come on”. They obviously saw talent, and they try to encourage it and make it grow.
Jackie – Do you remember much about doing those subjects at school? Do you think that kind of inspired your career at all or started that aspiration to be on the stage?
Michael – For sure. I mean, of course. And I mean, it was their encouragement, and I think they basically saw talent. So they took me aside a little bit and kind of started to work on that more. Not privately, but you know, a little more, intensely. So that definitely helped.
Jackie – And so the school ran the talent quest, is that was that something that was a part of their arts programs? Did they run the talent quest annually, or did they do other sorts of creative arts programs outside of the classroom?
Michael – There weren't any other kind of productions or anything like that at that time.
Jackie – No musical?
Michael – No, no, nothing like that. I've been back and judged that talent quest, you know, on three different occasions, I think.
Jackie – Have you?
Michael – Yeah.
Jackie – That's lovely. What are your thoughts about what teachers could do to sort of help prep students into an acting or music theatre type career like you've had? What sort of skills or values do you think we need to try and instil in our children if they were to try and pursue a career in acting or music theatre?
Michael – Number one would be resilience because, you know, it is not easy. I spoke to somebody just the other day, she's from New York, and she said, “I really, really wanted to be in musical theatre”, and she said, “in the end, I just could not handle the rejection”, and we really have to begin to see it not as a rejection. But even at my age, I mean, it's still difficult not to see that “why didn't they want me?” kind of attitude. And sometimes it is really just about perhaps not being the right fit for the other cast that they have in in in the show, and also having to put, you know, bums on seats as such. They’ll have to sometimes have somebody who's on TV to be able to create an awareness. So, resilience is one of those things, or just perhaps the reality of what it is, no matter how talented they may be it's not always a guarantee that you will make it, if you will, or make a living.
So, I think also another set of skills would always be how else to survive within the industry. I was so gung ho when I was young going “I don't need to learn anything else” because, you know, this is all I want to do, and I believe in myself. That's all true, and that's all great, but I think at the end of day I would advise anybody younger to prepare themselves for that financially and all of those ways. And that doesn't mean you have to do something else. That would mean the clever way of looking at it would be to do something else within the industry, you know, so that you have that back up, but you're still passionate and you're still in that side of the arts. I think something else they could be looking at or preparing, of course, is passion and hard work. It is really hard work. Eight shows a week is not for sissies, you know, it hurts, and it's hard and I remember one of the young girls once, I was in the show, I think it was ‘Mamma Mia!’. She said “I can't do the last three shows this week, I'm tired”. I said, “Darling, you don't get it we're all tired”. You actually get to a point of exhaustion, and that is where the training comes in, that's where discipline is one of the most important things in in our industry. Even though people may see the glamour – that glamour is again part of the show, which is not necessarily the truth. And so it's discipline and hard work, and that needs to be stressed as well.
Jackie – That is really important isn't it. You’re not going to just waltz into a lead role most of the time. You might be very lucky, but you do have to work hard and I think that is getting used to – I don't want to say get used to rejection, but be able to deal with it.
Michael – To handle it. Yes, that’s another thing which is now becoming more of a mental health issue within our business and particularly during COVID it's been brought to light a lot further, and it isn't an easy business within that way. So, I think again that another thing that could be looked at is keeping a healthy attitude with that and a healthy mental state with that. Because there is kind of 90% chance – and I really shouldn't say that – but that you're not going to get every job you go for. That it's not gonna be fair. That's definitely one of the things. Don't expect it to be fair. And I suppose this is like most of the world in many ways, but there will be rejection, and it will sometimes be really tough to deal with that. Then you'll see perhaps the girl that got the job and you know you’re better than her. It's all of that that just has to be – you have to have a healthy take on that. So that's a lot of preparation that could be done. I don't know exactly how, but I think that's a really important issue to look at.
Jackie – Yeah, that is important and I do love that piece of advice. Just to go back a little bit, you were saying about having other ideas of things that you could do in the industry or other takes of things and I think that's really important, particularly given the day and age that we're in like we've just been through a massive upheaval with COVID and things like that with millions of artists out of work and having some kind of other facet to keep bringing money in or to just keep yourself sane, must be really important.
Michael – On the other flip side of all of it, the other thing that can be can be taught, you know, is to be in your joy with it, to be in the passion, because that can also, if we remain in that place, the rejection or anything else isn't as difficult if we actually remember the joy and then the technique and the work and all of that stuff. It's like any artist, when you're in that place, that's where you shine and to try to keep the individuality within that is really important too, because when people are casting, they don't want two of the same, so don't feel like they have to be like everybody else to get there.
Jackie – In the steps that you took to get there did you used to have any kind of like singing lessons or dancing lessons or anything like that outside of school?
Michael – Sure. It wasn't at school? No way. I mean, I would have been again too shy at that time. But when I was working, then I started to, look at different ways with voice like particularly in London with ‘Phantom’, because it was slightly more operatic in style I went to a vocal coach who happened to be an opera singers coach and she was Australian, actually, Janice Chapman. She was amazing. Throughout my life, I've gone to different kind of styles of teachers and particularly for a certain role, something you may have difficulty approaching – high notes or things like that or even mental blockages. There are certain grabs, and I think that's a great thing in life to learn from whoever you can, so that's been amazing. Dance wise. I did a very brave thing I think, when I was 18 and I saw this summer school thing advertised, it was Barbara Warren Smith. So I rolled on going in, turned up and they're all professional dancers and I haven't put 2 feet together. For some reason, I was determined. I kept going back and completely embarrassing myself. I think Barbara then went, “Oh wow, this kid's got some kind of determination”. So she then said, “Okay, you can come in and I'll give you private classes every morning and we'll get you”, and I just worked and worked and worked and worked and worked. It hurt, but it was, I just thought “okay, here we go”. I don't know if I'd be that brave now.
Jackie – To do a dance summer school?
Michael – Oh yeah. Forget it. I could sit down, watch and point now, that’s about it.
Jackie – Thank you for giving some of that advice to teachers because I think it's really important. Teachers sometimes try and reach out, and you said that you've been back to your old high school to judge – adjudicate or judge different talent quests. Is there any sort of way that teachers may be able to reach out to artists like yourself or different music theatre artists who might be able to enhance something that they're doing within their school?
Michael – Well, of course, you just ask.
Jackie – Well, that's how we ended up here isn’t it?
Michael – Exactly. And you know what I find? And I found this throughout my life, especially now. I think sometimes when you just brave enough to ask, I mean it's just like there are so many generous people in the world, especially who are ready to impart their knowledge or their wisdom and if it's going to inspire somebody – more than happy to do that.
Jackie – Yeah, that's beautiful and your right, I think particularly in our creative arts sort of world, there are so many generous people.
Michael – Yeah!
Jackie – Excellent. Well, I'd like to finish up now with my final fast five questions.
Michael – Oh is this going to be scary?
Jackie – Not too scary I don’t think. I'm pretty confident you'll be able to answer them all, and they tend not to be super-fast, but we'll see how we go.
So what high school did you go to?
Michael – I can’t answer that one! (laughing) St John College Dandenong.
Jackie – Okay. So in Melbourne, in Victoria?
Michael – Yeah.
Jackie – Fantastic. And this might be a toss-up, which was your favourite subject and why?
Michael – It was music. Because I suppose it allowed me to escape.
Jackie – And your favourite teacher and why?
Michael – It'd be Carleen Selderson, because she taught Music.
Jackie – Favourite music teacher. Fantastic. What is your – I feel like I maybe already know the answer to this – but your best school achievement or your most fond school memory.
Michael – Yeah, it was winning the talent quest.
Jackie – Winning that talent quest! I think that seems like it was really the starting point for everything for you, which is really, really kind of cool, I think for our teachers to be able to hear that just that one moment has possibly been what has been has turned your life into what it is today.
You can answer this whichever way you like. One take away one take away from your schooling experience, or a final piece of advice for our creative arts teachers.
Michael – Is to inspire. And I know that that's of course what all of you will be doing but I think that's the most important part of, it to inspire and to allow the students to be the biggest and brightest that they can be.
Jackie – Thank you so much for your time today, Michael.
Michael – My pleasure.
Jackie – I really appreciate the expertise that you've shared with us and also just the stories. It's really nice to hear about sort of the back end sometimes of shows that you've seen, and you've seen the wonder on stage, I'm sure going up on the bonnet of that car was pretty scary, but it looked amazing. It is really nice to have had that chat, so thank you very much for sharing that expertise with us.
Michael – It's my pleasure.
Jackie – Join us next week where we talk to Australia's latest music theatre composing sensation Yve Blake, where we discuss her hit musical Fangirls. This podcast was brought to you by the Creative Arts Curriculum Team of Secondary Learners Educational Standards Directorate of the New South Wales Department of Education. Join us on the Creative Arts Statewide Staffroom as a source of all truths regarding New South Wales curriculum.
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