In conversation with Caroline O’Connor

Caroline O'Connor
Caroline O'Connor. Image by Blueprint Studios

Caroline O’Connor is one of Australia’s most successful music theatre stars, having performed leading roles in Australia, on Broadway, London’s West End and in Paris.

Currently appearing as Mama Rose in Gypsy at Leicester’s Curve Theatre in the UK, O’Connor was recently announced as part of the all star cast set to appear in the brand new Broadway musical Prince of Broadway later this year.

Having starred as Velma Kelly in two Australian tours of  Chicago, before making her Broadway debut in the 2002 production at the Schubert Theatre, Caroline’s list of theatre credits is great indeed. She is well known for her portrayal of Mabel in the 1995 London revival of Mack and Mabel, Aldonza in Man of La Mancha opposite Anthony Warlow, Anita in West Side Story (London and Australian cast) and Mrs Lovett in Sweeney Todd (Paris), to name but a few.

Thanks to the wonders of the internet, AussieTheatre caught up with Caroline while she was in England to ask her about her upcoming Broadway adventures, the roles she loves (and still hopes to play), life on the international stage and the question on everyone’s lips: Will she be gracing the Australian stage again soon…

AT: You’ve played characters from many shows originally directed by Hal Prince – the chance to re-imagine them under his directorship is rare. Will you be doing anything special to prepare for this show?

I always like to do my research with any role. I’ll try to find as many recordings and clips of his past productions as I can to help me prepare. I’m such a big fan of his productions so it will be lovely to revisit all these iconic shows

AT: Do you know what you will be singing/performing in the brand new show Prince of Broadway? 

No, not yet.  It’s a brand new show and I haven’t seen the full script yet.

Caroline O'Connor as Mama Rose in Gypsy
Caroline O'Connor as Mama Rose in Gypsy. Image by Catherine Ashmore

AT: What is your favourite Hal Prince show? 

It’s so hard to pick just one, he’s done so many great shows. But I do love Sweeney Todd. It’s such a brilliant dark comedy and I thoroughly enjoyed playing Mrs Lovett last year in Paris.

AT: You have worked on the professional stage in Australia, England, France and on Broadway. Do you find working on Broadway different to working in Australia, or on the West End? Is there is different ‘vibe’ in the air?

There’s a tremendous vibe for musical theatre on Broadway. The audiences are very appreciative and very loyal to the art form, so there’s always an energy and buzz around performing there. And of course it’s every performers dream to star on Broadway isn’t it. I do love it, but I have loved so many places I have performed. I really enjoy that aspect of my work, that I can perform all over the world.

AT: That said, theatre is theatre wherever you go – are there similarities the world over?

The process is definitely similar the world over, putting the shows together, rehearsals, teching. But the runs are different. Runs are often much shorter in Australia, than Broadway or the West End. We just don’t have the population to sustain long seasons of shows unfortunately.

AT: How do you think Broadway will respond to the brand new show Prince of Broadway?

I really think audiences will love it because they are going to get the very best aspects of all the shows he has done. It will be an amazing celebration of this man and his work so I think it will be very well received. I’m very excited Hal Prince has asked me to be a part of it.

AT: What is the role you have enjoyed performing the most throughout your career?

That’s not fair, there are so many!  It’s just too hard to answer that question. I really have loved them all. I don’t take on a role unless I think I am going to love it. I guess there’s certainly been career milestones, like playing Mabel Normand in Mack and Mabel. That was my big break in a leading role so that will always be very special to me. And Velma Kelly in Chicago of course was my Broadway debut. But in all honesty I could never pick just one favourite.

Caroline O'Connor in Gypsy. Image by Pamela Raith
Caroline O'Connor in Gypsy. Image by Pamela Raith

AT: Are there any roles you are still aching to play? 

Actually it might surprise you that the one that I would very much like to play isn’t a musical. I’d love to play the role of Eleanor of Aquitaine in The Lion in Winter. But as far as musicals go, I’d like to play Reno Sweeney in Anything Goes. Dolly Levi in Hello Dolly,  Aunty Mame in Mame, Mrs Johnstone in Blood Brothers, and of course Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard. That list should keep me busy!

AT: Will we be seeing you back in Australia any time soon?

Possibly  – but my plans can sometimes change overnight.  Stay tuned!

AT: Do you have a Tony acceptance speech (’cause we at AussieTheatre think you’ll need one!)?

No, but that’s very sweet of you to say. From your mouth to God’s ears!

For more information on Caroline O’Connor, visit her official website




Erin James

Erin James is's former Editor in Chief and a performer on both stage and screen. Credits include My Fair Lady, South Pacific and The King and I (Opera Australia), Love Never Dies and Cats (Really Useful Group), Blood Brothers (Enda Markey Presents), A Place To Call Home (Foxtel/Channel 7) and the feature film The Little Death (written and directed by Josh Lawson).

Erin James

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *