Paul Whiteley on awareness, creativity and his latest show, Elegies

Elegies for Angels, Punks and Raging Queens has opened at the Seymour Centre and is part of Sydney’s annual Mardi Gras Festival.
Actor/singer Paul Whiteley, last seen as part of the original cast of Jersey Boys in Melbourne and Sydney, joins the incredible company who are currently bringing this classic show to life.

He sat down for a quick Q&A on this modern and moving classic.

Paul Whiteley
Paul Whiteley stars in Elegies for Angels, Punks and Raging Queens

AT: Why Elegies?

10 beautiful songs, 32 poignant and funny monologues, a simple setting that highlights the performances and stories without the bells and whistles, all wrapped up into a 90 minute ride. It’s pretty cool.

AT: What makes it such a modern classic?

It was inspired by the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt and Edgar Lee Masters’ Spoon River Anthology, and the overall theme is therefore obvious, but as you listen to each story it becomes more about the human condition and the joy of life and love and humanity triumphing over tragic circumstances. I think it reminds us of what is important in life – family, friends, love and happiness.

AT: What were the rehearsals like?

Hectic! It’s been an incredible achievement to bring so many people together so quickly. And getting the right people for the right roles. From the first reading to the last rehearsal, I’m amazed at how quickly the cast have explored and discovered their characters and breathed life into the stories and performance. They have made the characters their own very quickly. And the collaborative process has been very encouraging, supportive and communal. Cast members with perhaps more experience in certain areas jumped in where needed to produce the best quality show possible. I’m very proud of this ensemble.

AT: Can you expand a bit on having such a great cast?

We have such an array of experience, history and skill set. From those still in secondary school to those with a love of performing in amateur theatre to the more seasoned professionals. Everyone has arrived with a specific reason to want to be in this particular production. Many have intimate, first hand stories that parallel the characters in the show and I think that reads in their performances.

AT: How important is it that theatres continue to tell stories of this nature, especially when the same-sex marriage debate is at it’s most prominent right now?

It’s critically important. So much opposition, hatred and condemnation of “gays” and other marginalised groups is simply driven by ignorance and fear. Actively and positively increasing awareness and acceptance of freedom of expression, sexuality and the right to be different, can only be a good thing.

AT: Do you connect with the piece and how has it been discovering and performing something of it’s nature?

Well, I have a very “mixed” family. Something in the order of gay spiritualist; lesbian with some degree of faith in a christian God who’s partnered with a mother of two from a previous hetero marriage; hetero agnostic; hetero strongly faithful Catholic with Lebanese Maronite husband; and to top it off, two faithful, conservative Catholic parents. My Best Man at my wedding last year is gay, my best friend is Bi, and I’d say the majority of my male friends are gay. It’s the nature of the industry I work in perhaps, sure, but it’s of no consequence to my interactions with them. I love them as much as my hetero friends and family. So I guess, yea, I connect with the piece and embrace it’s message of acceptance. (I’ve been thinking for years there’s a play in there somewhere!)

AT: After being with Jersey Boys for so long, has it been refreshing to step into this type of show?

Yes totally. A commercial musical (generally) just does not give you the creative license and input that something on this playing field can. That’s partly of course because the financial resources are not there which define roles a lot more, so you are almost forced to be creative. But that’s kind of cool in itself.


Paul Whiteley, Belinda Wollaston, Jason Te Patu, Lucy Maunder, Gregory W Dale, Shane Waddell, Mark Borner, Nick Dale, Chloe Rosenberg, Prudence Holloway, Jacqui Greenfield, Bruce Barnett, Jonathan Acosta, Meagan Caratti, Alex Gollan, Paul Kelly, Brendan Beaton, Andrew Threlfall, Belinda Morris, Deirdre Lee, John Hackett, Sylvia White,  Ramon Drew, Cooper Amai, Olga Assabgy, Emma Whiteman, Nieve Esplago, David King, Adrian Barnes, Cassandra Joslin, Steve Corner, Alex Osmond, Barton Williams, Joel Curtis

By Bill Russell, music by Janet Hood
Directed by Brett Russell
Musical direction by Chris King
Produced by Paul Holmes Productions

Seymour Centre, cnr City Road and Cleveland Street, Chippendale

Wednesday Feb 29 – Saturday March 3

Wed – Thurs 8pm; Fri 6pm & 9pm; Sat 4pm & 8pm

Adults $40; concessions $35 – General admission seating

Bookings: or 9351 7940


Matthew Backer

Matthew graduated from the University of QLD with a Bachelor of Journalism degree in 2005, later completing his cadetship on The Fraser Coast Chronicle newspaper in 2006. Matthew went on to graduate from NIDA with a Bachelor of Dramatic Art Acting in 2010. Upon graduating, he appeared in Private View which toured to Melbourne's Theatre Works in early 2011. Matthew’s main stage debut was playing Frankie Valli in Jersey Boys throughout 2011. He’ll next be seen in the new Aussie app series, Surry, set to go live in early 2012.

Matthew Backer

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