Emma and Jay Johns on 9 TO 5 THE MUSICAL

Dolly Parton’s smash-hit West End musical, 9 TO 5 THE MUSICAL, is wowing audiences and critics alike during its Australian premiere. The Australian tour is currently playing at Brisbane’s Lyric Theatre, QPAC. It then transfers to the State Theatre, Arts Centre Melbourne from 10 July, and at the Festival Theatre, Adelaide from 8 October. Internationally acclaimed and loved by audiences and critics alike, 9 TO 5 is pure gold carat fun!

Boasting a cast of some of Australia’s biggest talents, real-life husband and wife Emma and Jay Johns are beyond thrilled to be starring in the show together.

Emma made her musical theatre debut as Little Eva in The King & I (GFO/Opera Australia), and recently appeared as Connie Wong in A Chorus Line (Darlinghurst Theatre Company). She has been fortunate enough to make her way around the world performing with Hi-5, The Fairies, Barney Party Series (MEI/Smile Live Ent) and on the Brilliance of the Seas (Royal Caribbean). Her screen credits include the feature film Dance Academy: The Comeback (Werner Films), TV series Dance Academy and Deadly Women as well as numerous commercials. Emma’s creative and choreographic credits include Fame! The Musical, Seussical! The Musical (Birdie Productions), C’mon! The Lleyton Hewitt Musical (ATYP), Margaret Fulton: Queen of the Dessert (Bondi Theatre Company), Once Upon A Time and Wish Upon A Star (JEM Entertainment of which she is a co-founder). Emma wishes to thank her agents T&E, her family and friends for all their support.

Born and raised in Sydney, Jay graduated from ED5 International with a Diploma of Performing Arts. He competed in So You Think You Can Dance Australia, making the Top 4. His other credits include G.E.M XXX World Tour, The X-Factor, The Voice, Mickey’s Christmas Big Band at Disneyland Paris, Peter Pan for Bonnie Lythgoe Productions and the role of Slap in Hot Shoe Shuffle for Birdie Productions. A regular performer for Opera Australia, he has appeared in their productions of Carmen, Turandot, The Eighth Wonder, Love for Three Oranges and Simon Boccanegra. He has also toured the world with Royal Caribbean’s Brilliance of the Seas. Jay’s television credits include Love Child, Doom 3, Tough Nuts, Behind Mansion Walls and various commercials. He is thrilled to be making his music theatre debut in 9 TO 5 and is thankful to T&E Management, his family and friends for their support.

Can you tell me a bit about your backgrounds with performing?

One thing we have in common with our performing background is that we both studied dance at St Mary’s Senior High School, under Mel Jacka. We were in different year groups but danced together in the dance ensemble. We shared one lift together, and that’s how we met!

Jay: My dance background began in Line Dancing, when my Mum asked me to join her one day. I, then, began regular classes in other styles, and went on to fulltime training at ED5 International (Dip. Performing Arts). I was initially only driven by dancing for a long time. I was lucky enough to perform on So You Think You Can Dance, overseas tours with artists, on ships, Disneyland. But I was really drawn to Musical Theatre from my time at Ed5. I found a new passion for singing and acting and have loved musical theatre ever since.

Emma: I always wanted to be a Ballerina, after watching Centre Stage and getting my first pair of pointe shoes. But, with the competitive nature of Ballet, I found out early on that I didn’t have the right feet and body to make a career out of it. I still loved it and was fortunate enough to travel the UK on the B.B.M Scholarship (through Cecchetti Ballet), and it was there in my time in London, going to shows in the West End and taking classes at Urdang Academy, my love for Musical Theatre grew. I went on to complete my training at Ev&Bow Dance Training Centre (Cert. IV Dance), then to NIDA (Dip. Musical Theatre) and finally at AMPA (B. Dance). When I’m not stage I enjoy teaching dance and am studying my Masters of Teaching at QUT.

Jay and Emma in costume

Has it been exciting being part of the same show?

It has been incredibly exciting to be a part of the same show! We never really thought we’d ever land a show together – we are very different performers, specialising in different styles. After covid hit, and a shuffle of cast members, we were lucky enough to end up in 9 to 5 together! It has been such a joy working together on this musical. It is so special for us to share the same passion, but now to be sharing it together onstage every night, it really is a dream. And it feels even more special after the two years we’ve all been through with covid!

What challenges have you faced working together in a production?

The first time we worked together was when we choreographed a dance routine together, in our early years of dating. We thought it would be an easy fun collaboration, but we soon learnt that our passions for the project were so strong and that stubbornness wouldn’t let the other take control. Early on we made an agreement to allow a leader on creative projects so that this would never happen again! Years on, we continued to work together, we created our own production company together (JEM Entertainment), and have performed around the world together. In 9 to 5, we are lucky enough to be playing our own characters and have our own tracks, so we are able to be the “leaders” of our own roles. And we only have one lift in the show, so with 8 times a week being able to do it, we can even out the leader on that one. Living and working together is also it’s own challenge, but we’ve managed to navigate this one for many years now, and if we were able to do it in the confines of a cruise ship cabin, this one is a breeze.

Do you have a favourite moment you share on stage?

We do have one staged flirting moment in the show! It just so happened to fall upon us in our spacing early on in rehearsals and then when our director (Jeff Calhoun) found out we were a real couple he laughed and said it was perfect. So every show we like to make that a little fun moment for us – even though it is Bob and Maria in the 9 to 5 office, we can enjoy it as Jay and Emma in real life too.

9 to 5 The Musical is now playing at Brisbane’s QPAC. It then opens at the State Theatre, Arts Centre Melbourne from July 10th.

For tickets and more information, visit the 9 to 5 website.

Gabi Bergman

Gabi Bergman is a Melbourne-based performer and educator, and is the current Deputy Editor-in-Chief of AussieTheatre.com. She holds a Double Arts degree in Theatre Studies and Film/Screen Studies and a Master of Teaching (Secondary Education). Gabi has always been an avid lover of theatre, specifically musicals, and spends way too much money than she’d like to admit on tickets. Her most prized possession is her crate of theatre programs.

Gabi Bergman

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