The Rob Guest Endowment annual concert will take place on Monday October 13, where six finalists — emerging stars of Australian musical theatre — will take the stage to show their skills and compete for a prize package that includes a cash prize of $20,000 for the winner’s personal development, as well as a headshot package from Blueprint Studios.
AussieTheatre’s Cassie Tongue asked ten questions of each finalist, in the lead-up to the concert, to find out about their lives, careers, and how they’re preparing for the high-calibre event.
Today we chat to Karla Tonkich, who was part of the stellar cast of Legally Blonde and has been recently joining in the party every night that is Grease.
When did you know you wanted to become a performer?
I started dancing at the age of 5 in jazz and song and dance and I can honestly say that from that age I knew I wanted to spend my life on the stage. I always wanted to perform for my parents and for family events to show them what I had learned the week before at dancing.
What made you apply for the Rob Guest Endowment?
I applied for the Rob Guest Endowment as I knew it would be such a fantastic experience and opportunity to perform in front of amazing people that I look up to in the industry and to choose repertoire that showcases what I can do best.
What would becoming the recipient of the endowment mean to you?
Becoming this years recipient of the endowment would mean the world to me. It will definitely assist me in achieving my goal of being a leading lady in an Australian music theatre show as I would use the funds to travel to New York and enroll myself into a full time acting school and continue to work on my voice and dancing.
How long did it take you to decide what to sing at the gala?
I still haven’t made a decision for a ballad yet so it’s taken me quite a few weeks. As for the uptempo I decided that straight away, and I actually performed it for my Top 30 audition. I knew it was right for me as it showcases my strengths as a singer/dancer/actress.
What is the most important lesson you’ve learned from your time in Grease?
As I am the Sandy understudy, the most valuable lesson I’ve learned is always be prepared to go on at a moments notice. I hadn’t been on in a year and thought I would never get the chance to, then all of a sudden I got the call and I was on for a week. Luckily I was prepared and knew the role so well and I was still a little nervous, but I think if I wasn’t 100% ready the experience would not have been as rewarding as it was.
If you could play any role, regardless of age or gender constraints, what would it be?
I have quite a few actually. My first choice would be Elle Woods in Legally Blonde, it’s been my dream role for so long, I love her story and the role is a triple threat. I’d also love to play Velma in Chicago, she is so sassy and fiery and it would be a dream opening that show singing All That Jazz!
What has been your best/worst onstage mishap?
One of the funniest things happened to me in my second week of Grease. I was so excited and in the bows section I bowed so hard that my wig popped off and fell in front of me. I was so embarrassed but I just picked it up and put it back on my head and made a joke out of it.
You were in Legally Blonde. What is your fondest memory of the show?
My fondest memory in Legally Blonde was the first time I got to perform. I had come in 6 months after the show opened so I was the new girl and I invited all my friends and agents in Sydney to come and watch my first show. I was standing behind the set and as soon as the electric guitar hit those opening chords I got shivers and as soon as I slammed opened the door to start singing “Oh my god you guys” everyone (mostly my friends) cheered and screamed so loudly I got so emotional and overwhelmed with joy I got tears in my eyes. It was truly one of the most touching moments in my career so far.
Tell us about your most memorable moment in the theatre – as an audience member or performer.
I have a memory as an audience member. For my 17th birthday my mum took me to see Phantom of the Opera because I was obsessed with Anthony Warlow. We were seated in the centre of the 3rd row and I remember when the Phantom walked on stage I didn’t think it was Anthony Warlow and I cried and was so disappointment but then as soon as he started singing I recognized his voice andwas ecstatic. Then I believe he winked at me…but I may have imagined that.
What’s your current belt-it-out-in-the-shower song?
My belt it out in the shower number at the moment is Dying Ain’t So Bad from Bonnie and Clyde because it’s one of my options for RGE. I know I’m a music theatre nerd that’s what I listen to the majority of the time.