Let the show rage on! Jemma Rix talks Frozen The Musical

For what feels like the first time in forever, live theatre is back!

After a long break, we are finally seeing our beloved theatre industry returning – and what better show to celebrate with than Frozen The Musical!

A story about friendship, hope, and sisterhood, Frozen follows the fearless Anna on a journey to find her sister, Elsa. A true reimagining of the hero’s journey, the sisters find themselves faced with romance, trolls, and even a singing snowman.

Jemma Rix

In the role of Elsa is one of Australia’s most celebrated talents, Jemma Rix. She is best known for her portrayal as Elphaba in Wicked, a role she toured through Australia, New Zealand, and Asia. Other theatrical credits include Lucy in Jekyll and Hyde (opposite Anthony Warlow), Molly in Ghost the Musical, The Wicked Witch in The Wizard of Oz (Helpmann nominated performance), and the alternate Eva Peron in Evita.

With the cast having just started rehearsals, I had a chat with Jemma about the process, her career, and why people should come and see Frozen.

Frozen is just one of just two major shows to be starting rehearsals after such a long COVID-induced break – what are you most looking forward to?

Oh, look, I think it’s one of those things that when you have this crazy year that we haven’t been able to perform, and the industry is really literally stopped… And so, I think that this particular show, for everyone involved, is going to be filled with gratitude that it’s happening. And I think that that is really going to be connecting us all together. So I think just being able to do what we love again is going to be something really special with this particular show. That’s kind of the main thing for me, the gratitude.

Why do you think people find the Frozen franchise so compelling?

I think there’s lots of elements to the show that make it what it is, and why people are drawn to it. I think that people relate a lot to Elsa because they felt not enough, and they felt they wanted to hide away, or actually have physically hidden away. And then that moment when she lets go of all of that and embraces who she is and to what she has, her uniqueness, I think that everyone sort of listens to those lyrics and just absolutely goes “oh, my gosh, this is totally empowering.” And also, the sisterhood… I think that it hasn’t really been done a lot. Most of the time when you’re watching shows, they always have the ‘love interest’, and that type of love conquers all. And I think it really shocked me right at the end [of Frozen]. You know, their [sisterly] love for each other is what saves the story. And I think that that is something that is really empowering, it’s really quite amazing this time and day and age.

Have you drawn on any particular women as inspiration for the role?

I think that this particular role for me – I’m a massive fangirl of Broadway and who originates roles and things like that – so I’m a fan of Idina, who originated it in the film (and also she was Elphaba as well). So I watch and look at lots of things that she’s done, and I’ve actually seen her live, she came out now to Australia and did a concert. So I take things from her, but also Caissie Levy who originated it in the musical, I’m a big fan of her as well. I also did Ghost, she originated [Molly in] Ghost. So I am a massive fan of these two ladies that are changing the the sound of musical theatre and the style. And that is what opened the door for me, because my voice was more of a sort of ‘pop musical theatre’ sound which didn’t actually really exist before Idina came in. So it’s amazing how these women, they might not even think about it, but they really do affects so many people from different areas with what they do. They’re kind of my two girls that I really hold to, even now, I will still watch things they do that inspire me.

You’ve played a fair few strong female roles in your career, such as Elphaba and Evita – how is Elsa different?

I think her journey is incredibly strong, and she’s incredibly strong, but she’s very… what’s the word… She’s very, very soft and centred. And that’s kind of the difference, particularly with Elphaba – she had a good heart but very strong. Whereas Elsa is strong but she’s also sensitive, balanced, and gentle, and empathetic. And I think that’s kind of a subtlety that I’m actually going to really look forward to discovering in rehearsals, because it’s not just ‘foot to the floor’ energy. It’s really going to be the sort of softer strength. So, yeah, so that’s kind of the difference there. But I think as well, like the journey that she goes on from being basically hidden, hidden away literally, and then to have that moment of release to be her is going to be really wonderful to explore in rehearsals as well. And in the audience, like, I actually got to see the show on Broadway, and in that moment when she starts to sing that song, and when that amazing costume change happens, the whole audience is almost on their feet. It’s really empowering and really, really cool. So I can’t wait to to learn how to do this, and feel this, and feel the energy from the audience while that’s happening.

Jemma Rix and Courtney Monsma | Photo by James Brickwood

Are you excited to be working with Courtney?

I am! It’s been a very long journey already, the audition process is quite long. And so it’s just kind of that thing where we we actually did do our final audition together, we did some scene work together and we both really felt connected in the audition room. And I asked her later on, when we did publicity earlier in the year, if she felt the same way. Because you actually alternate different people who are options for the for the role [in auditions]. But she said “no, I felt it.” I felt like there was a synchronicity together, like we really felt connected, it was really special. And she’s so excited and she’s so talented, and I think she’s going to be the most wonderful Anna. So it will be great to to connect with everyone [in the cast] and create sort of a little community, it’s probably going to be feeling more connected than ever.

A story of hope and love is a really poetic thing to have as one of the first shows coming back.

I agree! I actually think it’s one of the best types of shows in these circumstances. I’m going to be emotional, hearing everybody sing together for the first time, because it’s been a really full on year. So you hear all these voices singing in harmony, it will tip me over the edge.

Why do you think people should come see Frozen?

Live theatre, for me, is where we see things which are fantastic. Netflix and movies, they’re wonderful experiences. But there’s something about live theatre, when you’re hearing a live orchestra, you’re seeing and experiencing a live performance that gives you goosebumps from your head to toe that you can’t experience from anything else. And that’s what I think it is, it’s the essence of that live experience. And then also, when you add to it, it’s Disney. So it’s a Broadway blockbuster where you’re getting the most insane costumes and set designs. So it takes your breath away visually as well. What you’re seeing with your eyes. And I did costume fittings the other day, and the detail with all my costumes, the fabrics that they use…  it’s something I’ve never experienced. And you can see that as an audience member, you see that quality on stage. I think it’s that live experience of hearing real musicians playing and real live vocals, singing amazing music and taking everybody on a journey throughout what’s been a quite a difficult year.

For tickets and more information, visit frozenthemusical.com.au

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

Leave a Reply

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