Just weeks ago, Lucy Maunder began work on her most challenging role yet: balancing life as a new mother to her 8 week old daughter and commencing her contract for Matilda the Musical.
Last night, Maunder stepped onto the Matilda stage for the first time in the principal role of Miss Honey, marking the start of the ‘Honey Handover’ from Helpmann award winning actress Elise McCann. McCann, who originated the role in Australia, will take her her final bow on Sunday after four cities and over 650 performances.
Although originally announced to take over from McCann as Matilda’s gentle and kind school teacher at the commencement of the show’s Brisbane season in 2016, Maunder’s pregnancy meant the timeline for her induction into the show was pushed back. McCann agreed to stay on until Maunder had recovered and was ready to step onto the stage. McCann’s final performance is scheduled for Sunday and Maunder will settle into the role full time next week.
“It has been a wonderful last two weeks cross over with Lucy and even though it’s weird and I’m sad in some ways, its also been really fun and lovely to hang out with one of my dear mates and share this together”, McCann told AussieTheatre today.
“This show and experience has without a doubt changed my life, personally and professionally. I am a calmer, kinder, more confident and understanding person, performer and company member because of the lessons and experiences I have had on this show.”
Maunder was full of praise for McCann, the Matilda company and her family when she spoke to AussieTheatre this week;
“I was very apprehensive going into rehearsals not knowing how I would cope vocally and surviving on very little sleep but it has been a wonderful experience so far. And I’ve been very fortunate to be able to have Jared and Edie in with me at work so I can negotiate feeding her at pretty much every opportunity that I’m not rehearsing or on stage”, said Maunder.
“The company have been incredibly accommodating and supportive, first and foremost Elise and I’m so grateful to her for that. It’s been lovely to have her by my side and I hope she feels the same through what I know would be a very difficult role to say goodbye to after two years and a giant and hugely well deserved success in it. The role is incredibly special and even more poignant for me in motherhood. To be in a show which celebrates the miracle of children is wonderful and Miss Honey is at the helm of that.”
“My mum was back on stage when I was six weeks old and so I guess having had that experience growing up in the theatre and adoring it I felt more comfortable putting Edie in that situation. We have so much support and love from family and friends and within the Matilda company that it takes away from the physical load of performing 8 shows a week with a newborn. I feel very lucky to be able to be here.”
Maunder is the second new mother stepping back onto the professional musical theatre stage in as many weeks, with AussieTheatre’s own Erin James re-joining Opera Australia’s My Fair Lady in Brisbane as Dance Captain, a role she undertook (albeit offstage) throughout her pregnancy last year.
With two such stories playing out simultaneously, it is heartening to see mothers in the industry being supported by commercial musical theatre producers in this way.