She’s an artist who’s become well known to Australian TV audiences over the past two years. Kat Hoyos plays Layla Habib, one of the starring roles in the Nine Network’s popular comedy series, Here Come The Habibs. It’s a role that earned Hoyos a nomination for ‘Best New Talent’ at the 2017 TV Week Logie Awards. She’s also appeared in the feature film Body in the yard, co-starring Luke Ford, and was a cast member in Denie Pentecost’s award-winning film The Road Home.
On top of a host of other screen credits, Hoyos has chalked up substantial experience on stage. She was part of the Australian premiere productions of Hairspray and Bring it on: The Musical, played the role of the heavenly muse Erato in Xanadu The Musical at The Hayes, and was Francine in the Australian and New Zealand tour of Jersey Boys.
Hoyos has now returned to the stage to play Carmen Diaz in Birdie Productions’ FAME, which opened this weekend at Bankstown’s Bryan Brown Theatre. A Pro-Am theatre company, Birdie Productions was founded in 2015 and FAME is its fifth theatrical presentation. The production is directed by Jordan Vassallo and produced by Rodney Bertram.
It was through Bertram that Hoyos became aware that FAME was in the works. The two previously worked together on a production of Spring Awakening at Kensington’s Figtree Theatre.
“He got in touch with me and said, ‘I’m doing this show, and I’d love for you to audition for Carmen. Would you be interested?’,” she tells Theatre People.
Hoyos is excited to have the chance to play Carmen.
“Carmen Diaz is a Latina role. My background is Colombian and my mum is a fierce Latina woman in Australia. So, it’s in my blood to have those character traits in me. To be able to play them on stage … I jump at any chance,” she says.
“One thing I really love to tick off is being able to do all those Latin/Hispanic roles that don’t really come to Australian shores so much. I’d love for In the Heights to come out as a professional production. That would be amazing!”
Hoyos also mentions Hamilton.
“Anything from Lin Manuel, really,” she adds.
Hoyos cites Francine in Jersey Boys as her favourite musical theatre role to date. And is there one particular role in musical theatre she’d jump at the opportunity to play, if given the chance?
“Anita in West Side Story,” she says without hesitation. She also talks about some of the unique aspects of working in live theatre she enjoys.
“Feeling that innate response from the audience,” Hoyos says. “You can feel when they’re with you and when they’re on your journey … or the moment something might go wrong on stage, and you know that the audience is anticipating how you’re going to fix it. I really love that buzz from working on a live show. You can’t stop and say, ‘Let’s do this again’, like with film and TV. That’s what I really love – the challenges that one can have if things go wrong or if someone forgets a line on stage, God forbid. Those little things I really enjoy.
Hoyos continues: “Also, you get this experience for two-and-a-half hours of going into a different world and sharing a story from your character’s point of view. I guess that’s why a lot of us decide to become artists, because we like telling stories in one way or another.”
Hoyos says her theatrical experience has helped her in her work in film and TV, and vice versa. She mentions having had the chance during the second season of Here Come The Habibs to showcase her singing and choreographic skills in one episode.
“I was really lucky to have the creative team and production trust my input and be very open to my suggestions,” she says.
“What I’ve learnt from film and TV is how to be very efficient in terms of learning lines and being very flexible, because a lot of the time on a film or TV set, schedules can change so quickly depending on, [for example], if you’re on location and it starts raining, they might start on another scene altogether. There might be amendments that come your way and you just have to be ready for all that stuff and also be able to endure a 14-hour day and be able to keep your stamina up. That can be quite challenging too, whereas in the theatre world, you’re in for a certain amount of hours – say, three hours – and then you get to go home.”
As discussion turns to FAME, Hoyos talks about the timeless nature of its story.
“It’s a powerful story about finding out who you are and keeping that essence with you throughout your life,” she says.
“The show was created back in the eighties, but the story is so relevant to any artist at the moment. The themes don’t really change – you work hard for your craft and you have to be resilient in this industry, and you have to learn how to deal with people and your own fears and insecurities … The lead characters each have their own journeys that they go through, and I think, in one way or another, audiences will be able to connect with them, even if they aren’t in the industry.”
Starring alongside Hoyos is Adrian Espulso, playing Tyrone Jackson. In 2012, Espulso was one of the final 12 contestants on Network TEN’s talent show-themed series I Will Survive, in which the finalists competed for a $250,000 cash prize and the opportunity to showcase their talents on Broadway.
“I Will Survive was probably one of the best experiences I’ve had as a performer,” Espulso tells Theatre People.
“It was the first big thing I did coming out of my full-time performing arts course and it definitely helped me grow. I was fortunate enough to be on the show with some truly talented guys and got the chance to work with people like Kelly Abbey, Asher Keddie, Magda Szubanski, Jason Donovan and Stephen Elliot. I learned a lot from them and am still so grateful for the experience.”
Currently, Espulso is part of the ABC KIDS TV show, SplashDance, and has performed in a number of independent theatre productions.
“Recently, I got to play Ricko in Black Rock for Epicentre Theatre Company and did a small scene on Cleverman Season 2,” he says.
Espulso tells Theatre People how he came to join the cast of Birdie Productions’ FAME.
“My wife made me audition,” he says. “She found the casting call and thought we should both do it. I’ve never worked with Birdie Productions before but I’m so glad I’m getting this chance!”
Similarly to Hoyos, Espulso speaks to the ongoing relevance of FAME to performers.
“The show is about working hard, not giving up, struggling to meet expectations and pushing boundaries. I think that aspect makes it a great stage show – the fact that people are able to relate to the characters to some degree.”
Espulso is excited to have the chance once again to sing, act and dance on the musical theatre stage.
“I love watching the show come to life week after week and working on my character’s journey during every rehearsal,” he says. “I enjoy the fact that I get to take my time developing my character through the scenes as well as the songs and finally getting to take it to the stage.”
Espulso is hugely positive about his experience working with the FAME cast and crew.
“It has been so much fun working with all the talented people in the show. My other cast members are fantastic, hard-working and really talented,” he says. “I’ve learnt so much from everybody involved in the show and can’t wait to put it on stage.”
FAME – SEASON DETAILS
Dates: Playing now until 27 August 2017
Venue: Bryan Brown Theatre (Corner Rickard & Chapel Roads, Bankstown)
Prices: $20 – $40
Tickets on sale from www.birdieproductions.com.au or by phone on (02) 9731 1620