Imagine this: A young kid is raised in the country by his theatre-loving grandmother. The kid uses the theatre as a form of escape to deal with the “stuff” in his life. He grows up performing in the local theatre, heads to the big city, completes a music degree, works as a vocal coach, auditions for a small offstage role and ends up being cast in a lead role in the second largest theatre event in world history. It sounds like the plot of a Hollywood script – but this is the very real story of Adam Lyon.
Lyon will play Carl Denham (most recently played by Jack Black in the 2005 film version) in the upcoming world premiere of King Kong, the music theatre event, which commences preview shows on May 28th and opening night on June 15th at the Regent Theatre in Melbourne.
I first met Adam Lyon at the launch of King Kong last year, and he seemed a little overwhelmed with the whole deal. With rehearsals well underway, Lyon has now found his stride and feels comfortable and at home amongst the talented and experienced cast.
Lyon grew up in the theatre. His grandmother, Patricia Lyon, was involved in the Bendigo Theatre Company for over 50 years before her passing and was significantly influential in developing the young Adam Lyon's love of the theatre. Lyon's earliest theatre memory was performing on the stage in Bendigo. He played the part of the chauffeur in Annie and, although he didn't have any lines, he can recall feeling immensely proud as he stepped out on stage because he got to wear a hat!
There is something incredibly likeable about Adam Lyon. He is genuinely humble, appreciative of this opportunity, respectable of the extraordinary talent within the cast and crew, but also incredibly gifted in his own right. Trained in opera and completing a Bachelor of Music at VCA, Lyon has a commanding voice that will impress audiences. Although this may be his professional debut he is certainly well trained and it is his extensive experience in community theatre and his operatic training that Lyon is drawing upon now as he prepares to take on the biggest role of his career.
Dubbed “the boy from Bendigo” Lyon is very happy to be a source of inspiration and a role model to young people not only Bendigo, but any rural town. If he can inspire just one or two young people to believe they can achieve their dreams then Lyon will be satisfied. It is clear that Lyon does not take this new role-model status lightly – it matters greatly to him.
The people who have inspired Lyon in his life are his Nan, his mother, the entire Bendigo Theatre Company and Anthony Warlow. Ironically, Lyon saw Warlow in New York earlier this year but didn't know what to say to him at the time and let the opportunity slip away.
Lyon is not surprised by the media interest in his story because he believes people want to know that good things can happen to anyone; they enjoy a happy outcome. At the same time Lyon is careful not to be over confident. Opening night is still some time away.
Lyon originally auditioned for a role as a swing – someone who could sing off stage and cover in the ensemble if needed. But his audition so impressed director Daniel Kramer, that Lyon was offered the role of Carl Denham. Kramer had searched extensively for the perfect Denham and finally found him in Lyon. Selecting someone in their professional debut to play the part of such a significant role is a calculated risk Kramer is willing to make and no doubt will be proven right come opening night.
Carl Denham typifies the American dreamer. Lyon describes Denham as a man with good intent who just gets a little misguided along the way. So how does an Aussie guy from Bendigo prepare for such a role? He goes to America. Lyon spent time in New York, learning about the differences in the American culture and understanding the character of Carl Denham.
Despite being a fan of Jack Black, Lyon has avoided watching any of the King Kong movies as part of his preparation (apart from listening to just 15 seconds of Robert Armstrong audio from the original 1933 version.) Lyon entered the rehearsal period with an idea of who Denham is, but has continued to develop and evolve the character under the guidance of Kramer.
Lyon's other love is composing and he has written a musical about Ned Kelly, which is scheduled to be work-shopped in the coming year. While he definitely feels driven to compose and direct, Lyon is also loving this performance role and is excited about what the future may hold beyond this season of King Kong. But right now the focus is squarely upon opening night, although he is trying not to consider the enormity of such an epic-scaled world premiere event. It's all still somewhat surreal.
In the ultimate fairy tale ending, Lyon was married this year. But Lyon is quick to point out the final chapter of this story is yet to be written – that will happen on opening night. And sitting in the audience cheering on Lyon will be his new wife, Anna, and his mother, Jocelyn.
Nan would be so proud.