With a resume any actress would covet, a penchant for taking on challenges both great and small, and a relentless passion for her craft, Maureen Andrew is a veteran of the stage. It seems fitting that a theatre dame like herself will portray one of the most iconic and luxe of female characters in musical theatre – Norma Desmond in CLOC’s Sunset Boulevard.
Initially, it comes as somewhat of a surprise that a theatre professional like Maureen, with credits such as Billy Elliot and The Boy from Oz, chose to audition for an amateur company. However in her eyes, it was an opportunity she wouldn’t dare let pass. “I think that every major performer of my age covets these brilliant roles”, she says, “Also, Sunset Boulevard may not come back to Australia for a number of years…and I wanted it!”
As well as the allure of Norma Desmond, the theatre company itself attracted Maureen’s attention. “I have known about CLOC for 30 years…it has gone from strength to strength and there’s great respect in the industry for the work they produce.”
All involved, cast, crew, and productions teams alike, Maureen says have been a joy to work with. “They’re a terrific team. One of the gorgeous things about working with a group like this…[is] they’ve got a wonderful bond, a good energy, and they all care about each other and respect each other.”
Nevertheless, the rehearsal process has admittedly been quite a change from what the actress has been used to in the past. As opposed to the solid six week schedule associated with major musicals, CLOC has run three rehearsals per week. “It makes you realise how hard the amateur companies work…in order to present these fabulous shows”, Maureen explains.
Such a hardworking and nurturing environment is fundamental when faced with the prospect of playing the inimitable Norma Desmond. A remarkably rich and multi-faceted character, Maureen has embraced the challenge wholly in her stride. “As actors, we’re all big kids on the inside and we all want to be loved, we all want to be applauded”, she reveals. “Norma’s is an extraordinary journey from someone who’s had everything in life and then having it all ripped away, then all the hopes come back, and then they are ripped away…I think she’s just brilliantly deluded because the dream and the world in which she lives, by the end, makes her go off the rails.”
As a mature-aged performer with countless life experiences to draw upon, bringing Norma to life has been especially thrilling for Maureen, rather than emotionally arduous. She confides that “that’s the lovely thing about being old”, the realisation process as an actress isn’t nearly as difficult when you’re able to connect with the voyage of the character.
Still, the mere mention of Norma Desmond conjures up a variety of timeless performers (Gloria Swanson, Elaine Paige, Patti LuPone) who have depicted her on both stage and screen. You would assume Maureen would be fazed by the task, but for her it’s just another part of the job. “When I go on stage I’m not me, I’m Norma anyway”,
she says, “I’m not playing Glenn Close playing Norma, I’m just playing Norma.” By the same token, she acknowledges that these actresses are to be admired as mentors, “I’m not intimidated by them…I learn an awful lot from those people.”
Although Maureen won’t deny that the hours and time she has devoted to Sunset Boulevard have been taxing, it’s evident she wouldn’t have it any other way. “I think every actor, every role that we take on the longer we do it the more challenges we want!” she laughs. “It’s really no different whether you’re an engineer, or a painter, or a musician… there’s still that wonderful excitement when you conquer a challenge.”
And when you have lasted in the industry as long as Maureen, it’s crucial that the laborious nature of the profession be a part of the final reward. If there was a secret to longevity in performing arts, she would tie it to this need for steadfast commitment. “Anna Pavlova used to say, and I remember reading this as a kid, that talent was 97% hard work”, she shares. Having seen talented individuals along the way who have been lazy, Maureen knows firsthand “that if you want to be better than anyone else, then you have to work harder…That’s the only option.”
With such an unwavering work ethic, it’s no wonder that Maureen has carved a fruitful career spanning decades. Nor does she show signs of slowing down anytime soon. “For me, personally, it always stays exciting. It’s wonderful…There’s just something about theatre.”
And there is certainly something about Maureen Andrew.
Do not miss the Australasian, non-professional premiere of Sunset Boulevard presented by CLOC at the National Theatre, St Kilda. “Audiences are going to get the same quality they get when they see one of the major companies”, Maureen asserts. “I know that because I’ve worked with the major companies and I am working with this group and, for me, there’s no difference.”
Buy your tickets either by phoning 1300 362 547, or book online at www.cloc.org.au.