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What a way to make a living: Qld set for a double dose of Donovan

Culture

Brisbane audiences will get a double dose of Casey Donovan in coming months, with the former Australian Idol performer coming to town for her starring role in 9 to 5 opening next week and then again for her BluesDay tour in September.

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With previews of the musical production 9 to 5 in which she stars opening at QPAC on May 22, Casey said she’s thrilled to make it back to the river city twice in one year to make up for two years of decimation of her twin loves – musical theatre and live gigs.

“It’s always such a fun city to be in, especially when you’re in a musical,” Donovan said.

“After two and a half years of being shut down, it’s been amazing to get back up on stage again, and we can all feel it on stage with the audiences that are coming in, they’re hungry for it.

“They’re hungry for entertainment, and laughter and joy, and things that stop normality for a minute and take you into the world of musical theatre.

“I love walking down by the river and just embracing all of that beautiful humidity that you guys seem to have up there.”

Her performance as Judy Bernly in 9 to 5 The Musical, which is based on the 1980s movie of the same name, has attracted many accolades, with reports of spontaneous standing ovations after her showstopper solo Get Out and Stay Out.

Donovan has given a glimpse of backstage life in her latest instagram post that takes people behind the scenes of her preparation prior to each show, including the dreaded Covid 19 RAT test before each performance.

“It’s always nice to give people an insight into what actually goes on,” she said.

“It’s just such a joy being on stage. And everyone’s excited to be back at work. And we are all still RAT testing and masking up and doing all the things we need to do so that we can still get on stage and perform night after night.”

Some critics were surprised that Casey Donovan was cast as the somewhat matronly former housewife, who returns to the office after a crushing divorce.

But Donovan has made the character – played by Jane Fonda in the movie version – completely her own. She’s revelling in taking her rendition of Judy to new audiences in Brisbane from May 22 when previews open.

“Look, it’s great to play a character like Judy Bernly and play that vulnerability and the beautiful character that she is, with all of her beautiful little quirks, and funny one-liners and her wit, because I have usually played the villain or the very staunch, confident one,” she said.

“It’s nice to play the innocence for once and be able to just stand there, quite vulnerably as Judy Bernly.

“It’s such a killer cast and such a great show to perform night after night.

“I get to work with Caroline O’Connor, Marina Prior, Eddie Perfect, Erin Clare and the ensemble are absolutely amazing, they are the backbone of this show and they work tirelessly, as well as everyone else. I want to give those guys a special mention because they really do work hard day in, day out, and make our jobs coming into work so pleasant and so joyful.”

She says it’s startling how much of the 1980s themes have not dated, and still resonate today.

“I think this musical is still to this day, very relevant to things that we’re going through, and 9 to 5 just does it in a very witty, funny way,” Donovan said.

 

“Most of our crowds absolutely love the show and they laugh and understand all the jokes, because most of these women were in those moments where you could only be a secretary, and you couldn’t go further up the food chain because you just weren’t allowed.

“We have come a long way, but we still have a long way to go. I’m very happy and proud to be part of a show that just uplifts and empowers more women to just stand in their power.

“It’s a very, very, very slow process. And we, as women, we need to stand up and be louder and prouder than we’ve ever been before, and have our voices heard.”

The show features a Dolly Parton score of original songs, with the legendary country music performer even appearing on screen at the start of the show with a pre-recorded welcome to introduce the show and all the characters.

While she hasn’t had the opportunity to meet Dolly yet as part of the show, Donovan hasn’t given up hope.

“We’re still very hopeful that maybe one day she’ll just come over and surprise us, but no, we haven’t met Dolly,” she said.

“We’ve had a text message when we opened up in Sydney, just saying how proud she was and that she’d heard only great things about the show and the cast. So that’s a really beautiful reminder that this show is bigger than what we do.”

The musical is also collaborating with Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library foundation as well, bringing books to Australian children.

“Our first dress run up in Sydney, was dedicated to all ticket sales going to the Imagination Library, which is Dolly’s foundation for kids to read, and get books to underprivileged children, and I think that’s imperative,” Donovan said.

“Storytelling is one of the most magical things as a human and as a child you can have. So I’m so glad that I get to be a part of a show that raises money for that.”

Donovan will be back in Brisbane in September on her way through town on her BluesDay tour which comes to Princess Theatre on September 25.

“The BluesDay show, it’s just me in my rawest form talking absolute nonsense most of the time, but singing absolutely beautiful songs, and songs that mean things to me,” she said.

“It’s great to be able to bring BluesDay and also get to do 9 to 5 in a very quick, hot minute.”

Previews for 9 to 5 start on May 22 for a short season at QPAC’s Lyric Theatre before the show based on the 80’s movie of the same name moves on for seasons in Melbourne and Adelaide.

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