WHEN Kirrah Amosa steps on stage at the Canberra Theatre in October to sing “The Wizard and I” in Shaun Rennie’s production of the musical, “Wicked: The Untold Story of the Witches of Oz”, there’ll be more to it than meets the eye.
For not only will she be alternating with Loren Hunter in the pivotal role of the green-faced Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West, but her dad, Steve, plays the not-so-Wonderful Wizard of Oz.
It’s a perfect match of talents and, as the convoluted plot of the musical play based on Gregory Maguire’s 1995 novel “Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West” takes even one more twist, it turns out the Wizard and Elphaba are even closer than you’d think.
Excitement is mounting for the Amosas with the announcement that Kirrah has been shortlisted from 250 young auditionees for the $20,000 Rob Guest Endowment Award, a fast-track to stage stardom. She’ll know the outcome by the time “Wicked” opens.
Music runs in the veins of the Amosas. Part of a very large musical family who left Samoa in the ’70s, eventually moving to Canberra when Steve was about 10.
Back in the villages of Samoa, singing in church had been a big part of community culture, with music forming a natural part of weddings and funerals.
“You could say I was musically born,” Steve says.
Once in Canberra, he continued his involvement in church singing, joined his dad’s family band as a teenager, playing an average reggae gig at the old Gypsy Bar and performing more successfully at the Polish and Italian clubs.
Steve started the bathroom renovation business that is still his day job, met and married his wife Cait and had six children, of whom Kirrah is the oldest. Raised in Fraser, she’s very much part of the family tradition that sees them as a family attending and singing in church every Sunday. And when, as a girl, she got a role in Stephen Pike’s production of “Joseph and His Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat”, her grandma came to rehearsals to feed her.
Meantime, Steve was on the fast track to singing fame, with corporate clients including the NRL, Cricket Australia, Tennis Australia, the Brumbies and the Waratahs. Last year he sang “Nessun Dorma” with the National Capital Orchestra and he performs with his band, TuchaSoul.
Through his ongoing studies with US voice teacher Seth Riggs, he won a big performance showcase in Hollywood during 2008 for his rendition of “The Prayer” and “Let Me Fall”.
Kirrah was born into music. Aged six or seven she suddenly started, unprompted, singing third harmony with her astonished family. While at Radford College she joined in musicals and the jazz band and says: “I appreciate that more now than I did at the time”.
As an adult she’s performed with Free Rain Theatre, which is staging “Wicked”, as the lead singer of Tuchasoul and Kaleid, and as musical director of a cappella group Shades of Monday.
Playing a stage character is new for Steve, so he’s been delving deep into the psychology of his not-so-wonderful character.
“The Wizard is yearning to do good for this place, Oz, that he has adopted, but he’s dug himself into a deeper hole so he draws on experiences from his former life, using deceit,” he says.
“For his soft side, the song I best relate to is ‘A Sentimental Man’, but my next song, ‘Wonderful’, shows a cheeky side – to achieve power and influence in Oz, he has created this false person.”
The green-faced outsider Elphaba is without doubt the most interesting character in “Wicked”. Kirrah tells “CityNews” that the character’s witchy name actually stands for “L. Frank Baum”, who wrote “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” in 1900. Say it out loud and you’ll get it.
“I relate personally to this character,” Kirrah says, “she’s shy, an undervalued girl who has so much more to offer.
“There is so much deception around her that she determines to right the wrongs without clearing her name.
“As well as ‘The Wizard and I’, I love singing the song ‘No Good Deed’ because it shows how she has become powerful.”
There’s a lot in store for Kirrah, now waiting to see what happens with the Rob Guest Award and also sporting a very large engagement ring. But for Canberra’s general public, it’s time to prepare for a revisionist journey down the Yellow Brick Road.
“Wicked”, Canberra Theatre, October 13-23. Bookings to canberratheatrecentre.com.au or 6275 2700.
Photo credits: Make-up: Leanne Olsen and Cassandra Lee; wigs: Jason Duvall; costumes: Fiona Leach and photo: Andrew Campbell