Whilst in New York recently I had the pleasure of literally bumping into one of my favourite Aussie performers of all time – the fabulous MiG Ayesa. Having haphazardly bumped into him a few years ago in London whilst he was playing the lead in WE WILL ROCK YOU in the WEST END this got me thinking that I should interview him for DanceLife so you could all be inspired.
Most thankfully, being one of the nicest guys you could ever meet, MiG was happy to give of his time.
Christine: You have had such a vast and diverse career so far, when did you decide to enter the world of Musical Theatre and why?
MiG: The musical theatre path wasn’t something I actively pursued or consciously decided to take. I was in bands all through high school and actually wanted to be a rockstar above anything else (well, that and a fighter pilot). Yet there I was at Macquarie University doing a Communications degree still not really knowing what I wanted to do when I left uni. But a friend of mine was earning good money doing commercials (which certainly beat earning $6.30/hr at Village Cinema City!) and so I decided to get an agent and start going for ads while I was studying. After a countless series of embarrassing and fruitless auditions, I finally got a job in a series called MISSION:TOP SECRET, and then an anti-speeding TV campaign for the RTA, but it was when I then auditioned for the part of “Ritchie Valens” in BUDDY, that the musical theatre world became open to me. This show was more ‘rock concert’ than ‘musical theatre’, but after doing the role for about 2 years (including a 6 month stint on London’s West End, as well as a Royal Variety Performance for the Queen) I got to be known as a musical theatre dude. So after BUDDY, I started getting roles like “Danny Zuko” in GREASE (taking over from Guy Pearce who had to do this little movie called PRISCILLA), and WEST SIDE STORY. I never trained for musical theatre, but I did it in high school as a way of meeting girls, and as a way of combatting my stutter. However once in the theatre world, my eyes were open to the wonders of it and I was hooked.
Christine: I remember seeing you sing with the RIVA band in Sydney many many years ago and a lot of people may know you from ROCKSTAR:INXS – do you like to keep a balance between theatre gigs and band gigs?
MiG: I never really see it as between gigs, as I am always working on band gigs, writing and recording my own music even while in theatre shows. I think it’s really healthy to have an outside project when you are doing a theatre show because you can easily get caught up in all the hype and drama that surrounds a production. I think it helps you to get a really good perspective on things, and keeps you fresh, hungry and alive.
Christine: You are currently rehearsing for the USA REGIONAL TOUR of ROCK OF AGES – what role are you playing and can you tell us a little about the show?
MiG: Well I have been offered the role of ‘Stacey Jaxx’ in the show. I am so excited to be in this show. ROCK OF AGES has been a huge hit here on Broadway and has all the great hair-rock songs of the 80’s. Spandex, hair gel, denim vests and high screechy wailing…and that’s just from the guys. Constantine Maroulis (from American Idol fame) is playing the lead and will be joining the US Tour, so I am über-excited about working opposite him. He’s killer.
Christine: You are one of the few Aussie performers to have worked in Musical Theatre in Australia, The West End and now in the USA – what are the greatest differences in working in these three countries?
MiG: Funnily enough, there are many differences and many similarities too. The West End and Broadway are seen as the Mecca’s of theatre, so the pressure to get a job on these stages is immense. It all seems a bit of a factory too. Once you get a foot in the door and people see your work, if you impress enough, that could lead to other jobs, because especially in NY, it has a lot to do about who you know as well as what you know. I’m not saying you don’t have to be good, because when you audition for a show on Broadway, you are competing with thousands of wannbe’s, so you better ‘bring it!’ or you will fail. You need to really pop out of the audition crowd. There might be 50 people perfect for a certain role. What makes you stand out is not only your outstanding ability, but your past reputation or relationship you may have with a producer or director might come into play. I’m not talking about the ‘casting couch’ but am just saying that once you get through an audition, you are ALWAYS on audition, as how you conduct yourself and the quality of your work goes a long way in the minds of people casting for the next show. The quality of people in musical theatre in London and NY is mind-blowing. These cats can do anything: sing, dance, act. They have all the best schools at their disposal. I find that the quality of work in Australia often matches the quality of London and New York, and in some cases can even surpass, because there might be 30-40 shows going on at once in these major cities, but when a show comes to Australia, EVERYONE goes for it, so the cream of Aussie talent gets poured into a show and so the production becomes so polished it’s shine certainly competes with that from overseas shows. The productions in Oz also don’t last as long as those in the other cities, so you might see the fifth cast change of WICKED in London or NY, but in Oz, you have a freshly baked production benefiting from the original creative team. I think Aussies have such a great reputation overseas because we are not lazy. We know this show we’re in won’t last forever so every night we give it our all. In the other cities, they can be doing this show for years, and then move to the next show, and the next show. There is a desperation in Australia that serves it’s theatre well. Also the theatre world in NY is such big business, everything is so departmentalized and everyone has their strict official duties and boundaries and rules that they must adhere to. You have to be part of a certain union, go through certain procedures to get an agent, follow definite strict protocol to submit for work etc, etc… It’s a bit of a puzzle but taking one step at a time means you will find yourself where you want and need to be. NY is a struggle in every way. Just surviving is a noble fight. Its theatre world is a hundred times more ruthless.
Christine: What would you say are the strongest aspects of performers in each place? And does this change how you audition?
MiG: I think the Brits are best at singing and acting, the Aussies seem to excel in dance, while the Americans are fierce at everything. It doesn’t really change the way I audition, but you have to be at the top of your game always at auditions, because the competition is ridiculous. Everyone wants that job, and thousands are going for it, and they have all been preparing for it, so you have to bring your A-game if you even want to stand a chance. Prepare, prepare, PREPARE!
Catch PART TWO of this interview with MiG in 2 weeks.
By Christine Denny
FIRST STOP SYDNEY – SECOND STOP THE WEST END – FINAL DESTINATION BROADWAY – AN INTERVIEW WITH AUSTRALIA'S MIG AYESA