Jess Voivenel is a recent graduate from the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (the WAAPA) and is currently appearing in the new production of classic-Broadway musical MACK & MABEL at The Hayes Theatre in Sydney.
This dazzling musical comedy that is both a poignant love story and a joyous celebration of Hollywood’s golden age, MACK AND MABEL is based on the real-life tumultuous romantic relationship between early 1900s silent filmmaker Mack Sennett and accidental starlet Mabel Normand. In a series of flashbacks, Mack recalls the glory days of Keystone Studios, when he discovered Mabel in 1911, her rise to stardom, their love affair and, ultimately, her tragic death. It features some traditional, big show tunes and show-stopping Broadway tap dance numbers. The celebrated creative team from Heathers have returned to work together on MACK AND MABEL with Trevor Ashley in the director’s chair and Cameron Mitchell thrilled to be able to choreograph one of his all-time favourite musicals.
This is Jessica’s first full-scale professional musical role, and since graduating in 2014 she has been touring with Echelon Productions delivering children’s educational theatre as well as corporate work.
DanceLife spoke to Jess about her big break in the industry.
Q: How is training different to actually working in the industry?
“My training really prepared me well for the technical side of the job. What you have to learn on the job is how to cope with the long hours, long rehearsals and stamina. You have to be very disciplined and I feel my strict background of coming up through a dance school as a child really comes into play in the real world. Self-discipline is important in this job.”
Q: What did you know about the musical before you were cast?
“To be honest, I had never heard of MACK & MABEL and I had to do a whole lot of research! Thank goodness for iTunes so I could listen to Caroline O’Connor’s versions of the songs before I auditioned!”
Q: Tell me about your role in the show.
“There are 10 of us in the main ensemble, but in this show we all have our smaller roles to play in telling the story. I’m mainly ensemble, but I play the role of Iris as well. Iris is Mabel’s wardrobe mistress. So I work with lots of props in assisting the movie star Mabel and Iris contributes to the production as a whole in the 1920s Hollywood-world of MACK & MABEL.”
Q: What has working with Cameron as the choreographer been like for you and the cast?
“Funnily enough, Cameron and I trained at the same dance school in Adelaide (Barbara Jayne Dance) so he was a familiar name and face to me even though he was much older! … The dancing on MACK & MABEL has been a really great process for me and the whole cast. We all get involved, feel enthusiastic and work as a team. The routines are so much fun and very entertaining in the true Broadway style.”
“I like to think I am an all-rounder as a dancer, but I have a soft spot for tap and it’s always been my favourite style. I did all my examinations as a kid and got my teacher’s certificate in tap.”
Q: What has been challenging for you in this show?
“The biggest challenge in this job and on this production, is having to be on the top of your ‘A game’ every single day when you come into work … being ready to learn and absorb the show and maintain it every day. Because it’s such a short rehearsal period with MACK & MABEL, you can’t finish at 5:30 and let the rehearsal go. You have to be constantly thinking about it, practicing, and ready to come in the next day and pick up where you left off and roll on with more rehearsals. You get tired but have to keep going as everyone is on such a tight schedule and there is no time to go over material.”
Q: Where do you see your career heading?
“While I’m only starting out and will take whatever work I can get! … Musical Theatre is my forte and where my heart is at, so I want to pursue it as best I can in the future and hopefully I will get many more great shows to work on.”
Q: What’s your favourite number in the show?
“Tap Your Troubles Away is my favourite number and probably the most well known – it’s high energy, super fun and the tapping is awesome! What’s not to love?!”
Read more about the cast of Mack & Mabel here.
MACK & MABEL is playing at The Hayes Theatre until Sunday 18th December. Details and bookings here.
BIO | Jessica VoivenelJessica Voivenel graduated from the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts in 2014 with a Bachelor of Musical Theatre. Originally from Adelaide, Jessica studied all facets of dance from the age of 4 at Barbara Jayne Dance along with voice under Pauline Jamieson Harris. Her dance training saw her competing regularly and sitting CSTD/ Borovansky/ Cecchetti examinations.
Jessica’s stage credits include; Merrily We Roll Along directed by Jason Langley, Leata in Hair, Francisca/Dance Captain West Side Story with Lisa O’Dea, Gypsy Rose Lee Gypsy, Reefer Madness, Thoroughly Modern Millie, Anything Goes and corporate work for Ding Productions. As a child she also appeared in the stage tour of Count Down Spectacular and recently sang with Hugh Jackman at the inaugural launch of the Jackman Furness Foundation at WAAPA. Jessica has currently been working with Echelon Productions performing educational musicals to children around NSW.