Interview with Nicole Vella – Elvis: A Musical Revolution

A Conversation with Nicole Vella

Dancing Through the Legacy of Elvis

Interview by Brendan Daynes

Nicole Vella, an accomplished on-stage swing and dance captain for Elvis: A Musical Revolution, embodies the essence of versatility and dedication in musical theatre. With a profound passion for dance and a career highlighted by her ability to seamlessly step into multiple roles at a moment’s notice, Nicole brings a unique perspective to the stage. In this interview with Brendan Daynes, she shares her insights into the dynamic world of musical theatre, revealing the challenges and rewards of her role, the universal language of dance in storytelling, and the exhilarating experience of being part of a production that pays homage to the legendary Elvis Presley.

As a swing and dance captain in ‘Elvis: A Musical Revolution,’ you must have a unique perspective on the production. Can you explain what your responsibilities entail and how you manage the demands of covering multiple roles?

 Normally, swings are off-stage, allowing them to watch the show and do their homework. But as on-stage swings, we have our own tracks in the show, which I love. I enjoy being on stage with the cast every night, seeing and interacting with everyone, which prevents any disconnect. To handle all the information, I’m always watching and listening. I jot down notes on my iPad anytime I hear something about one of my covers or other ensemble tracks. As an on-stage swing, I cover all the ensemble roles, both female and male presenting, and also specific roles like Dixie, Marion, and Anne-Margaret. It’s a lot of information, but experiencing the show from different perspectives keeps it fresh and interesting. We have a great team of swings who are very adaptable, making it a true team effort.

What challenges do you face as a dance captain, and how do you ensure that the cast stays synchronised and maintains the high energy of the choreography?

 I’m lucky to work with a very talented group. Communication is key, especially with all the partnering and lifts in our show. We must talk to each other, know how everyone is doing, and address any issues immediately. This was drilled into us from the beginning, and now we’re really good at it. I love reminding everyone how good they are and the joy we bring to the audience, which helps keep the energy up.

Michael Ralphs choreography in ‘Elvis: A Musical Revolution’ spans multiple eras, each with its own distinct style and inspiration. How did the cast approach learning all of this choreography?

The great thing about our show is that we don’t get stuck in one era of choreography because we jump from the 40s to the 50s, and 60s. Obviously, things change from era to era, including costumes, wigs, and choreography. So the choreography that we do in the 1940s is very different from the 1950s sections and again very different from the 1960s sections. Michael is so great at researching and showed us a lot of inspiration videos. Every step in our show is there for a reason; it wasn’t just a move that was made up and we thought, let’s put that in. It was made up because it was inspired by something that we saw in a reference video or in a photo of Elvis and Anne-Margaret, for example. Everything has a reason for why it’s there, which I really love. It’s hard to do, and our bodies are sore, do not get me wrong. But it’s really, really fun to do and it’s so authentic. I feel like we represent every era so well with the choreography because they somehow all manage to tie together but they are so different in their own way.

Can you share a standout moment for you in the production?

Oh, that’s a hard one! I personally really love anytime we’re in the 68 comeback special. I think the movement is so unique. The 60s was such a iconic kind of era of dance. Very stylised, but also has an element of free to it. I get to be one of the pink lady dancers, that is inspired from one of Elvis’s songs in the comeback special. We get to be very sexy and slinky which is different, as we don’t really get to touch that kind of style throughout the show. It’s really fun to change character and change intention.

Could you share some insights into the behind the scenes process? How do you and the cast prepare for the intricate and high-energy dance numbers?

As the cast, we jump around on stage. I find that everyone has different kinds of mountains to climb in the show. So we all see each other at warm-up and make a point to connect with each other and then we all kind of go off and do our own thing. We get ready, we get our mics on, we do whatever else we need to. Then when we are ready we congregate backstage, have a little chat together and we get each other ready for the upcoming performance. If someone’s going on for something that they’ve never done, we’re checking and making sure that they’re okay. Sometimes we’ll get in little circles and we’ll hold hands and say nice things and things to get us energised and through the performance. We love laughing, so we’re always cracking jokes. Then we get our clearance call, we disappear into our wings where we start and then crash, boom, bang, there’s the show.

The show captures pivotal moments in Elvis’s life with seamless transitions and detailed costume and set designs. How do these elements enhance your performance and contribute to the overall narrative?

It really is a team effort. We need everyone to be doing their job. It’s not just cast on stage, we all have to work together. I love our wardrobe and our wigs, these are so unique to the time period. I love when you get in your 1940s get up, it really kind of puts you in that era. They really help kind of pull you into that story that you’re going to tell for that time period. Our lighting is incredible. I love our lighting. We have a big LED screen at the back that can do flashbacks and all this kind of really cool stuff, like the guitar man shadows. My favourite is the giant Elvis sign that flies in with the big red light bulbs. It’s so iconic. There’s so many pictures from the 68 Comeback Special of that sign. It pretty much takes up our whole stage. So it is pretty kind of mind-blowing to see it and you take a step back when you see it for the first time, you’re like, whoa, this is epic. We’ve got different pieces of set, things that are very time period-esque like TV cameras, road cases, instruments and all these fun little props that are always kind of moving back and forth around backstage. Honestly, as much as we have choreography on stage, we’ve got choreography backstage to make sure we are safe and we’re not in the way of props moving. It’s a big team. It’s a big team effort.

Given your extensive experience in various productions, what advice would you give to aspiring dancers and performers who want to pursue a career in musical theatre?

If musical theatre is what you dream of, just never give up. This industry is filled with a lot of no’s and a lot of rejections, but if you believe that you can do this in your heart and in your soul, then you just keep going. Always keep training. Keep going to dance class, going to singing lessons, keep up your acting skills, because there’s always going to be other people who are constantly training. You will never, ever know it all. There’s so much history to dance and musical theatre and especially new shows that are coming. You’re never going to know everything that you’re going to need for musical theatre. So you must always keep training, keep learning new skills. It’s such a team effort that even if you get experience to be a dresser, if you get experience to be on lighting, it all helps. There’s no job that’s ranked higher than another. It is a team effort. We all work together. So if you can get any experience in any field around musical theatre, I would take it. It means you’re part of the family.

What skills do you believe are essential for dancers who aim to take on roles as swings or dance captains in major productions?

As a swing you need to like be alert. You need to be adaptable and flexible because things are going to change. Split tracks are going to happen. You need to be ready to go with the flow. It’s not a skill, but being a swing, you have to do your homework. There is so much homework to do. You have to be really self-motivated to do that. As a Dance Captain you have to really be good at communicating. Communication I feel is the biggest skill for dance captaining because you will be helping  break down like a split track if someone’s out. You’ll be communicating with management and then communicating it to your cast mates, then have to check with wardrobe. There’s a lot of communication involved. Other skills would be retention of details in choreography, really listening and noting down all those things that sometimes can change and drift over time. We’ve been doing this show for a year and things change. So just remembering those little details that really elevate any choreography in the show. I feel like that’s a really good skill for a dance captain to have. Uniting the cast, bringing everyone together, being a safe space for anyone to come to if they have any concerns, if they have any questions, and just making everyone feel like they are listened to, they feel safe, and that they can do their job safely without being injured or anything like that.

In your opinion, what are the key trends or changes happening in the Australian dance and musical theatre industry that aspiring dancers should be aware of?

Australia is producing a lot more triple threats. And I find that you really have to keep yourself at that level. There are so many shows that are coming up where, especially if you are looking at being like a swing or a cover in the ensemble, it’s not enough to just be a great dancer and a singer, because you probably then will have to cover a role. So then you also have to be comfortable acting and holding down your own without dancing. Australia produces some fabulous, fabulous triple threats. You’ve got to keep those skills up. It’s not enough to just be a really great dancer and then you can kind of sing and you can kind of act. You have to be at the top of your game for all fields.

With ‘Elvis: A Musical Revolution’ returning to Melbourne, what are you most looking forward to in these upcoming performances?”

We are very excited to come to Melbourne and get a second chance. Melbourne audiences loved us last time and we’re just really excited that we get to go back and give them a show that is even better than last time!

Bio – Nicole Vella

Nicole completed her training at Brent Street Studios in Sydney, attaining a Cert IV in Performing Arts.

Nicole’s professional credits include hit musical The Wedding Singer (David Venn Enterprises) as understudy to the lead roles of Holly and Julia, the Opening and Closing Ceremonies of the 2018 Commonwealth Games, Bring it On the Musical (Supply Evolution Productions) in the role of Kyler, and an ensemble role in Nice Work If You Can Get It (Neglected Musicals). Nicole has also performed in Royal Caribbean’s Spectra’s Cabaret and Norwegian Cruise Line’s VELVET and Prohibition – The Musical as well as dancing with Sydney Dance Company in the interactive 13ROOMS exhibition.

On screen, Nicole has appeared on Nickelodeon Kid’s Choice Awards, Everybody Dance Now, Australia’s Got Talent and Young Talent Time.Most recently Nicole was a Swing in the Australian Touring Company of Joseph & the Amazing Technicoloured Dreamcoat (TML Enterprises).

The highly acclaimed, award-winning production of Elvis: A Musical Revolution is set to make a triumphant return to Melbourne’s Athenaeum Theatre from Saturday 27 July.

Back by popular demand, this strictly limited encore season will once again transport audiences on an extraordinary journey through the life and music of rock ‘n’ roll superstar, Elvis Presley – from his childhood in Tupelo, Mississippi through to his triumphant ’68 Comeback Special.

After captivating Melbourne audiences during its debut in 2023, the production has since gone on a nationwide tour and continues to receive rave reviews and standing ovations across the country. Now, Elvis fans have one final opportunity to immerse themselves in the timeless music and story before the curtain falls for the last time in the city.

Venue: Athenaeum Theatre, 188 Collins St, Melbourne
Dates: From Saturday 27 July – Sunday 11 August
For more information or to purchase tickets visit

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