Life is not a dress rehearsal for Michael Whalley


From starting out acting in prep, to starring in Muriel's Wedding The Musical, Michael Whalley tells us why he's never rested on his laurels.

Michael's first foray into acting came when he was just five years old, playing the part of Captain Bumble in a five minute presentation to his school. Since then, he's completely immersed himself in his craft, playing a diverse variety of roles along the way.

It's about saying yes

'Acting's a hard game,' he tells us. 'It's hard to maintain full–time work. But if you love it, fill up your world with it and expose yourself to all types of art. For me it's about saying yes to lots of projects, especially when I started out, because there isn't enough work around to say no to things. That's my outlook anyway.'

It's a great philosophy and one which eventually led to Michael landing a part in Slow West, a Western starring Michael Fassbender and Ben Mendelsohn. He tells us it was this film that finally got him management in the US and 'pricked up the ears of casting directors in Australia.'

'It certainly opened up more audition doors for me and gave me more opportunities,' he recollects. 'Slow West started the ball rolling, and since then I've gotten jobs from casting directors who noticed me in it.'

That was two years ago and that ball is definitely still rolling, as his stand–out achievement for this year proves. In November, Michael started playing the part of Perry Heslop in the new stage musical adaptation of Muriel's Wedding, a role he's excited to sink his teeth into.

Making it his own

'It's really exciting,' he beams. 'Of course there are pressures involved as the film has a fabulous legacy, but it's up to us to pick up the baton and carry it, rather than replicate the film. It's my responsibility to grab what's written on the paper and make it my own, then sort of turn up the volume – because after all, this is musical theatre as opposed to the subtle screen performance of a movie.'

We've really been looking forward to seeing this new adaptation of Muriel's Wedding. There's been such a strong recent history of classic Australian films, like Priscilla and Strictly Ballroom, making the transition from cinema to stage, that we think this could be something special. Michael agrees.

'I don't want to compare it to other things too closely, but yeah, home–grown, unique Aussie stories that have been taken from film to musical have gone on to be really successful. I don't see why this won't follow suit. Also the music here is really cool,' he adds, 'Kate Miller–Heidke and Keir Nuttall have created a soundtrack that's as funny as it is catchy.'

Running from ghosts

Michael likes to keep himself busy and has turned his hand to all sorts of different roles, including being an orc in Lord of The Rings for two weeks. For this role, he pretty much spent the whole time running away from a ghost ship. He laughs as he recalls, 'Yeah, I think I actually spent more time in makeup than working, but it was a huge thrill to be part of. That was my first taste of what I imagined Hollywood to be like.'

Apart from stage, does Michael has a favourite medium in which to act?

'I really enjoy being in a booth doing voice–overs and radio plays,' he tells us, but cheekily adds, 'I also love the idea of being on set, getting picked up, dropped off at home, being fed and hanging out with fancy people!'

But for now it's all about treading the boards and, of course, keeping busy. It's good to hear his philosophy is working for him.

Muriel's Wedding is running at the Roslyn Packer Theatre in Sydney.