Amy Lehpamer : Tianjin Gardens, Spring St : Melbourne, Australia
“It’s a bit of a case of be careful what you wish for, but the Sound Of Music is coming and there is nothing that I would want more. I’ve literally had nightmares about waking up to this (being pre-cast); my subconscious is so stupidly invested in this. If it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t happen, and I will be okay after a few wines; but I’m excited!”.
So, how do you solve a problem like (securing the role as) Maria? Australian music theatre starlet, Amy Lehpamer, is on a mission to find out; but more on that later.
Amy’s become a well-known face since her first professional musical production (Stephen Sondheim’s, ‘Follies’) with Melbourne’s acclaimed Production Company in 2008, and from there it’s been an interesting and diverse range of experiences across theatre and television. What’s most surprising is that the successful career she is creating for herself is a somewhat unlikely one, as her youthful energy was definitely focussed on achievement in her schooling and the inevitability of higher education. The sky seemed the limit for this talented student, and she paid attention to the noise around her voicing assumptions of a left-brained future by investing her time and intellect in ensuring these expectations were met; conflicted, but committed.
“I think I was really at odds with myself, and I’m a much more spirited person than the kind of school prefect persona that I really fell into mainly at High School. I don’t think it was my natural state, but it was a state brought out of fear more than anything else; I think out of fear I decided that I had to be doing everything correctly when in actual fact I didn’t really have that compulsion at all. And on the weekends I didn’t really follow that compulsion….I was at odds; I wish that I didn’t feel like the stakes were quite so high when I was younger. It’s taken me a long time to figure out what living is and what it is to have a full experience in something, so it would have been nice to take that burden off a little earlier.”
Despite her impressive intellectual achievements and, after completing a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Melbourne with majors in English literature and Japanese, she focussed all energy on her passion for music, theatre and the creative arts. That shift has resulted in an enviable track record for Amy, quickly positioning herself in the upper-echelon of the Australian entertainment scene and moving smoothly from one project to the next. Her professional trajectory has just seen her complete the season of the critically acclaimed Once at Melbourne’s Princess Theatre and she’s about to embark on her next role as Janet in the cult classic, The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
It’s also an interesting point for her off the stage, having made a conscious choice to support her talent with more proactivity in pursuing the roles she desires. To this point, her focus has been specifically on working hard to develop her performance skill-set and to embrace opportunities as they’re presented to her; an obviously effective approach as it’s seen her work alongside Australia’s most talented performers in a variety of popular works. But recently she’s made the decision to get in front of the career-wave rather than simply enjoy the ride.
“I wanted to be more upfront about what I wanted to be doing in my career and I wanted to start being kind of a go-to person, because I think until now I’ve done relatively indie musicals. So I knew that I had to change how I worked a little bit and I hoped that I could do that during Once; and I think I did, which was a surprise. But getting Rocky is exactly what I planned for…I want to keep building. I’ve decided that I’ve got to make myself more visible and have tried to foster relationships a bit better; and it’s been good so far! I’m proud of myself – for the first time I’m not just being excited that this is happening to me but acknowledging that I need to make things happen as well”
This new professional perspective will steer her comfortably into the next challenge; the impending professional production in Australia of The Sound Of Music. And to say she’s excited at the prospect of auditioning for her dream role of Maria would be a dramatic understatement. There’s a giddy professionalism when she’s describing the potential of being a part of this show, and the fact that the coveted role of Maria is being auditioned out (and not pre-cast) has her focussed and ready to do whatever is necessary to secure the part; a part which holds a tremendous amount of significance for her.
“I’d turn down a film or anything else to do Maria in the Sound Of Music the musical; which is funny because people do think that is crazy. And I love that people think it’s crazy because maybe someone else won’t turn down a film so I will get the part, because I genuinely want to do it really badly. That’s kinda my focus actually for the next few weeks. I know that that’s coming up and I know that if I don’t give it my best shot I’ll be really upset with myself. So that’s kind of just my dream scenario; and if I don’t get it, I know that I’ve given it everything and I genuinely haven’t got it.”
For any normal auditionee, this would mean researching the role and ensuring that you’re acutely aware of the ins and outs of the show and characters to give yourself the best opportunity of securing a part. For Amy, it’s moot – engage her on The Sound Of Music and, with a widening of the eyes, she’s living it; seemingly looking for any opportunity to excitedly tell anyone (in intricate detail) about how amazing the musical is and, in particular, the character of Maria.
Amy’s undeniably match-fit, but the shadow of the inevitable audition process is looming; to be summoned into a room and eyeballed into delivering your very best in a short window of time in the hope that all of the important permutations of the role collide with your various strengths to deliver exactly what the producers are looking for. And even if you succeed in that, it can sometimes all be taken away for seemingly most inconsequential of reasons. Auditions can be a brutal and heartbreaking necessity for everyone in the acting and theatre profession, but Amy seems to be one of the few who lavishes the experience.
“I love auditions. It’s stupid, but I love the process you go through to mind-bend yourself into thinking that you might be right for a role. It’s so not healthy and delusional, but it’s also fun. I love the time it takes to pick a song or work out what the character needs – all that kind of research and self study; I think it’s wonderful. It’s one of my favourite parts of the industry; that you have to spend a bit of time doing that to get anywhere. It’s great”.
From here, it really is the world for Amy. At this stage, in the flurry of one show after another, she’s aware that her ultimate ambition is to stay in the industry but unsure exactly how that will manifest. Having worked on and under the stage, in front of the camera and in the darkness of the post-production lab, she’s finding excitement and potential everywhere but very happy to continue the passion onstage for as long as possible. And for however long she continues to tread the boards and fill the room with her voice, we should just sit back, enjoy it, and feel grateful to have her there.
Since this conversation with Amy in February this year, she has seen her immediate focus and – delightfully obsessive! – dream come true. She WILL be playing Maria in the upcoming production (Australia) of The Sound Of Music. Amazing. Read more about it here.