Amanda Harrison knew from a very early age she wanted to be on stage.
“I was always wanting to be the centre of attention,” said the musical-theatre star who is best-known for her role as Elphaba (the Wicked Witch of the West) in hit musical Wicked.
The 44-year-old’s theatrical bent became most apparent during primary and secondary school when she wanted to be in all the plays. “Then I started singing lessons and I just loved performing,” she said.
But Harrison, who grew up in Sydney, didn’t have any connections in the musical-theatre industry.
“My parents were not in the industry, but Dad heard about an audition on the radio for an Andrew Lloyd Webber production, Aspects of Love, and I got the part straight out of high school at 18,” she recalled.
“So, it was kind of like, ‘Oh, well, that is what I will do now’. And my career just went from there.”
After moving to London in 2001, Harrison landed a role in Mamma Mia! and went on to star in the original London cast of Ben Elton’s We Will Rock You, for which she won a best supporting actress gong at the Helpmann Awards. She has also performed for the Queen at Buckingham Palace with original Queen band members Brian May and Roger Taylor.
Her latest gig has been a judge on Channel 7 singing show All Together Now, hosted by Julia Zemiro and headed up by Ronan Keating.
These days, she lives in the Melbourne suburb of Brighton with her production manager husband, Scott McKenna, and their two children, Grace, 12, and Max, 8.
Typical Saturday morning
We generally wake up really late as our kids are not sporty, thank goodness. I will normally make eggs or pancakes and let the kids on their devices for a while, but then we will try and drag them off their devices to do some things together — maybe head down to the water or park.
Secret domestic skill
I’m good at cooking but I don’t like it. I feel like it’s a necessity rather than a joy. I wish it was a joy because I love to watch people cooking. I feel envious when I see migrant families really enjoying cooking and everyone is involved, and I wish I loved it like that.
I don’t really listen to musical theatre, to be honest. While I do love being in them, I’m not a fan of listening to musical theatre at home. I actually love those stations, Smooth FM and so on, that play stuff from when I was younger.
On my bedside table
An eye mask and ear plugs. We once lived in a place in Cremorne and the woman upstairs from us would clack about in her high heels in the early morning.
Favourite room for relaxing
We have an open-plan house and a couch that is opposite a massive TV that my husband wanted to buy, which I didn’t think we needed, but now I quite like. I like sitting with my feet up on the coffee table and kicking back to Netflix or catch-up TV.
Happiness at home
When we’re at the dinner table, we play a game called Cheeses, Pleases and Thank-you, where you have to say something that pleases you, something that has cheesed you off and something you’re thankful for.
My favourite things
We move so often with our theatre lives that we haven’t spent much time in furniture shops. So, when we found ourselves in a really tiny unit a few years ago and we had to get rid of one of our couches, we thought, ‘Let’s get an armchair’. We saw this piece and loved it because it had lots of personality, lots of different textures, and it looked so comfortable. It was our first piece of furniture where we thought, ‘I want that because of the way it looks’ and not because of its form or function. To be honest, it is Scott’s chair, as he always claims it.
Willow is a four-year-old moggy and she is one very expensive cat. She was only one when we think she was hit by a car because she came limping home one day. She was operated on for a detached diaphragm and made a slow recovery over the next few months. But then, a little while later, she limped home again and it looked like her back legs had been damaged, as if she had been impaled on something. So she cost us more than $6000 in vet bills, just in the first year alone. But we love her — well, I do. She was a rescue kitten, so I feel good about saving her from certain death.
I’m not sure what took me so long to get one of these. I literally love the SodaStream. You’re meant to drink about eight glasses of water a day, but who can be bothered with that if you’re just going to the tap? But with the SodaStream, I can smash at least a litre of water in the first hour of the morning. And if I add a lime, I can pretend I am having a vodka and soda first thing.
Scott has a talented artist friend called Lisa Peddie, who he worked with on a production a little while back. She drew this picture, which is a pen drawing, from an image Scott gave her of a photo I took one day while walking the kids to school. We have lots of plane trees where we live and the kids were throwing the leaves in the air and having a ball, and I captured them in that beautiful moment, which has now been immortalised in this work of art.
I’ve been a massive fan of the Harry Potter series since the books started coming out in the 1990s. I would line up at Waterstones in London when a new one was released. This illustrated hardback is one of the latest editions, which I love for their beautiful drawings by Jim Kay. It’s wonderful to see the characters we’re so familiar with drawn as the illustrator sees them and as he thinks they would look like. All of the drawings are drawn from JK Rowling’s descriptions.