MIMMA: a Musical of War and Friendship at the Regal Theatre

The shadow of Fascism drives Mimma, a young Italian journalist, to take refuge at her Uncle Lorenzo’s nightclub in London. Mimma forges an unassailable friendship with Sarah, an aspiring jazz singer, while her family are increasingly embroiled in resistance against Mussolini. The coming conflict brings out the best and worst in people as Mimma’s brother is captured, Londoners prepare for Hitler’s Blitz, and fears of betrayal reach fever pitch. Mimma and Sarah are caught in the turmoil as Soho is torn apart by arrests and interments. As England and Italy face their darkest hours, Mimma is in danger of losing everything. Everything, that is, except the one friend she can trust.Blending jazz, opera and musical theatre, ‘Mimma’ is a musical that bridges continents and cultures. 

Carly spoke with actor Holly Meegan about her role in this upcoming musical and how this moving production will speak to audiences for years to come. Read the full interview below:

Holly Meegan

What initially drew you to Mimma the Musical? What about the part of Sarah made it clear to you that this was a role that you definitely needed to play and what has been the most exciting challenge about finding Sarah as a character?

I was initially drawn to Mimma as it was a brand-new work written by two very talented men from Albany. It has a beautiful score and a compelling story, and I also jumped at the chance to work with such an incredible creative team and cast. The opportunity to be part of a new musical is an exciting creative opportunity that is so special for an artist. Sarah was a character who I connected with straight away - she is a strong woman, who acts with integrity and stands up for what she believes in. It also helps she is a singer and loves to perform that’s definitely something I can connect with! The most exciting challenge has been really trying to understand the experience of living through a war and trying to understand the pain and fear that comes with having a loved one away at war.

The story follows two friends during the rise of the second World War. Can you talk a bit about the contextual influences of the piece on the bond between the two friends and why it is so important to finally see a musical focus on the strength of two women and friendship at the forefront of wartime story?

Sarah and Mimma’s friendship really develop through facing the hardship and horror of World War II together and as a result it develops into a deep bond. They are both strong women who have dreams and passions that go beyond the domestic expectations of women at that time - Mimma’s work as a journalist and her fight to resist Fascism in Italy and Sarah’s dreams of being a famous singer. Both journalism and entertainment were essential during the war - for bringing hope and inspiration and the power words have to challenge those in power and resist a corrupt and violent fascist government. World war II was an important time for the liberation of women - they had to step outside their expected role within the home to and therefore it was a great time of social change. They were also left at home to bear the pain and the losses of war together - a time where female friendship would been essential to have the strength to continue on. The friendship Mimma and Sarah share helps them cope with the pain and loss they both experience due to the war.

I think it’s always important to see stories that depict the incredible bond and strength of the friendship between women. In the age of the #MeToo movement it’s become clearer more than ever the importance of unity and support from women for other women. The stronger female heroines we have in musical theatre the better - characters that women of all ages can identify with and highlights the strength and power that women are capable of. My girlfriends have brought so much joy to my life and the support and love I personally receive from those friendships enriches my life deeply.

For a piece as focused on the events of the 1940s as this, how much time in rehearsals and in your own research has gone into furthering your knowledge of the history of both the period and of the two countries – England and Italy? How important has it been to keep true to the facts or is there room for artistic liberties in the story? And also, how important is it for audiences to have a knowledge of this history as well?

The historical references in Mimma are very accurate. Giles Watson the librettist is an avid researcher of World War II and his knowledge is very extensive. The characters are fictional, but they are inspired by historical people from that time. Whilst preparing for the role I did some reading about WWII and watched films and television series that capture that time

particularly Britain during 1938 -1940 as the majority of the musical is set during those years. My research was based around events that are relevant for Sarah in the musical and throughout the rehearsal process I have continued to fill in any necessary gaps in my knowledge. I think most audience members will have a rough knowledge of the events of WWII - what I hope they go away with is learning more about the resistance fighters in Italy during WWII and Britain’s internment of Italians when Mussolini joined forces with Hitler - it’s a fascinating and incredible part of history that is not as well known.

The show blends three styles of music – jazz, opera and musical theatre. Vocally, has this been challenging for you as a performer and if so, how do you go about achieving this style of singing? What has been exciting about working on all three styles of singing at the same time for you?

The songs that my character Sarah Parker sings are essentially in the style of jazz and musical theatre however she has a couple of operatic moments. It’s been amazing to sing the incredible songs written by the composer of Mimma, Ron Siemiginowski - they are beautiful, moving pieces of music. I trained as a classical singer until my late teens, so my classical technique continues to be the foundation for my singing today. However, through my training in musical theatre at WAAPA and my subsequent career in musical theatre my singing style is essentially musical theatre. The jazz singers in England at that time such as Anne Shelton sing with a more open sound that is not that far from musical theatre. It’s been lovely to find a way to honour the jazz vocal style of the time in a few of Sarah’s songs.

Finally, why do you think this is an important show for people to see? What do you think a 2019 audience will get out of seeing it and what do you hope people walk away from this show thinking about?

Mimma is an incredibly compelling and moving story that crosses between countries and cultures and has an incredible score that will leave audiences humming the tunes. It highlights the importance of friendship and unity in times of war and in our global climate of terrorism this is more important than ever. It tells the story of a woman fleeing her home and finding sanctuary in a new country and forming a friendship that unites and strengthens them. It’s so important to support new Australian musical theatre particularly a new musical happening right here in Perth. Finally, it’s an epic production with a huge cast, orchestra, incredible set, costumes and a stellar cast!

RAPID FIRE QUESTIONS:

Favourite production you have ever seen?

The Colour Purple on Broadway with Cynthia Erivo

You’re getting on a plane tomorrow and you can go anywhere in the world, where do you go?

Trekking in Iceland

Dream show to perform in?

Anything written by Sondheim

Plays or musicals?

Musicals!

A hobby you have beyond the theatre?

Psychology. I’m chipping away at a psychology degree in my spare time.

What’s next for you after this show?

To continue writing a new cabaret with my one of best friends Caitlin Cassidy who is an incredibly talented opera singer!

Mimma A Musical of War And Friendship showing at The Regal Theatre, Subiaco, Perth April 9-21.  Tickets at: www.ticketek.com.au

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