Christie Whelan plays the "lovely" Philia in a new production of Sondheim's big-camp Broadway musical, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum
Christie, after your performance in The Importance of Being Earnest, it's clear you have a lot of potential as a dramatic actor as well as comic one, but so far you've stuck to your comedy guns – what is about comedy?
Well I think it would be very hard to turn down a job with this cast, doing this show, with Simon directing … it is kind of a no brainer. On a comedy, naturally, you have a great time. There is a brilliant energy and too much fun to be had. It is basically getting paid to have a ball with my friends and husband.
Indeed – this'll be, what, your third time on-stage with Geoffrey Rush, and the second time in 12 months? Wow. This year you've also worked Mitchell Butel in The Producers, director Simon Phillips on Earnest and earlier with Adam Murphy on Drowsy Chaperone. Plus you've got your husband Rohan Browne in the supporting ensemble. It must feel like one giant family?
It totally does feel that way. Plus I have worked with Matt [Mathew Frank, musical director] and Dean [Dean Bryant, assistant director] so many times. And Magda [Szubanski] in Grease and Bob [Hornery] Earnest – it really does feel like your ideal birthday party as opposed to work! Working with Rohan is a special gift – getting to share this kind of joy with your husband and to go to work together every day – I feel very lucky.
But is this your first time working with Hugh Sheridan, who play Hero, your love interest in Forum?
Yes! We are already having a ball together. He is very smart and talented. I heard him singing for the first time yesterday and he has a beautiful voice. I can think of worse people to fall in love with every night.
It sounds like a theatrical coupling dreamed up by Dean, who helped put together those amazing and surprisingly poignant cabaret pieces for each of you. Do you feel like there's a pre-existing artistic connection there?
I can feel a connection between us after the first day so I am sure there is. I will find out more about that along the way no doubt. Dean loved working with Hugh and spoke a lot about his talent and work ethic. We have such different careers and yet we have that similarity of doing one of Dean's cabarets. Now this musical. Who knows – maybe our connection will grow and grow. I hope so.
How's your ancient history? Any favourite moments from the annals of Rome? Is the toga due for a come back?
I think I failed History in high school. But let me tell you this: the toga is long overdue for a comeback. I love seeing a mans hairy leg with a sandal on the foot. Doesn't everyone?