Opera role of a lifetime put on hold


Kayleigh Marven performing on stage in 2018

After months of travelling from state to state, six rounds of gruelling auditions and the drive to pursue a life-long dream, Kayleigh Marven was accepted to play the understudy of Christine in Opera Australia’s production of Phantom of the Opera.

It was her biggest opportunity yet at age just 20: to sing in the Sydney Opera House was a dream since childhood … that and to become a Disney princess.

Performing from just eight years old, Kayleigh has always had a passion for singing and theatre, inspired by the wondrous music of Disney which she still adores in adulthood. Every shelf in her bedroom showcases an impressive array of Disney collectables.

“My whole childhood my favourite princess was Snow White. I went to Disneyland in Paris as a little girl and refused to wear anything other than my Snow White dress. I always sang as a kid. My mum would put Disney songs on in the car,” she says as she laughs, admitting she would get annoyed if anyone tried to sing over the top of her.

Kayleigh, who lives on Bribie Island in Queensland, has since played in some great theatre productions including Peter Pan Junior as Tinkerbell, Oliver the Musical as Bet, The Wizard of Oz as Dorothy Gale, and Pirates of Penzance where she played Mabel’s sister Isabel and her performance of the role attracted rave reviews.

“Mabel’s sisters Edith, Kate and Isabel were show standouts and demanded much of the attention on stage,”  wrote award-winning playwright and producer Elodie Boal in her 2020 review of the show.

But Kayleigh admits The Wizard of Oz will always hold a special place in her heart. “I was 15, I was Dorothy and it was my first big role and that show was really what started everything for me because I just loved it.” Her family dog Snoopy was also lucky enough to score a spot on stage as Dorothy’s dog Toto.

“My families always been extremely supportive,” she says. “My parents were always like, ‘you go do that audition, we’ll send you to singing lessons, we’ll send you to acting classes and dance lessons’ so they’ve always been supportive.”

Her parents could not have been prouder when hearing the news that she was going to be on the big stage in Phantom of the Opera. She recalls her own absolute elation. “When I found out I was understudy Christine it was just ridiculous, I didn’t know how to feel,” she says. “It was amazing; it was something I didn’t expect to be doing this year.

“Andrew Lloyd Webber, who wrote Phantom, is the one who cast the show and knowing he’s seen my audition tapes, it’s literally every theatre performer’s dream and I’m sitting here like ‘he knows who I am!’”

But COVID had other plans and if it wasn’t for New South Wales’ lockdown, she would be living in Sydney and rehearsing for the biggest show of her life right now.

“My dream has been put on hold,” Kayleigh says. “One week before I was supposed to fly to Sydney we had a zoom call from Opera Australia. The whole cast was involved, we had a letter from Andrew Lloyd Webber basically saying we can’t do the show. It’s been postponed to next year, that’s even if we can do it next year. I know a lot of the arts are struggling, no one’s willing to open up theatres. COVID has really affected the theatre industry.”

But all fingers are crossed that Kayleigh will be lighting up the Opera House stage and those beyond soon.

“I’d love to be either in London or New York playing Christine in Phantom on Broadway or West End,” she says.

That is her goal for the next five years and is the dream that occupies the biggest part of her heart … that and becoming a Disney princess