From the east to the Wicked west

Eltahm's Adam Murphy plays Dr Dillamond. Picture: SUPPLIED.

By Mikayla van Loon

They might be performing in one of the world’s most popular and renowned stage shows but these two actors hail from the outer east.

Adam Murphy, from Eltham and Andrew Kroenert, from Croydon, can currently be seen in the latest rendition of Wicked, being brought to audiences in Melbourne until 30 June.

The spellbinding prequel to The Wizard of Oz was a bit of a bucket list item for the two esteemed actors who have performed in some of the best plays and musicals going round.

Attracted to unusual characters, Murphy has been cast as Dr Dillamond, a goat and teacher of life sciences and a philosopher at Shiz University, as well as the secondary Wizard, when not played by Simon Burke.

Kroenert, cast as part of the ensemble, also steps into the Dr Dillamond role when not played by his counterpart Murphy.

For the pair, who are both triple threats – singers, dancers and actors – their love of the stage was formed early.

“My cousin was in the ‘92 Jesus Christ Superstar with John Farnham and Jon Stevens and I went and saw that when I was eight-years-old, and I have this vivid recollection of watching him singing with Kate Ceberano and having that little fire lit inside me,” Kroenert said.

“I was like, ‘that’s what I want to do and that’s what I want to be when I grow up’.”

While still young Murphy was 14 when he knew being on stage was a career he wanted to pursue.

“I don’t really have a theatrical family background but I do remember at school putting my hand up to be in school productions, I got a taste of what it was like to rehearse something or perform something in front of people and get a reaction,” he said.

“It can be hard work because you have to reproduce something at an energy level and at a professional level and performance level each night and it’s not always easy because life happens but I just developed a love for that feeling of what it gave me to perform and to get a reaction.”

Each taking different paths to get to their ultimate goal, Kroenert performed while at Maroondah Secondary College before heading off to do a degree in music and drama, landing various roles like those in Frozen, Fiddler on the Roof and School of Rock.

Murphy on the other hand, went from school productions to amateur theatre and then to semi-professional theatre productions, saying “I feel like my whole career I’ve trained on the job”.

Always drawn to weird or unique characters in musicals and plays, Murphy said that’s something that formed in him from the beginning.

“When I was a kid, I liked playing characters. I don’t think I was really the young love interest. I was always some sort of character. I was always dressing up as an old guy. Or just something different from myself,” he said.

“I really enjoyed stepping into someone else’s shoes, seeing things from a different point of view. That’s probably been good for me as a career because I’m 51 now, and I’ve got to play such a range of different roles.”

From playing Jafar, the villain, in Aladdin to Aldolpho in The Drowsy Chaperone, “a ridiculously over the top character”, Murphy said that’s the joy of what he gets to do as a career.

“If you lay those characters side by side, they’re all completely different and that’s what I’m proud of and it’s a highlight of my career being able to play a wide variety of different characters.”

Growing up admiring and listening to Anthony Warlow, Kroenert said for him getting to perform alongside an idol of his in Fiddler on the Roof was a “dream come true” and would always be a career highlight but so too was performing a brand new production.

“I swung with a group called Dream Lover with a bunch of really great performers, David Campbell and Marina Prior and that was just the happiest company I’ve ever been part of.

“The show itself was brand new, so we rehearsed it, and put it on from scratch and Simon Phillips directed it. So that was just a really, really great experience all around.”

Both experiencing a bit of jealousy when friends performed in Wicked when it came to Australia last time, the chance to be a part of it was not something either Kroenert or Murphy wanted to pass up.

“It’s like a huge amusement park ride. It’s so fun with so many dark and wonderful twists and turns so it’s definitely been on my bucket list,” Kroenert said.

“My dreams of being in it, I never thought I’d be covering the Wizard and Dillamond and doing the tracks that I’m in. Covering those tracks is a dream. I love doing it. It’s easily like the biggest and most exciting musical I’ve ever been in.”

Although a returning show, Kroenert said “it’s a really beautiful rendition” embodied by each of the actors in a different way to those who played the roles in earlier performances.

“The cast of the show is really unique this time around, I think they found really great performers who weren’t just carbon copies of the people to play the roles previously and I really think that everyone brings a real uniqueness to the show that really helps tell the stories,” he said.

“And there’s something about Wicked in the Regent Theatre in Melbourne, that’s where the show started and where it took off in Australia in 2008…it really feels like the shows at home.”