Since a child, Tiegan Denina has wanted to be like Dame Julie Andrews.
“The Sound of Music and Mary Poppins were responsible for my love for musicals,” she said. “I don’t think anyone can pass Julie Andrews, her voice is so stunning and she is such a graceful, beautiful and elegant performer.”
Once can only imagine the Dame’s horror, when casting all grace and elegance aside, her most adoring fan barfs centre stage over a cast mate, before uttering those infamous Heathers’ lines “lick it up baby, lick it up”.
Not quite Julie Andrews’ style. But Tiegan’s Veronica in Heathers The Musical is no Maria, nor Mary Poppins.
“Yes, she’s as far away from Julie Andrews as you could possibly get,” the Northern Beaches actor laughed. “But I like a challenge and I admire Veronica for fighting for what she believes in, despite getting caught up in a different world. At the end of the day, she is the real hero of the story.”
After getting “peed in puke”, Sabrina Kirkham, who stars as Westerburg High’s manipulative Queen Bee, Heather Chandler, reminds Veronica in classic mean girl style, “you were nothing before you met me.”
We get the gist.
Neither of these leading ladies, Tiegan from Ingleside and Sabrina from Fairlight, was born when Heathers was released as a film in 1990, and both were still at school when Heathers The Musical debuted two decades later.
The black comedy centres on four girls ruling an Ohio high school, three of whom are named Heather, the fourth Veronica. Chandler, the group’s first leader, is perceived as cool and popular, but in reality nasty and manipulative, ruling by fear.
“She’s an iconic character and it’s great exploring her, “ Sabrina said. “Cliques were formed when I was at school, but the Heathers are so much worse than anything I experienced.”
“I think there’s always the Heathers archetype in high schools,” Tiegan added. “The movie is quite dark, at least the musical lightens the mood with song and dance,”
Both performers sang from a very early age, Sabrina joining the Australian Girls Choir (AGC) at the age of six and Tiegan at age 10. The choir presented them with opportunities to sing in front of countless celebrities, including Oprah Winfrey and Hugh Jackman, before Tiegan went to the Victorian College of the Arts and Sabrina the Australian Institute of Music.
“The choir was definitely been a huge influence on me,” Sabrina added. “Singing and acting go hand in hand, you have to mean and understand what you are singing to get the best out of a song.”
Heathers The Musical is their first big break, although they admitted it’s been an impossibly long and frustrating wait for the curtain to rise. Auditioning in March last year, they began rehearsals in April, preparing for opening night in August. But along with the rest of Sydney, the cast was thrust into lockdown in July.
Rehearsals have begun again, with gruelling ten-hour days spent getting up to speed for the show’s opening on February 11, a night no doubt for family and friends to celebrate, who having been locked down with their leading ladies for months, could probably sing along word for word, in support.
“Yes, there was a lot of singing around the apartment,” Sabrina laughed.
Meanwhile, Tiegan headed to her nan’s place in Port Macquarie, where she had an acre to sing freely at the top of her lungs. Dame Julie Andrews would have been proud as the hills literally came alive to the sound of music.
“It was beautiful and private and I could be as loud as I like without disturbing a soul. I was very lucky.”