Lola Nixon is one of Australia’s best-loved stage veterans. She wowed Melbourne audiences as ‘Grandma’ in Billy Elliot the Musical but it’s something she has done before! As she was packing up her dressing room we spoke to her and discovered her first big musical break came at HMT in 1967, coincidentally in that other famous musical about children, Oliver! HMT asked Lola what it was like to come back to the theatre after 40+ years…
Lola Nixon: To come back to HMT was thrilling. Opening night was a dream come true for me. To be part of a show like Billy Elliot was wonderful but here in this grand old theatre filled with tradition and memories is magical.
HMT: Is there much that has changed in how musicals are staged since you first started?
LN: Of course things have changed a lot since 1967. We live in a time of advanced technology now. This is not a bad thing, because it allows productions like Billy and many others to make it onto the world stage – a big difference from the old days of just a backdrop and tabs.
HMT: In the show Grandma is eccentric but affectionate. Did you practice the role on your own grandchildren?
LN: No, I don’t have any grandkids but when I first read Grandma I thought – I know a lot of women like her, but back then they didn’t have a chance. Grandma might be a bit vague but her love for Billy is strong – although she can’t be seen to show it. She just keeps going on day by day in her own little world filled with memories and dreams.
HMT: What is the best advice you ever received regarding a career in showbiz?
LN: If it’s worth doing, do it to the best of your ability and always involve your audience.