Not plastic, fantastic: Christie Whelan Browne on womanhood, life and Liv

Celebrated stage and television actress Christie Whelan Browne talks to InReview about her upcoming show Life in Plastic at Adelaide Cabaret Festival, and her connection with the late, great Olivia Newton-John.

Jun 04, 2024, updated Jun 06, 2024
David Campbell and Christie Whelan Browne performing in 'Hopelessly Devoted'. Photo: Nico Keenan / supplied

David Campbell and Christie Whelan Browne performing in 'Hopelessly Devoted'. Photo: Nico Keenan / supplied

“I’m so excited to be back. I think it’s one of the best festivals in the world,” Christie Whelan Browne says ahead of her return to this year’s Adelaide Cabaret Festival.

Whelan Browne (Britney Spears: The Cabaret, Show People) brings her comedic flair and real-life experience to Life in Plastic, a sparkly new show about womanhood.

“It’s basically a journey of womanhood, and the different phases that we all go through. [You] sort of end up where I am now, somewhere in your 40s, reflecting on how you got there and what it is to be a woman in the world.”

As an Endometriosis Australia ambassador, Whelan Browne is passionate about the show’s exploration of the themes of bodily autonomy and women’s health.

“One in seven women suffer from endometriosis,” she says. “It is something that is very common… but what it can lead to is different for so many people. What it led to for me was infertility, so that’s where we’re going to go in the piece.

“As common as it is, infertility is still an ugly word with a lot of shame around it. We need to talk about it out in the open, so people can feel seen and understood.”

The show seeks to balances the weight of its subject matter with a bubble-gum-pink aesthetic vision and a joyous disco-pop soundtrack including the likes of Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” and “True Colours”.

“I wanted [Life in Plastic] to feel hopeful. It [infertility and endometriosis] can feel really dark and, when you’re in it, it can be soul destroying … We could sit there and talk about how hard it is and cry the night away, or we can find a way to make it feel empowering.”

“It is a part of womanhood that so many are going through. I just don’t want people to feel defeated. Miracles do happen – my son was my miracle – and sometimes they don’t happen, but life still goes on and life can still be so beautiful.”

Whelan Browne is joined by a team of “incredibly smart and considered” collaborators for Life in Plastic, including writer and director Sheridan Harbridge (Songs for the Fallen).

“I love working with people who have completely different experiences. It’s been a very calm and understanding space. I have adored this team; they are special to me.”

Christie Whelan Browne in a publicity image for Life in Plastic.

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Whelan Browne cites last year’s Barbie-mania as forming part of the inspiration for her new show.

“I mean, I loved it [the Barbie film] so much. I sobbed, but I felt so empowered. The way I felt leaving that movie is the inspiration for what I want people to feel leaving our show.

“The movie caused so much debate and conversation, which is wonderful. I think the Barbie doll has been problematic in the past. So, it has been quite comical to take the ideals of what a woman is supposed to be, and measure it up against the reality.”

Adelaide audiences will also able to see Whelan Browne performing in Hopelessly Devoted, a celebration of Olivia Newton-John being presented by the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra with a cast of singers that also includes David Campbell, Jess Hitchcock, and Georgina Hopson.

“I am working with three of the best singers in the country. David, Georgie and Jess are, without a doubt, at the top of their game… I feel that they have not only made me a better singer, but I feel so proud to be up there next to them performing the songs of an icon.”

It was announced this week that actor and singer Tottie Goldsmith, who is Olivia Newton-John’s niece, will host Hopelessly Devoted, with the show’s soundtrack including hits from the films Grease and Xanadu, as well as Newton-John’s best-selling records.

Whelan Browne says it is an honour to sing the songs of “someone who was universally adored”.

“Olivia was incredible as an artist, but more importantly, she dedicated her life to helping others. This show has allowed me to fall in love with all of her [Newton-John’s] music and admire what an incredible singer she was.

“I bring to the show a connection with Olivia. I did get to meet her and sing with her on Xanadu: The Musical. I talk about the time spent with her in this show [Hopelessly Devoted]. It’s one of the moments in my life that I hold way up high.”

Life in Plastic will premiere on June 8 in the Banquet Room at Adelaide Festival Centre and Hopelessly Devoted will be performed on June 15 at the Festival Theatre. Both shows are  part of 2024 Adelaide Cabaret Festival, which runs from June 7-22.

This article is republished from InReview under a Creative Commons licence. Read the original article.

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