THERE IS A CASTLE ON CLOUD NINE
Updated: Sep 3, 2021
Abbey Musical Theatre’s upcoming production of Les Misérables will be sung in ‘Key of Family’.
The society’s interpretation of one of the world’s most iconic and longest running musicals will be held at the Regent on Broadway from 9 – 24 August.
It stars seasoned Palmerston North based performer, Amy Hunt-McKenna, in the female lead role of Fantine. She began her successful career with Abbey Musical Theatre as a child. Standout roles with the society have included Dusty in Dusty Springfield, Tanya in Mamma Mia!, Ellen in Miss Saigon and Motormouth Maybelle in Hairspray.
She’s also enjoyed the opportunity to work with New Plymouth Operatic Society as the understudy of Delores in Sister Act and The Narrator in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat.
But Fantine is special. The role connects Amy’s two great passions of music and motherhood.
It’s also a dream step up from an ensemble part in AMT’s 2002 production of the show. She was inspired by her good friend Jo Sale who was playing Fantine and now steps into the shoes of Madame Thénardier, the unscrupulous wife of second rate thief Thénardier. Fantine pays the couple to care for her illegitimate daughter Cosette.
When she loses her job as an impoverished factory worker, she turns to prostitution to continue Cosette’s upkeep. But the Thenardiers use her money for their own needs and force Cosette to work.
Amy’s daughter, Mia Warren-McKenna (8), will be Cosette pre adulthood. Her son, Dante Hunt-McKenna (11), will also take on Gavroche. As a brotherly figure to Cosette, that means Mia and Dante are effectively siblings both on and off the show.
“Gavroche is a street kid who’s like a cheeky spy. He’s always poking his head in and has something to say,” says Dante, who attends St Peter’s College. He is also a student at Helen O’Grady Drama Academy, where Amy teaches him performing arts.
Mia is the youngest member of the cast and is quickly earning a reputation for following in her mother’s talented footsteps. She performed her first solo at the age of three alongside Amy and is looking forward to singing Cosette’s song ‘Castle On A Cloud’.
“Cosette feels very sad because the Thénardiers treat her badly and she misses her Mum,” she says.
“She wants a better life and has taught me to never give up on my own dreams.”
The family also performs together in Six To Sixty, a community choir created by Amy.
“To know that my children are using the gift of music that I have given them is really special to me,” she says.
She describes Fantine as maternal, just like herself. “All she does is for her daughter Cosette and that’s how I can relate to her.”
Another highlight of the role for Amy is being able to sing the iconic musical theatre ballad ‘I Dreamed A Dream’. “I love being able to express a story through song. Fantine’s tragic story and her character build up with the song to a huge release of strength expressed through her voice,” she says.
“I’d like the audience to feel sympathy for her and be moved by her story.”
Whilst musical theatre has always been Amy’s passion, she enjoys singing other genres and appreciates how they can aid each other.
“I try to adapt to the show I’m doing. For Fantine, as such a strong character with such a strong song, I use my theatre belt voice. My jazz and blues background has helped strengthen that,” she says.
In addition to Mia and Dante, other members of Amy’s clan have various on and off-stage roles in Les Misérables. But family within this show is far from just biological.
As well as Jo, Amy will be sharing the stage with several other showbiz pals. Val Andrew, who played Cosette in the 2002 production, is now in the ensemble and her son, Cameron, is playing alternate Gavroche. One of her best friends, Renée Evans, is Adult Cosette. The male lead, Jean Valjean, is played by long-time friend, Bradford Meurk, with whom Amy has appeared in Miss Saigon, Putting It Together, and Song and Dance.
“It’s a whole big family treat,” says Amy. “Everyone in this company is very dear to me.”