By Lauren Ferrone
Published: Thursday, March 22, 2018
There might be no place like home, but for Sydney’s rising musical theatre star, Samantha Dodemaide, the Festival State has her heart.
“Adelaide’s a pretty special place to me,” she says. It could have something to do with meeting her partner Mark here when they starred together in the musical A Chorus Line seven years ago – or for a reason much sweeter.
“Haigh’s Chocolates is walking distance from the theatre,” Samantha laughs. “Sometimes I have to change my route on the way back home after shows so I don’t walk past it.”
Walking unfamiliar paths isn’t new to Samantha, who has been following a yellow brick road around Australia as Dorothy in the beloved musical The Wizard of Oz, which opens at the revamped Adelaide Festival Centre this April.
The 28-year-old performer was picked from 400 other Dorothy hopefuls to take on her first lead role in a major musical.
“During rehearsals, the director would tell me to try to remember how it felt to be 16… but I seemed to have blocked that time out of my life,” she laughs.
Still “pretty chuffed” to wipe 12 years off her age, Samantha – like many – grew up watching Dorothy’s adventures in the land of Oz.
“I’d spend Saturday afternoons at home watching all of those classic musicals on repeat,” she says.
“Doris Day, Marilyn Monroe and, of course, Judy Garland, were huge starlets and big inspirations for me.”
This latest production is produced by John Frost, who grew up in suburban Adelaide, and has a modern twist, with five new songs by English lyricist Tim Rice and composer Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber.
It still manages, however, to bring to life our favourite moments, including Over the Rainbow and that iconic click of Dorothy’s heels.
So, how does Samantha put herself in the shoes of that little girl from Kansas in the blue and white checked dress?
“Putting on a musical is so much bigger than what the audiences see, and even what the actors see.
“We learn our lines and go to rehearsals, but there’s so much more going on. From stage management to wardrobe, it’s really quite huge.”
Cast mate Jemma Rix goes through a particularly extraordinary transformation from Miss Gulch to the Wicked Witch of the West.
“The change from one character to the next is quite fast. She gets green with a posse of people around her with paintbrushes,” Samantha says.
“Sometimes when we’re leaving the theatre at night, Jem’s still a bit green behind her ears,” she says.
A musical theatre star’s schedule is every bit as hectic as you’d imagine, with the cast rehearsing for one month straight, from about 9am to 6pm, usually
six days a week. Some, however, needed even more help getting into character.
Dorothy’s furry sidekick Toto had to be trained, which involved Samantha spending the first hour of every rehearsal bonding in a backyard in Ballarat
with her canine friend.
“There are actually two Totos and it’s amazing how smart they are,” Samantha says, admitting she gives a gentle push to whichever one is on stage if he’s missed his cue.
The Wizard of Oz premiered in Brisbane last December, with the cast and crew moving on to Sydney and soon Adelaide, before the curtain draws for the final time in Melbourne this May.
Aside from cuddling pups, life on the road can often get exhausting but Samantha always takes one message away with her after every show.
“Everyone wants that land over the rainbow, but now I look at what I have and try to appreciate that every day,” she says.
And while you probably won’t find her at Haigh’s in those sparkly, ruby slippers, there’s no doubt red is her colour.
“My partner’s parents bought me a pair of Birkenstock sandals for opening night. They’re red like Dorothy’s, but probably a little more comfortable,” she laughs.
30 seconds with Sam…
There’s no place like home because… that’s where I get to sleep every night.
Scarecrow or Tin Man? I could never pick between them, so I’ll say Lion!
If I could have one wizard power, it’d be… to help everyone see their self-worth.
The best thing about being Dorothy is… seeing everything through optimistic eyes.
How comfy are Dorothy’s ruby slippers? They say beauty is pain, right?