When Emma Delmenico auditioned for Cats, she had no idea of the incredible journey she was about to begin.
She was offered a contract with the popular musical while she was studying at Victorian College of the Arts Secondary School, embarking on tour in 1999. Then a Year 12 student, she completed her VCE whilst on the road. Fast forward 16 years, and Delmenico is still working with Cats, now as both Resident Choreographer and Swing.
Despite breaks to perform with The Australian Ballet, Victorian State Opera, The Production Company and Wicked, amongst others, Delmenico keeps coming back to Cats. And this year, she’ll be back on home soil, with an Australian tour kicking off in Sydney this month.
“I can’t believe this, but the last time I did Cats in Australia was actually 2001,” she says. “Feels like it really wasn’t that long ago, though. It’s fabulous to be back home performing. Family and friends have the chance to come and see what I have been working on for so long, and what means so much to me. I can’t wait to open in Australia.”
This tour boasts a stellar cast, including superstar Delta Goodrem, whom Delmenico calls “a great woman”, as Grizabella.
“Delta is one busy lady, and when I started rehearsing with her she was also flying to Sydney most nights for The Voice and her single launch,” Delmenico recalls. “She survives on four hours of sleep, and I take my hat off to her because she’d come into rehearsals and be up there with everyone else warming up and learning the show. She is going to be fabulous as Grizabella.”
Delmenico, of course, knows the show inside and out; being a swing means being able to step in at a moment’s notice and cover anyone who is sick or injured.
“As a swing, I just love being on when I get the chance,” she says. “Performing has been my life, and I am so grateful and fortunate to be able to play so many roles.”
She points out that every role has its perks and challenges. It’s the challenges, though, that keep her interested, that stoke her love for the production.
In 2014, Delmenico was offered the position of Resident Choreographer for the Korean tour, which then went to Singapore and Macau, and returned to Korea earlier this year. Being “RC” means assisting in the rehearsal process and helping Jo-Anne Robinson teach the show to each new cast.
“I love my role,” Delmenico says. “It’s a crazy busy time rehearsing and technically putting the show into a theatre.”
After opening night, Robinson leaves and Delmenico is in charge of guarding the show – taking notes, holding clean-up calls and rehearsing the understudies and swings. “These people are so important in a show,” she says. “As I always say, ‘they keep the curtain up’!”
As RC, she also assists with the audition process, another challenge she enjoys. Cats is a show that requires strong ballet technique, as well as strong singing, and every role is different. Delmenico and her team need a fair amount of time in the audition process to find out where someone would fit in the show. They then break down groups according to roles they could be auditioning for and start the process of teaching choreography. During this process, it’s one of Delmenico’s aims to bring out the strengths in each dancer “so that they leave the room feeling they have done their best,” she says.
With a varied and consistent career so far, Delmenico acknowledges that she has been fortunate, but she has always worked hard to get to where she is today. She advises young musical theatre hopefuls to be prepared to put in the hours and have the dedication to push beyond perceived capabilities. “You can always work harder in classes, even when you’re exhausted,” she adds. “You just have to push yourself and believe that you can do it.
She stresses the importance of keeping up classes, as every show requires technique in singing or dancing. “Performance alone won’t get you where you want to be,” she suggests. “Don’t worry about what the person next to you is doing, it’s your life and your career and the only competition should be with yourself, so never stop challenging yourself.”
As she prepares to open Cats in her home country for the first time in well over a decade, Delmenico reflects on her adventure so far. “I always think about how I started out, especially when I start rehearsing with a new cast,” she says. “I don’t know where the years go… I have been lucky enough to work on [Cats] on and off over the last 16 years, and I hope it remains part of my life for the next 16.”
For more information on Cats tour dates and booking, click here.
By Rain Francis of Dance Informa.
Photo (top): The Cats Ensemble with Deuteronomy. Photo courtesy of Cats.