Mamma Mia! Here Jayde goes again
Advertisement

Mamma Mia! Here Jayde goes again

Turning your back on a successful career for a better life for your family in Australia is a well-trodden path for many.

But when your industry is much smaller in Australia than it is at your starting point, the prospect can be rather daunting.

That is exactly the path West End star Jayde Westaby took three years ago when she and her Australian-born partner Sean Mulligan, also a performer, decided to raise their son, Bay, in Mulligan's home country.

The 38-year-old actress was enjoying a hugely successful career in London's West End – her credits including starring roles in Saturday Night Fever, Grease, West Side Story and Chicago The Musical – before she and Mulligan made the move to Australia.

Advertisement

"I couldn’t envisage bringing [Bay] up in London at that time and we had the option of coming here," she said. "The lifestyle here is wonderful."

Jayde Westaby left her lucrative career on London's stage to move to Australia.

Jayde Westaby left her lucrative career on London's stage to move to Australia.Credit:Paul Jeffers

Westaby and Mulligan had to balance the risks involved in abandoning their respective careers (the couple starred in Saturday Night Fever and Grease together) against the benefits of raising their son down under.

In the end, Australia won.

"It was a huge risk to come here and leave everything I knew career wise. People knowing me, me knowing them... I had built up a reputation in London and I was coming here pretty unknown at 35," she said.

The risk paid off.

Westaby arrived in Australia with a contract to complete the Australia tour of The Rocky Horror Show playing the role of Magenta after Erika Heynatz finished.

She went on to star in the Sydney season of Xanadu The Musical, Dream Lover and now the new Australian tour of Mamma Mia!.

"I have been so lucky, honestly, people have been so welcoming and generous to me in the industry here," she said. "Walking into an audition room in London I pretty much knew everyone but obviously it was different here. Everyone has been so kind to me, and really welcoming. It's been great.

"Things have come up that I have been right for – it has all fallen into place."

Westaby plays Tanya in Mamma Mia!, the show's protagonist's best friend and resident sex-kitten-cum-cougar, an opportunity to not only exercise her impressive vocal abilites but her prowess as a dancer with the production's younger male ensemble.

Westaby starred in the Australian tour of The Rocky Horror Show when she first arrived here.

Westaby starred in the Australian tour of The Rocky Horror Show when she first arrived here.Credit:Janie Barrett

"It's such a great role, she gets such brilliant lines and she gets to do Does Your Mother Know with the boys, it is really great fun," she says.

This tour marks a return to the production for Westaby: she played Ali, one of the young bridesmaids, in the London production 13 years ago.

"Even all that time ago I had my eye on this role," Westaby said.

"I would look up at our Tanya and think what a brilliant role it was."

Her career has come full circle: After playing one of the young bridesmaids in Mamma Mia!, she now plays cougar Tanya.

Her career has come full circle: After playing one of the young bridesmaids in Mamma Mia!, she now plays cougar Tanya.Credit:Jamila Toderas

With the Mamma Mia! tour coming to an end – 11 more weeks in Melbourne before a short season in Adelaide to close the run – Westaby is already thinking about the future. She would love for there to be an on-stage reunion between her and her real-life love.

"Oh god, I would love to do something with Sean again, I love working with him," she said.

"Regardless of whether he is my partner, he is enormously talented and incredibly generous to perform with."

Mamma Mia! continues at The Princess Theatre until September 30.