Following a highly successful season at the Sydney Opera House, Velvet Rewired is set to deliver acrobatics, aerial circus and timeless talent of Marcia Hines, all whipped into one thrilling discotheque at the Theatre Royal.
When I was invited to sit down on a comfy Hobart couch with Marcia Hines to chat about her upcoming Velvet Rewired Theatre Royal show (March 22-April 9), of course, it was a resounding yes. What I didn’t know, was the buoyant strength of the American-Australian singer and television personality I was to meet …
Like many, I’ve watched Marcia from afar. I’ve listened to her smooth rhythmic voice and watched as she’s encouraged young kids with big dreams on the Australian Idol stage. Everyone knows Marcia’s name. But, I sure didn’t know her story. So, I did a little research. Last time she was in Tassie, she crash-landed on a tennis court and had to perform on stage in a moonboot. As a former tennis player living some years in America, I was glad we had something in common; a love of whacking tennis balls.
“Oh no, it was not normal tennis. It was that Royal Tennis,” smiles Marcia. “With strange rules and a big heavy racquet. Jokers on the wall, from memory.” I laughed at my own brief meeting with Royal Tennis, the Hobart club founded in 1875, making it one of the oldest sporting clubs in the Southern Hemisphere. I too was baffled – even as to who had won when we all shook hands. What I instantly knew, is this lady loves adventure, spontaneity and invites challenge. After all, she’s been entertaining us for decades.
I dug a little deeper though. Marcia’s is a story mixed with lights and glitter, sprinkled with painful loss. This is what made me listen in close. Born in Boston to Jamaicans, at just six months old Marcia lost her father following war surgery. Her courageous mother raised both Marcia and her big brother Dwight alone and by nine, Marcia was belting out tunes in the church choir.
It took little time for it to be known that Marcia could sing. Like, really sing. At just 16, Hines was picked up for the Australian stage production of Hair and whisked away to Australia. It may be more than 50 years on, but there’s a sparkle in Marcia’s eyes that promise these decades have only fuelled her on-stage passion. A dose of wisdom injected through the years, but a ‘forever performer’ ready to deliver more than 20 shows like each is her first.
When I think back myself moving from Australia to America, it conjures thoughts of unfamiliar feels. Pulling away from the airport in my tennis coach’s Cadillac on the ‘wrong side’ of the road. Knowing not a soul. But for Marcia, it wasn’t just getting to know a new country and hitting tennis balls. After feeling off and visiting an Aussie doctor, the 16-year-old was told that she was six months pregnant. As per the heart-warming Anh's Brush with Fame episode about Marcia, the young American thought “I was just developing … but I was developing into a Mum.”
What do you do when you’re about to give birth and you’re in a foreign country and have a lead role in a smashing national production? If you’re Marcia, you don’t let it slow your stride. You get back on stage just nine days after giving birth to the ever-talented singer, Deni Hines. Later, Marcia’s mother would come to Australia in support.
Marcia’s shining career continued to rise. Few might know she grew up with asthma and would miss months of schooling to the harrowing attacks. She went on to hit the high notes in her role of Mary Magdalene in Jesus Christ Superstar. Some may know her finest successes as a recording artist including cover hits like Fire and Rain and Tom Snow's, You, that reached number two on the Australian charts. Her Discotheque album hit number six and Hines was inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame in 2007, during her time as an Australian Idol judge. Though, mixed in with these career highs, few would know she returned to bury her only brother after he took his own life. Many years later, she would say farewell to her mother, too.
Known as the ‘kind judge’ on Australia Idol, things are starting to make more sense as I listen to Marcia. “I just told the kids what I’d like said to me at that stage. It’s simple really. Everything I’ve done has come with that support and enthusiasm; to strive forward.”
As I look at Marcia, perhaps I see a hint of the personal loss, but somewhat little. Is it the actress in Marcia? Is it an eternal optimism that drives her forward? Is music what sings to her soul? I think about how she recorded Rise, an official Sydney Olympic song and my empathy fades into an admiration for her tenacity. Her eyes shine radiantly, even though she’s just having a chat with a local. They light up when I ask about Velvet Rewired, the upcoming show. They dance when I query why she loves live music so much. And I know she’s a lifetime performer; maybe a touch of acting through those hard life moments but a resilient diva ready to put on a serious Hobart show.
I could go on, about the successes of her Carole King tribute album Tapestry or her cover of These Boots Are Made For Walking that was created for The Real Housewives of Melbourne trailer. But let’s move onto Velvet Rewired…
“I love performing live,” gushes Marcia of the aptly described ‘global smash hit discotheque circus that is Velvet Rewired. “Being on stage – it’s real. It’s genuine. It’s exciting. And I love Hobart so I can’t wait to return to the Theatre Royal.”
So, what’s Velvet Rewired? Since 2015, Marcia Hines has starred in the original disco musical Velvet, from the Adelaide Fringe and Edinburgh to the Sydney Opera House. In 2023, the shiny up-energised Velvet Rewired will hit the Theatre Royal stage from March 22. There will be a total of 23 performances, with a closing date of April 9. When I ask Marcia what she’ll do in her spare time, I almost wish I hadn’t.
“Oh, I’ll be sleeping! My body is my instrument, you know? We perform up to eight shows a week. No interval. Sometimes two shows in a day,” I nod, knowing there’ll likely be no Royal Tennis for this disco driver.
Creator and director of Velvet, Craig Ilott, upped the tempo of the original production, transforming the show into what is described as ‘a fresh, new sparkling vision of dreams, life and fulfilment. This fusion of discotheque, nightclub, burlesque and carnivale results in an insatiably flawless inferno of glamour, glitz and jaw-dropping circus skills.’
When Hines hits the stage across those 23 Hobart shows, she’ll be joined by DJ Joe Accaria, and a swathe of electrifying acrobats, aerialists and vocalist talents. That equals one evening of mighty energy and exhilaration.
When we farewell, Marcia picks up a generous number of hotel mints and pops them in my handbag. It’s a gesture of an uncommon kind that makes me giggle but as I later chew on my minty stash, I know I’ve just met with a performer equally fresh. She can even make being an accomplice to mint robbery exciting. But to know even half the story back stage – Marcia’s personal journey – is to know I’ll be right there cheering her on in Hobart Town.
Join us and grab your velvety tickets right here.
“If there’s one show you see this year, make it this one."
THE ADELAIDE ADVERTISER
“Flawless and exhilarating, a sensory overload!”
THE GUARDIAN UK
“Velvet Rewired is a power-packed uninterrupted 90 odd minutes of pure disco joy and awe-inspiring circus artistry. Returning in a re-vamped version after its sell-out debut as Velvet in 2015, Velvet Rewired retains all the dazzle, sparkle, magic and Marcia of the original with a mix of new and tried-and-true performances. Marcia Hines is of course, the jewel in the crown, every bit a legend and the consummate songstress.”
REVIEW FROM THE SYDNEY OPERA HOUSE SEASON: ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT
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Words: Alice Hansen
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