There are two questions Alexander Lewis is now used to when he tells friends he is playing a lead role in Titanic: The Musical.
The first is, Are you playing the Leonardo DiCaprio role? and the other is, Do you get to sing My Heart Will Go On?
While on a break in rehearsals for the stage musical, which opens next week at Theatre Royal, Lewis says there is no point fighting the inevitable questions relating the musical to the epic 1997 movie.
All of that is great for the interest in the show, but I tell people this is a musical about the real story of Titanic and we are playing real people, not fictionalised characters like in the movie, Lewis explains.
I am playing Frederick Barrett, a stoker who was a coal miner. When he gets aboard the ship, he thinks he has begun a new life but then, working in the engine room, he becomes disillusioned -“ he is just in the depths of the ship rather than down a coal mine.
Barrett sings two of the best songs from the Titanic score -“ one about the state of existence in the bowels of the ship, and a love song about the woman he left behind.
Joining Lewis in playing real-life Titanic characters are Hayden Tee as designer Thomas Andrews, Nick Tate as Captain Smith and Joan Carden as Ida Strauss.
Our director (John Diedrich) has spoken to us about paying homage to the people who died on the ship as we are telling their stories, says Lewis.
This is a very Les Mis kind of show, and it hits all the right notes. There are times when the entire cast is singing and it really does bring a tear to the eye.
Lewis, the son of opera singers Michael Lewis and Patricia Price, appeared as a child in such operas as Macbeth and Baz Luhrmann’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
While Alexander is preparing to drown every night as Barrett on the Titanic, his brother Ben is in high heels, leather straps and headdresses in Priscilla, Queen Of The Desert.
I am more of a classical singer, while Ben is a big belter with chords of steel, Alexander says. There must be some kind of genetic link in there with music for both of us from our parents.
The brothers were in the same class at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA), and Alexander admits that since graduating at the end of 2004 he has been waiting for his big break.
Now, along with Titanic, he has landed the role of Antony in Opera Australia’s return season of Sweeney Todd, as well as a scholarship to study at The Metropolitan Opera in New York.
Opera has always been my first love and it connects to me deeply, but I discovered music theatre a few years back and didn’t want to give that up either.
But who knows what will happen when I am in New York? I will be working for six weeks with a variety of coaches and get to sit in on rehearsals, and then I audition for them. I also plan to see as many Broadway shows as I can. I just feel all the waiting is now paying off.
Titanic: The Musical opens 26 October at the Theatre Royal. Bookings on 1300 795 012 or at the Ticketek website.