Musical mystic! | Daily News

Musical mystic!

As Alice in ‘Alice in Wonderland’
As Alice in ‘Alice in Wonderland’

Many paths are open for youth today to excel in diverse sectors. Accomplished and multitalented, they feel inspired and energized to pursue multiple creative projects. That is why we meet a lot of young adults out there who have done wonders in various sectors, one of which is acting.

In the entertainment industry there are hundreds of productions coming each year. Many new faces enter the limelight and among those stars, there are some youth who are skillful at the job regardless of their age.

19 year old Daniella Perera landed the role of Eliza Doolittle when the Workshop Players brought Lerner and Loewe’s Broadway classic ‘My Fair Lady’ before the Sri Lankan audience. Directed by Surein de S. Wijeratne and produced by Jerome L. de Silva, ‘My Fair Lady’ ran for 10 days in which Daniella shared the lead role with Amarsha Tissera. Both girls were new entrants to the team but managed to pull off their performance with such skill and energy that they got thundering applause from the audience.

Daniella Perera.
Pictures by Sarath Peiries and Shehal Joseph

Daniella has portrayed roles in two musical productions before. Her first performance had been while she was schooling at Holy Family Convent, Bambalapitiya. She had taken on the lead role in ‘You’ve Got it Pussy Cat’, an adaptation of ‘Puss in Boots’, directed by Jith Peiris in 2014. She also played Alice in Ruvin de Silva’s ‘Alice in Wonderland’ presented by the Wendy Whatmore Academy in 2015.

“I have always been into the dramatic side from my tender years. I started my stint with drama at the Wendy Whatmore Academy when I was about three and a half years and since then I have not turned back. I knew acting was in my blood and that is what I want in life. Music runs in my family. My father, Shobi Perera, is a musician. My mother, Dreen Perera, is a teacher at Wendy Whatmore Academy and has a lot of relatives who are engaged in music. My sister, Shenelle, too has a flair for singing though she did not really get into it,” Daniella said.

She notes that she had always wanted to portray Eliza Doolittle’s character.

“I do musical theater and have done bits and pieces of ‘My Fair Lady’. However I was a bit reluctant to take on the role at first because my G C E Advanced Level examination was approaching. It would be a challenge to handle both but my mother had faith in my abilities. She encouraged me to go for it,” she enthused.

Denaiella has still been in two minds when she had gone for the audition but after auditioning for the role she knew that she wanted to be part of the musical no matter which role will be offered to her. Winning Eliza’s role was like the icing on the cake as she had been ecstatic to be a part of the play.

“I was playing cards with my cousins when Suren called to tell me that I got the part. I just froze when I heard the news. I didn’t think I would land the role because I thought that they would believe that I had commitment issues,” she explained.

Recalling the period in which ‘My Fair Lady’ was staged at the Lionel Wendt Daniella described the experience as ‘nerve wrecking’. However she was quick to add that though it was tiring, the whole experience has been magical and fun.

“Compared to some of the other actors, I actually had a more easy time because I was just out of school. Therefore I could relax and go for the rehearsals when the others were juggling professional duties and other work with the rehearsals,” she said.

Daniella says that rather than following Julie Andrews play she has mostly taken her cue from Audrey Hepburn in the movie. Her favourite episode in the production was the Ascot scene because this marked the bridge between the phrase when Eliza was a Cockney flower girl and a ‘lady’. It is also the most hilarious scene which Eliza is involved in.

As Pussy Cat in ‘You’ve Got it Pussy Cat’

“And I also love the dress!” she exclaimed with a smile.

She says that the most challenging thing about her role was to portray the transition from a lowly flower girl into something close to a ‘lady’.

“It was a bit tough to show that development. You need to put a lot of effort into the vocal performance too in a musical. Keeping the energy going was demanding as well,” she added. She says that the best part of the project was acting alongside Jerome.

“He was simply a big name to us before we took part in the production but once you are in a production with him you realize that there is so much to learn from him. He added little bits to the play which made such a difference to it while he was portraying his role. This also helped the other actors to bring their characters out better."

She says that the main thing she learnt from ‘My Fair Lady’ is about sharing a role.

“That was a new experience for me. Amarsha and I worked really well together. It was not about who plays the better Eliza but making the production better. We would learn something from each other as we worked as a team. You also learn what goes on behind the scenes. The crew had a mammoth task in taking the production forward. They pulled everything off with winning colours,” she said adding that they had a responsibility to match up to the veterans they were working with.

“It was a big risk that Suren took in giving the lead role to two newcomers. However the feedback was overwhelming as the audience thought that the characters were well executed. It brought about a lot of fond memories to people who had watched the iconic movie,” she mused.

She says that besides Eliza’s role she loves Alfred Dolittle’s character because he maintains his unrefined Cockney mannerism throughout the play. She notes that the director has given them ample space to build their characters rather than tell them how to play the role. She has learnt that little things matter in building up a character from Jerome. Queried on what kind of musical she would like to take on next and prompt comes the reply.

“Chicago! I don’t mind portraying either Velma Kelly or Roxie Hart. I would like to do Nala or the cheetah’s role in ‘The Lion King’ too,” she added with a twinkle in her eyes.

Eliza speaking to Professor Higgins at Mrs Higgin’s house
Eliza goes to Ascot for the first time

Eliza with Mrs Higgins and professor  Higgins at Mrs. Higgin’s house

Singing “I could have danced all night”












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