Emily Monsma is currently dazzling audiences around Australia playing the iconic role of Penny Pingleton in Harvest Rain’s Hairspray: The Big Fat Arena Spectacular. We were lucky enough to chat to Emily about all things Hairspray, pre-show rituals and more.

When did you first develop a love of performing?

Well, I started dancing at a very young age. I think I was about four. My Mum took me to a dance class and all I remember is dressing up like a fairy and running around. I guess that’s kind of how it started but then we moved to the Gold Coast. I started at a new dance school and the audition brief came out for a production of Annie at the Arts Centre Gold Coast. I was so obsessed with the movie at that point and my dance teachers encouraged me to go. I went to the audition for Annie and ended up getting the title role which was the craziest and most unexpected thing of my life. From there I’ve just been absolutely obsessed with theatre and it’s all I’ve ever wanted to do.

Ruby Clark and Emily Monsma in Hairspray: The Big Fat Arena Spectacular. Image by Nick Morrissey. 

What has it been like playing Penny Pingleton in the world’s biggest production of Hairspray?

Why I love Penny is because she is the most fun, energetic, adorkable character I think within musical theatre. It’s just so much fun. She’s lovely and sweet and naive. She also gets to eat lollipops in Act 1 which I think is fabulous. I’ve always loved the movie and it’s a role I’ve always wanted to play. Working with the cast and having Lauren [McKenna] as my best friend has just been the easiest and most natural thing ever. Lauren is so beautiful and talented and it’s so easy to play her supportive best friend. I also just love wearing my pink overalls and having my hair in the little curls. Mark Stefanoff, a man of many talents, does my hair every show too, which is pretty cool.

What has it been like working with the mass ensembles?

It’s been so cool. They are so beautiful and their faces just light up the room. It is so special and I just love children and you know, I was one of those kids. I think that’s one of the most special things because from around ten years old I did as much I could; workshops and working with big names in the industry and looking up to them. To be one of those people that they look up to is something that just warms my heart so much because I was literally one of them. They have so much energy and they want to learn which is really special as well. It’s also been amazing meeting the kids in different cities who draw you pictures and send you beautiful messages.

Barry Conrad, Emily Monsma and the cast of Hairspray: The Big Fat Arena Spectacular. Image by Nick Morrissey. 

Do you have any pre-show rituals?

I like to use Listerine every show. I like to do a quick prayer for myself not to fall over. It’s like, “Please guide me through this show and don’t let me make a fool of myself.” I guess it would work for Penny though. I fell over doing a show once and since then I have to pray and put it out into the universe. I try and get around to everyone and check in as well.

What do you believe audiences will take from this production?

I think audiences will absolutely have the songs stuck in their heads. I think it’s the most amazing visual experiences they will ever encounter and I think the message about love and acceptance is so important as well.

Barry Conrad and Emily Monsma in Hairspray: The Big Fat Arena Spectacular. Image by Nick Morrissey. 


To keep up with Emily you can find her on Instagram @emilymonsma

For further information on Hairspray: The Big Fat Arena Spectacular head to http://www.hairsprayarenashow.com