WEDDING BELLS: Natalie Abbott, centre, in a scene from Muriel's Wedding the Musical.
WEDDING BELLS: Natalie Abbott, centre, in a scene from Muriel's Wedding the Musical. Supplied

Muriel stars bring new twist on iconic story to Qld

MURIEL'S Wedding The Musical will deliver all of the daggy costumes and iconic lines you remember from P.J. Hogan's iconic 1994 film.

But what you may not expect are the emotional moments that will bring you to tears in this modern stage adaptation of the Australian coming-of-age story.

"The story is not typical at all. It doesn't go the way that you initially expect," says star Natalie Abbott, who stars as Muriel in her first leading stage role.

"That shocked me when I watched the musical. I thought it would be a nice, light, fun night out, but it made me feel things you don't necessarily expect to feel. It's not often a musical goes to that place and makes you feel those sorts of things. It's an emotional roller coaster."

Natalie Abbott, centre, stars in her first leading role as Muriel in Muriel's Wedding the Musical.
Natalie Abbott, centre, stars in her first leading role as Muriel in Muriel's Wedding the Musical. Supplied

The award-winning musical, which opens in Brisbane this month, brings Muriel, the rest of the Heslop family and the quirky residents of Porpoise Spit into the 21st Century.

"It's interesting the way they have adapted the musical into modern times and this digital age," Ms Abbott says. "It fits so incredibly well. The movie set in the '90s is iconic and the musical does all of the same things but it's set in a different era. It's Muriel now.

"It stands the test of time and it's still hilarious to this day."

The update - which features music by Kate Miller-Heidke and Keir Nuttall alongside the classic ABBA hits - has allowed Ms Abbot and her co-star Stefanie Jones, who plays Muriel's best friend Rhonda, to make the roles their own.

"The film medium and the musical theatre medium are so extremely different. It's a bit of a blessing I suppose. We're not expected to replicate the performances of Toni (Collette) or Rachel (Griffiths), but we've taken little nuances here and there," Ms Jones says. "We know the audience wants to see and hear things a certain way."

Natalie Abbott as Muriel and Stefanie Jones as Rhonda in a scene from Muriel's Wedding the Musical.
Natalie Abbott as Muriel and Stefanie Jones as Rhonda in a scene from Muriel's Wedding the Musical. Jeff Busby

Brisbane native Ms Jones can't wait to perform in front of her home town in a role which has allowed her to use her native Aussie accent and to embrace her inner 'bogan'.

"It's really refreshing and it just makes you feel more like yourself in a way I didn't expect," she says. "It's been really fun to access my inner Queensland bogan - my drama teacher certainly knocked that right out of me at the VCA (Victorian College of the Arts). Now I'm getting to play someone who I recognise. I grew up in Queensland around those sorts of personalities."

She hopes the blossoming friendship of Muriel and Rhonda, and their rally against the status quo of their insular coastal town, will inspire a new generation of young women.

"I'm glad I waited until later in life to watch the film so I could grasp it a bit more," Ms Jones says. "As a female in her teens having a hard time at school, I'm glad I saw it when I did. It was a real eye-opening film.

Stefanie Jones and Natalie Abbott star in Muriel's Wedding the Musical.
Stefanie Jones and Natalie Abbott star in Muriel's Wedding the Musical. Jeff Busby

"I always related to Rhonda, and Muriel in a way too. As all teenagers do I went through that really awkward period with braces and acne where you feel like an alien in your own body, but I also wanted to have the spirit and charisma that Rhonda had; she paves the way.

"It's about teaching yourself to embrace differences and that it doesn't matter if you're not like those other girls at school. Who wants to be like them anyway?"

Muriel's Wedding The Musical opens at QPAC's Lyric Theatre on September 19 and runs through October 26. Final seats for the Brisbane season are on sale now. For more information and tickets go to qpac.com.au.



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