BWW Interview: Bianca Baykara
In this time of uncertainty, theatres in Australia, The West End, Broadway and around the world have gone dark in an attempt to help fight the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. This has left performers, producers, musicians and other art workers unemployed and anxious about what their future holds.
With no live theatre left to review, introducing Australian audiences to the people behind the performances, will hopefully help to continue to brighten and enrich their lives.
On an autumn afternoon Melbournian actress, Bianca Baykara, sat down with me via Zoom to discuss what life as a performer is currently like. Surprisingly she was having quite a busy day! After my interview she was scheduled to do a self-test audition and then a performance that evening as part of Musical Mugwumps. When I asked Baykara if she could ever have imagined she would be performing to an audience of hundreds, via a live-stream from her father's kitchen, the answer was "No".
Musical Mugwumps is a fantastic initiative established by James Cutler and Lala Barlow. It allows musical theatre enthusiasts to forget the realities of the real world and embrace their passion for the loveable show tune. Serving the self-isolating Australian theatre community, one musical per week via Zoom and Facebook Live, Cutler and Barlow have created an ingenious theatre platform. Every Sunday at 7.00pm they bring artists and audiences back together. More information can be found on Instagram or Facebook @MusicalMugwumps.
After probing Baykara about where her love of theatre came from, she mentions she was lucky enough as a member of the Australian Girls' Choir to be featured in the Australian arena tour of The Boy From Oz, featuring Hugh Jackman. "I think that was the moment I was like wow these people are amazing, musicals are cool!"
Baykara graduated NIDA's Music Theatre program in 2010 and went straight into touring Australia with educational theatre company Brainstorms Productions. She discussed how getting to educate kids on the effects of bullying, cyber safety and the importance of resilience, through theatre was a really rewarding process. From a career perspective she also mentioned that "What was really cool was that you basically play every character... there are only two actors in the whole show... so in a way it was the perfect job to go into after drama school... it was really awesome"
During her time touring around Australia with Brainstorms Productions, Baykara continued to audition for commercial musical theatre. "Brainstorm were so supportive and were 100% behind me... my manager actually drove me to the airport in Byron Bay, where we were performing at the time, to allow me to fly down to Sydney for a call back"
This callback happened to be for the original world premiere musical An Officer and a Gentleman, which Baykara ended up being cast in. "It was just an amazing thing... you never think this could happen to you...I actually got the call, saying I got the job, when I was working at a phone store in Bondi...I think I was serving a customer and I saw that my agent was calling... I said excuse me do you mind if I take this call ... I answered the call on the shop floor, I didn't even go out the back! ... I was buzzing and then I'm pretty sure I told the customer I got the job!"
Her music theatre career began to blossom after her short stint as a swing in An Officer and a Gentleman. This then saw her get cast in the ensemble of multiple other musicals including The Production Company's presentation of Singin' In The Rain and West Side Story, as well as in Opera Australia and The Gordon Frost Organisation's production of The King and I.
Recently finishing touring as Mrs Hathaway in School of Rock, Baykara was set to relocate to London in March 2020 to make her West End debut at the London Palladium, in a concert version of The Secret Garden. However like so many around the world, Baykara's career has had to be put on hold due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
The good news Baykara mentions is that at this stage the production has been postponed until 15th November and will now play at the Adelphi Theatre, "The producers have been so incredible around the whole situation...this situation reminds me that we as an arts industry are resilient...this is not the end!"
For more information on Bianca Baykara please follow her instagram @biancabaykara or visit www.biancabaykara.com/