Behind the Scenes with Ron Mack
Ali Baba / Wensley Rusell of Chu Chin Chow
Tell me about your character in Chu Chin Chow. What do you think of him?
Ali Baba is the impoverished brother of “lean and mean old” Kasim Baba. He is unhappy with his lot – his wife, Mahbubah, was as “beautiful as a wild gazelle” when they married, but now she’s thin and nagging; he lives in relative squalor, while his brother lives in a palace; and he drinks too much to forget his sorrows. But he’s in love with the exotic Alcolom, one of his brother‘s wives, and we see his romantic side as they sing to each other while Kasim is away. Everything changes when he comes across the robbers’ treasure – it’s a real rags to riches story.
How is this show different from others you’ve appeared in?
I’d heard of Chu Chin Chow, but didn’t know the music at all. But I’ve performed in several other productions of this nature and era directed by Robert Ray, so in that respect, it’s a similar challenge. My preference has always been Gilbert & Sullivan, but I love working under Robert Ray’s direction, and Chu Chin Chow is a great show.
What has been your biggest challenge about taking on this role?
I auditioned for the role of the Cobbler. I thought the Cobbler’s Song was a nice little piece, in a baritone range rather than my normal tenor range, and prepared well for my audition. But for some reason, Robert decided to offer me the Ali Baba role. My initial reaction was to decline, as it seemed to be far too much work; but Robert persisted and I eventually relented. This role is very challenging for me – the number of songs, plus dialogue! Let’s hope Robert doesn’t want me to do too much dancing!
What celebrity would you like to see tackle this character? Extra props for an Aussie connection!
From an Australian perspective, I think Dennis Olsen would be perfect for the Ali Baba character – he plays these quirky characters brilliantly. A very different option might be Omid Djalili, a British-Iranian actor comedian.
Which is your favourite song from Chu Chin Chow, and why do you think the audience will like it?
There are several great songs in this show which I’m sure audiences will love. My favourites would be Alcolom’s “I Long for the Sun”; also “Sing and Dance”, “The Cobblers Song” and “How Dear is Our Day”. “Sing and Dance” and “Hail the Grand Wazir” should get the audience tapping their feet and humming along when the show’s over.
Do you have a favourite play or musical, and if so, why do you love it?
My all-time favourite play/musical is The Producers. The original movie with Zero Mostel and Gene Wildman was hysterical, and there’ll never be another hit song like “Springtime for Hitler”!
This role is very challenging for me – the number of songs, plus dialogue! Let’s hope Robert doesn’t want me to do too much dancing!
What does your perfect Sunday afternoon look like?
Watching Collingwood win an AFL match.
Is there someone you look up to professionally (as an actor/director/etc.) or personally?
I’ve performed with several G&S and other opera companies in South Australia, NSW and Victoria. My most enjoyable experiences have been in shows directed by Robert Ray.
What’s the last thing you do before you step out on stage / the curtain goes up?
Book your Tickets to Chu Chin Chow
Watch Ron triumphantly bring the classic character of Ali Baba to the stage in GSOV’s Chu Chin Chow at Malvern Theatre from 26 – 27 November.
This project is supported by City of Greater Geelong through its Community Arts Grants Program.
Chu Chin Chow
Gilbert & Sullivan Opera Victoria presents Chu Chin Chow, based on the smash hit that ran for 2238 performances on London's West End.
Enter the exotic extravaganza of Chu Chin Chow, a grand Arabian Nights adventure from the rich imagination of Geelong-born impresario Oscar Asche – Victoria’s very own musical theatre superstar!