Talent and dedication are essential for a career in show business. David Harris has both.
He’s just been nominated for a Helpmann Award for his role as Tick in Priscilla Queen of the Desert: The Musical but the Rutherford singer and actor, who divides his time between New York and Sydney these days, is hungry for more.
“People with nine-to-five jobs often say they don’t know how I handle not knowing what’s coming up next but for me, it shakes life up a bit,” he tells Weekender. “To have a show that is locked in for a year like Priscilla, that’s a luxury. In this line of work you’re always hustling.”
The original film version of Priscilla Queen of the Desert was groundbreaking on many levels. Harris and his co-stars push themselves to the limit to do it justice.
“You had three misfits – all non-traditional leading men – in a mainstream Australian film which hadn’t really been done until that point. It was groundbreaking for many reasons and for the LGBTI community in Australia,” he says.
“We have four boys playing the role of Benji, my son in the show, at each city and to see their experiences and how supportive their families are is just lovely. I think it’s a lot easier now. The culture when I grew up certainly wasn’t supportive. We didn’t have Australian Idol or Glee or X Factor or whatever. Singing is quite a cool thing to do now, and dance.
“My dad was a coal miner and I was in a very sporty school and anyone who did anything against the norm was looked at as being quite weird. Now it’s celebrated and acceptable and I’m glad for that but yeah, it wasn’t the easiest of roads and I certainly copped my fair share of flack at school from it.”
Harris says he “kind of fell into” musical theatre at high school.
“No one else would do the musical. I think they were just desperate for people to be in the show. I didn’t take it too seriously,” he explains.
“I went to uni at Newcastle for a couple of days and then quit and decided to move to Sydney to try out this singing thing. I love live theatre. For me the audience is another character in the show and their reactions and energy are always different. No two nights are the same.”
Harris was awarded a Green Room Award for Best Actor as well as Helpmann and Sydney Theatre Award nominations for his portrayal of Emmett Forrest in Legally Blonde. He also has the Theatre People’s Award for Best Actor to his name for his portrayal of The Baker in Victorian Opera’s 2014 production Into The Woods and gained critical acclaim for his portrayal of Chris in Cameron Mackintosh’s production of Miss Saigon which earned him Helpmann and Sydney Theatre Award nominations. He is starting to make his mark in America, too, having received a Connecticut Critics Circle Award nomination for Best Actor for his performance of Dan in Next To Normal.
Harris, though, has a few boxes to tick of his own.
“I’d love to have a recurring television role. I’d love to be in a successful film. I’d love to get that Broadway credit. And I am yet to originate a role, which is the ultimate dream for me,” he says.
“I want to put my first and original stamp on something rather than having someone else having played it and you are always being compared. Well you’re not always, but certainly in Priscilla because the film was so successful and so iconic. Hugo Weaving’s portrayal is the one that most people see as the role of Tick.
“There have been a plethora of guys that have played Tick over the past 12 years and everyone has their take. But I want to have my take on a role that hasn’t been done before. That’s still on the cards – it’s what I’m working towards and there’s more likelihood of that happening in the States for me because new musicals get created there all the time.”