in 60 seconds, by Tony Davis - 28th September 2002
The Sydney Morning Herald)
'"You're here for the weirdo
hour," Russell Jordan says in a thick American
accent, "These guys can be really kooky."
are sitting at a long table in a large, empty
dance studio up from the Sydney Theatre Company
at Wharf 4, Walsh Bay. In the narrow corridor
outside are 30 celebrity lookalikes and improvisational
comics, plus a smattering of musicians, dancers
goal is a full-time gig at the Universal Studios
theme park in Osaka, Japan. Jordan, a one-time
singer and actor, is the man they need to impress.
This morning he assessed 200 singers. Yesterday
it was dancers; tomorrow it's stunt performers.
But, right now, it's predominantly weirdos and
each will be given one minute to prove themselves
worthy of entertaining the 11 million visitors
the park attracts a year.
up is Craig. A thirty-something in street clothes,
his monologue builds slowly, so slowly it still
hasn't left the ground when, 45 seconds later,
Jordan yells: "Thanks, Craig, that's all
we need. Thanks for coming out."
I didn't really get to the comedy."
OK, next time."
dressed as Marilyn Monroe, is next. Anne looks
very little like the woman born Norma Jean Mortensen,
but she sings quite fetchingly until her abridged
version of Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend is
further abbreviated by Jordan's, "Thanks,
Anne, we do appreciate your time."
another thirtysomething in street clothes, marches
in, yells at himself and then bashes himself up
until he's a heap on the floor.
Carl, very good, thanks for your time."
is next. A thin young man in black, he plays amazing
sax and has more luck. "Do you sing as well?"
asks Jordan. There's a nod in reply. "Come
back at four and do that for us."
a singer, isn't going to make the mistake of starting
slowly. Her rendition of Somewhere over the Rainbow
begins with the song's climactic ending. Her voice
is beautiful and powerful. Has she brought another
song? Yes, she has. Can she remember the words?
Er, no she can't. "Thank you, nice job today,
that's all we need."
is what we might call a celebrity look-unalike,
though she owns a Marilyn Monroe wig and dress.
She begins strongly, I think, with a scene from
The Seven Year Itch. "Thank you, Ellen, that's
all we need to hear."
up is Gerald from Coogee who, at 53, is much older
than most of the other hopefuls. A veteran of
small parts in TV commercials and "a bit
of theatre work", he has twice tried for
Universal Studios Japan without success. This
morning he is auditioning for the part of "Doc"
Brown from Back to the Future.
shuffles in, pats down his white overalls then
suddenly booms in an American accent: "This
reminds me of the time I attempted to reach the
centre of the earth."
a powerful voice, rubbery face and wild eyes,
Gerald's mad doctor fills the room completely.
What's more, he's interspersed the film dialogue
with convincing-sounding Japanese phrases. "Come
back at 4," Jordan says, leaving out "nice
job", "well done" and other kisses
this tour of Australia's east coast, Jordan will
see about 1000 performers. He will dismiss more
than 900 of them in less than a minute.
it still hurt to say no?" I ask. "Not
really. Keeping things moving is part of the audition
process, for the good of the talent as well as
us. Otherwise they are waiting for hours. Everybody
today is being professional and handling it fine,
and there's not too many hurt feelings."
What about when people get aggressive? "I
can take it, unless they pull out a weapon, fake
or real, both of which we've had. That stops the
audition right there."
enters next, armed with a unicycle. In a thick,
bonza-beaut accent, he explains how life should
run in the opposite direction (get death out of
the way nice and early ... and finish with an
orgasm). Jordan laughs a little, though is not
convinced it will go down well with the crowds
in Osaka. "I think that's all we need."
will the next Marilyn, who delivers another film
monologue and receives another "that's all
we need today."
offers a Liza Minnelli-on-Broadway-style routine,
which is "great, great, very good",
while Christie uses a thick Australian accent
to tell us about the sordid details of an affair.
This may not be ideal for a family-oriented theme
park, but Jordan suggests it is "great"
and "well done", and "enough for
is a Michael Jackson impersonator, a category
not strictly called for. He mimes, moonwalks and
... isn't needed anymore, either.
arrives riding Irwin the Emu, while being chased
by a snake on a string. The routine is funny in
parts. Very small parts. The act lasts a minute.
Jordan says it is "very, very clever"
and "cute". He also very much appreciates
- square jaw, dark hair - knows he only has a
minute and, boy, is he going to use it. He starts
with the first few lines from Banjo Paterson's
The Man From Snowy River, suddenly becomes an
auctioneer at the end of the world's most frantic
auction, morphs into a Russian hitman then flips
on his back and simulates having a baby.
grins broadly and shakes his head with what may
or may not be disbelief. He says how much he likes
it. It is, however, enough for today.
human resources representative Amy Teet says Australians
make up about half the park's 160 performers;
the rest are mainly from the UK and US. Today's
successful applicants will be offered a 13-month
contract. Take-home pay is about $4400 a month,
air fares and a living allowance (in yen) are
provided, and accommodation is rent-free in a
purpose-built 10-storey building near the park.
says the number of Sydney applicants is down on
last year. Melbourne, she adds, produces the most
singers and dancers, the Gold Coast is the place
for celebrity lookalikes.
a short break Narelle enters and delivers a check-out
chick routine in a Kath & Kim accent, something
that may potentially fail to have them rolling
in the aisles of Osaka. Next is Donna, in a midriff
top, who gives us a piece of heavy drama about
her life approximating that of a French bird raised
in a box and force-fed grain before being "drowned
job, well done, thanks."
still they come. Just as I'm starting to think
there may be a good reason 90 per cent of actors
are unemployed, in comes Mad Dog Morgan. He grabs
attention with a crack of his whip, delivers a
cowboy routine filled with personality and vibrancy
and even throws in a few Japanese phrases. No
artistic barriers are pushed but at least Mad
Dog seems to have tailored the act to the market.
He is, in short, the sort of performer you'd expect
to find in a theme park, and becomes the fourth
person Jordan wants back.
last to audition is Nicole. She pushes into the
room a tiny chair adorned with a cow's head and
speaks incomprehensibly before handing Jordan
a bottle of vodka and earplugs and singing Joe
speaks for both of us when he says, "Great,
that's all we need."
Sydney Morning Herald
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