OBrien Interviews – Amanda Harrison

As a renowned Australian musical theatre performer, Amanda Harrison’s stage career took her around the globe and back. Rubbing shoulders with celebrities, royalty and other performing arts icons, Amanda worked hard to achieve worldwide success.

Now, Amanda calls Melbourne home with her husband and two children. With the COVID-19 pandemic devastating the performing arts industry, Amanda has completed a full pivot into the world of property, finding a new home on the real estate stage.

Having grown up in Sydney’s southern suburbs, Amanda describes her young self as outgoing and lively. “As a youngster, I was always a bit of a show off – a very confident little person,” she smiles. Though she explains that she didn’t come from a ‘showbiz family,’ Amanda was always supported by her parents to follow her interests and engage with her talents. She began singing from a young age, taking voice and dance lessons with her parents’ encouragement. “I was always involved with school productions… I always loved being on the stage,” she says. “It wasn’t until my final year of high school that things started to shift.”

Through her end of year exams, Amanda was encouraged to audition for the 1992 Australian production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Aspects of Love’ Upon finishing her last assessments and successfully completing high school, Amanda was awarded the role of Jenny in the show. She was then whisked away to rehearsals and meetings, even before her official graduation celebrations began. “I never really looked back after that,” Amanda smiles. This was the beginning of an astronomically successful stage career for Amanda, who displayed her talents all over the world.

Amanda has starred in productions such as Wicked, Les Miserables, The Boy from Oz, Guys and Dolls, Mamma Mia and the Rocky Horror Show, now sitting among the likes of Australian performing arts royalty and co-stars Hugh Jackman and Lucy Durack. “My main claim to fame is that I was the original Elphaba in the Australian production of Wicked,” Amanda says.

Amanda as Elphaba in the musical “Wicked”

It was in 2002 that Amanda was working in London’s West End on We Will Rock You, a musical based on the music of the band Queen. There, she met a young Londoner named Scott, who was working backstage on the show.

The two hit it off immediately, visiting Australia on a holiday where Scott would meet Amanda’s family. Upon returning to London, Amanda realised that she wanted to return home for the foreseeable future, and questioned the tenacity of her and Scott’s relationship. During this time, Amanda graced the stage of the late Queen Elizabeth II’s Golden Jubilee Celebration, performing songs from We Will Rock You with Queen band members Brian May and Roger Taylor.

Following the completion of the production’s London shows, Amanda “campaigned fiercely” for a role in the Australian production of We Will Rock You, which she ultimately landed. It was around this period that Amanda gave Scott an ultimatum. “I just said, ‘Are you going to come with me or are we going to break up?’”

The two have now been married for nearly 20 years, following their nuptials in September 2003, and now reside in Melbourne’s south east.. Amanda and Scott share two children – Grace, who will be in Year 11 in 2023, and Max, who is starting his first year of high school next year. Despite leaving London’s West End behind, Amanda has loved her career in the arts industry. “I just felt really at home in the medium, being in front of people and singing and acting,” Amanda says. “I loved the environment, I loved the family nature of the business, I loved collaborating and being creative with people.”

“I managed to reach the pinnacle of musical theatre in Australia, which was really great.” And reach the pinnacle, she did. However, it wasn’t without struggle that Amanda built her successful career. “There was your odd period of unemployment and waiting for the next job, but over the next 25 years, I worked pretty solidly in musical theatre,” Amanda says. Many Victorians have faced turbulent times in the wake of coronavirus coming to our shores, and the pandemic is something that certainly didn’t spare the performing arts industry.

Amanda’s time as a musical theatre performer was illustrious, but is something she says has an expiry date attached to it. “Over the last 10 years, my career seemed to kind of slow down,” she explains. “I think generally, when women get to middle age and past that ‘prime,’ roles kind of get thin on the ground. I’m not booking major musicals as quickly and as [often] as I was in my twenties.”

Amanda explains that since she noticed her performing career moving from fast-paced, back-to-back bookings to slower and less consistent, she had been looking in a different career direction. “I never really found anything that I could do as a side hustle or something that could complement my performing career, as [at that time] I wasn’t ready to give it up,” Amanda says. “It wasn’t until COVID hit, when we were all forced into lockdown for months and months on end… I kind of thought, ‘what the hell can I do to move on?’”

“It was a sharp push in the direction I was headed anyway. I started to think about what I could possibly do to shift myself out of this business, to give myself some stability in life,” she explains. It was around this time that Amanda was speaking with a good friend and fellow performer who had recently changed careers to real estate from dance and musical theatre. This friend then introduced Amanda to Tanja Neven-Jones of OBrien Real Estate in Chelsea. Tanja chatted with Amanda for a while and throughout the next few months, helped Amanda through her real estate studies and training, for which Amanda describes Tanja as ‘brilliant’ and ‘hugely helpful.’

Having started her real estate training in 2020, Amanda was introduced by Tanja to Byron Kerr at the OBrien Real Estate office in Mentone. Amanda then started working at OBrien Mentone the same year. Though seemingly quite different environments, Amanda likens aspects of her real estate career to that of the performing arts industry.

“There’s something similar in the energy that you need – it’s almost like putting on a show when you go into someone’s living room. You have to project all this energy and life force to people to trust you and to get them on board,” she muses. “Moving forward, I can still be Amanda Harrison in a career in real estate. It’s still kind of public; it’s still drawing on my personality to be a success.”

Amanda Harrison – OBrien Real Estate Mentone.

“I think that’s what drew me to real estate in the end. I can be a superstar on the stage, but I can also be a superstar in real estate one day if I put my head down and work hard.”

Amanda describes herself as an introverted extrovert. She doesn’t believe that she’s a true people person, but she can draw out different parts of her personality and portray someone extroverted, thanks to her performing career. “You’re dealing with people all the time. You’re going to different openings, you’re meeting different buyers and vendors, you’re doing the same actions but just in different scenarios and citations, so there’s quite a variety of things to sink your teeth into,” says Amanda.

With husband Scott being away for much of the year on tour with the Australian production of Moulin Rouge, Amanda has often been the sole caretaker for her kids – something she says real estate has allowed her to do. “I’m very strict on not working past a certain time of day and trying to keep working hours consistent because I often need to be home for the kids,” she explains.

“I also priorities my time off work and hands-on parenting, devoting much of it to relaxation, and spending time with Scott and our dog.” When asked if the OBrien Mentone office is a competitive environment, Amanda doesn’t agree. “I’d say it’s supportive – they’re really focused on a culture of helping.”

“Of course, you want to feel a competitive spirit towards other businesses and other realtors in the area, but from people in your own office, you want support, help and a team approach, which is what we have.”

With only a couple of years’ experience under her real estate belt, Amanda is deeply looking forward to furthering her career in the future. “I’m still learning… I can’t wait for that time where I feel completely confident in my ability.”

To learn more about Amanda follow the links below.
Amanda Harrison’s Profile
Performance showreel