From Waikato to the West End

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gwenWhen it comes to setting the stage alight, Gwen Lyon is a triple contender. The talented dancer is also highly accomplished in singing and theatre. Plus the Sir Edmund Hillary scholar at Waikato University maintains solid A grades in keeping with her self-motivation for excellence.

There is no denying Gwen Lyon possesses ultimate star potential. The 21-year-old triple-threat is paving her way to stardom one step, note and key at a time.

westend2From the moment she experienced her first dance class she was hooked. Fast forward nearly 20 years, add in music, singing and theatre, and she’s the epitome of performing arts success.

With landing a lead role as Sophie in the Hamilton Operatic Society’s Mamma Mia and earning a seat on the Musical Theatre New Zealand executive council included among her most recent feats, she is living every aspiring young performer’s dream.

Gwen’s journey began after watching a dance class at the age two, where she just couldn’t sit still. Desperate to try it herself, she started attending dance lessons soon after and from the age of five, trained in ballet, jazz and contemporary at Margaret Fairhead School of Dance. As well as attending eight dance classes a week, she also found time to play the piano, the flute, to sing and to explore her deepest love; musical theatre.

Since her debut role in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat with Hamilton Operatic Society in 2010, she has devoted herself to life on stage.

“To me, musical theatre encompasses all of my passions – singing, dancing and acting,” she says.

Gwen has starred in Waikato Diocesan’s The Sound of Music, Hamilton Operatic Society’s Hairspray, Phantom of the Opera and most recently as Sophie in Mamma Mia; her favourite role to date.

“Mamma Mia was the most incredible experience. It was my first principal role since leaving school and I learnt so much working with industry professionals like Russell Dixon and Ali Harper.”

The show involved three months of gruelling rehearsals. Before that Gwen underwent months of personal preparation – learning lines, music and getting fit. In the past dancing was enough to keep her show-ready, but with a tight schedule she now keeps her fitness up with weekly gym sessions, yoga and pilates classes.

She is currently following a recovery programme at UniRec after dislocating her knee during one of the Mamma Mia shows but is adamant it was all worth it.

“I loved every second of playing Sophie, she was so much fun! I’m also a massive ABBA fan so being able to sing and dance to some of my favourite tunes for a few months was great.”

Gwen recently completed a Bachelor of Music majoring in Voice Performance degree at the University of Waikato where she studied as a Sir Edmund Hillary scholar for music, dance and theatre. To anyone else, fitting in study and outside interests on top of all of the performing art commitments would be difficult, but for Gwen; she is simply living her passion in every aspect of her life.

“I’m very lucky that my study and outside interests are virtually the same. Having said that, it can become an incredibly big workload when you’re trying to excel in all areas, so I’m fortunate to be one of those people who loves organisation, lists and planning.

“I also have an extremely supportive family and incredible friends who always help me in any way they can.”
Despite her busy schedule, Gwen has been able to maintain an A+ average during her three years of study. She was on the Dean’s List of Excellence in 2013 and 2014 and is also a member of the Golden Key International Honours Society.

Having the ability to practise music, theatre and dance is something Gwen is extremely grateful for, as she enjoys performing and each discipline benefits the others.

“Basically, there’s nothing quite like influencing other people and bringing something to their day or lives that they mightn’t have previously had. It’s the connection I make with the audience that is truly gratifying.”

Future plans include studying musical theatre overseas and performing internationally and in New Zealand on the musical theatre stage.

“I love all aspects and genres of music but my main passion definitely lies in musical theatre, so that is my ultimate goal.”

For now, Gwen will gear up for an exciting year ahead filled with plenty of shows and performances; beginning with the International Musical Theatre Summer School in January and a role in David Sidwell’s original musical Gogol in February.

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