Amy Campbell is still laughing, despite COVID-19 kicking her in the teeth no fewer than four times. The first blow came in March last year, when Campbell, a choreographer, was preparing her first show as director, the musical A Chorus Line. In terms of scale, this was to be the most ambitious show ever mounted at Darlinghurst Theatreâ€™s Eternity Playhouse, with 20 performers on stage. The pandemic closed it before opening night.
â€œIt was like a dream I couldnâ€™t wake up from,â€ says Campbell. â€œI was already pinching myself that I was making my directorial debut on a show that I loved, with a dream cast, and it just felt like such a huge milestone in terms of my career and what art I wanted to make, and then unfortunately the world said, â€˜not right now!â€™â€
She laughs her ready laugh, then goes on. â€œWe could sense the world was shutting down, and the day of our last preview, I called my parents and I said, â€˜I think you should come and see the show tonight because Iâ€™m not sure thereâ€™ll be a tomorrow.â€™ They drove down from the Central Coast with my sister and her husband, and that was the silver lining I took out of it: at least my family got to see what I had been working so hard on.â€
Fast-forward to August this year, and this time Delta killed it off without so much as a dayâ€™s rehearsal. But January should see the wait finally over â€“ and with another silver lining. The show is now being mounted twice, and on bigger stages: the Riverside under Sydney Festivalâ€™s auspices, and the Drama Theatre at the Opera House.
â€œItâ€™s one of the best silver linings you could have,â€ agrees Campbell. â€œItâ€™s been two years in the wings, and now it gets two venues.â€ Sheâ€™s honoured to be part of the festival and thrilled about the Opera House. â€œThe little girl in me from Gosford will always be excited about going to the Opera House,â€ she says.
COVID-19, meanwhile, hammered two other shows in which she was involved: closing Once (for which Campbell was movement director) at Eternity Playhouse, and Hamilton, the biggest show in town, for which she was resident director.
â€œTommy Kail directed the original Broadway production,â€ she explains, â€œand my job was to maintain his vision, and keep it authentic to the story that he told.â€
After the shutdown, she had the huge responsibility of supervising its resuscitation. â€œTo watch that show take the stage again will be a memory Iâ€™ll hold forever,â€ she says. â€œHelping to put it back on was a real privilege.â€
Is that a pattern of Amy Campbell-related shows adversely affected by the pandemic? â€œI hope Iâ€™m not the bad-luck charm!â€ she laughs. â€œCan you imagine? No one will ever employ me again!â€