Meet the Bohemians: Bayley & Chaska

By Sally Clark |

The term “Gypsy” was once used, in musical theatre circles, to describe ensemble theatre performers who travel from show-to-show and lead a somewhat Bohemian lifestyle.

By that definition, Chaska Halliday and Bayley John Edmends are both “theatre gypsies”, but are a truly special breed of Bohemian: both graduated, with a Certificate IV in Performing Arts, from Sydney’s iconic Brent Street Studios – Chaska in 2014 and Bayley the following year.

Brent Street attests to providing a quintessential training to its students which facilitates employability across the commercial dance world as well as musical theatre. So, it could be said they train, cultivate and nurture Bohemians. And, given how many of their previous students are cast in this Australian production of Moulin Rouge! The Musical it seems that promise is borne out. This brand of training has truly set these peers up for the breadth of performance skills this show demands, as well as the artistry required to draw the audience into the world of the Moulin Rouge – for every show.

When asked to share how their musical theatre skills are best utilised in this production Chaska says, “I think this is the first time that I’ve fully been able to dance the way that I love to dance. Every single part of my body is getting to perform. We are all around the stage in all of these incredible numbers and the show has also pushed me to a level that I never thought I would get to. It really has pushed me emotionally but to the best place that I didn’t realise I could get to.” Bayley explains it similarly, “This is what I trained to do and not everyone gets the chance to do it!”

So, they’ve been cast in the show and are finding it professionally rewarding, but what drew them to audition in the first place – and what might have been an asset to being cast? “What drew me to the show was the choreography and how heavily the ensemble are a part of the show,” says Bayley. He continues, “the ensemble is celebrated more than usual in this show. 

On the aspect of what she brought to the audition that might have defined her Chaska offers, “I think it was having a commercial dance background from Brent Street – which I hadn’t really tapped into since 2014. It took me a bit to get there and she (choreographer – Sonya Tayeh) pushed me to go back, in a way, to that place where it was full-time and you were training like crazy every single day and you would get to a certain point in rehearsals but you just had to keep pushing through. I didn’t realise that I still had that in me! I thought, full-time was in the past. I didn’t realise I was still capable of doing the things that were asked of us, like the sharpness of the execution, and the precision – and all of that. But, working with (Stephen) Tannos, Cameron (Mitchell), Lucas (Newland) and Matt Lee (all the teachers and mentors who trained her at Brent Street) definitely really helped.”

This show, isn’t just special in the way that it extends the artists but the staging of it sees them performing in the audience – which brings other rewards and challenges, as Bayley shares. “Being amongst the audience is sometimes confronting. The audience are right there (he holds his hand up to his face) but, at the same time we are bringing them into this world that we adore, so we are just hoping that they adore this world as well. It’s exhilarating! It’s everything and more that you have wanted to do. Do you know what I mean? It feels like you are giving someone a piece of you and hoping that they are obsessed with the show, and with what you are giving.”

When asked what they are loving most about being in the show, Chaska confesses, “It has been an incredible time. This has been my favourite show that I’ve ever done, for sure. Just everything, put together.” And for Bayley it is even more visceral: “It’s the moment where, Satine… [enters] in ‘Diamonds’ – and I’m not even on stage! I am backstage doing a quick change. But I hear the audience so far away roaring and screaming and I think, Okay – that moment is changing their lives! And, that is what we are here for.”