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Thursday, August 5, 2021

Meet Fil-Aussie actor Aljin Abella, starring in Disney’s Frozen: The Musical

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Felino Dollosohttps://felinodolloso.wordpress.com/
FELINO DOLLOSO is a Filipino-Australian actor. He has a Bachelor of Arts Degree and is a graduate of the Victorian College of the Arts Melbourne University. As an actor, he has worked in TV, Film, and stage/theatre in Australia.

Aljin is currently playing Weselton in Disney theatrical production Australia’s Frozen: The Musical. He played Iago in Disney’s musical extravaganza Aladdin. Aljin was also in the Melbourne Theatre Company’s highly-anticipated 2019 production of Shakespeare in Love and Malthouse Theatre’s The Temple.

Aljin Abella (left) with company of Frozen Australian Production, and Jemma Mix | Photo credit: Lisa Tomasetti

In 2017, Aljin played Chris in feature film Ali’s Wedding, directed by Geoffrey Walker, and had a recurring role as Russell Crewe in Ten’s Offspring. He also voiced a role in online drama series Zero Point, produced by Undergrowth. 

Aljin graduated from NIDA in 2006. He has worked as an actor both nationally and internationally in film, television, animation, theatre and voiceover. He made his stage debut in The Melbourne Theatre Company & Belvoir Street Theatre seasons of The Sapphires in 2005 and reprised his role in their subsequent South Korean and London tours.

Film, TV and animation credits include I Love You Too, Marco Polo, Underbelly Files: The Man Who Got Away, Who Wants To Be A Terrorist?, Just Punishment, Power Rangers Jungle Fury, The Dr. Blake Mysteries, City Homicide, Noah & Saskia, Neighbours, Guinevere Jones, Bootleg, Legacy of the Silver Shadow, Blue Heelers, Horace & Tina and High Flyers. In 2012, Aljin was nominated for Best Lead Actor in a Comedy at both the IAWTV and Raindance Independent Awards for the web series Hunter ‘n Hornet.

Aljin Abella
Aljin Abella | Photo: (supplied)

From what age did you know of your great interest in Acting?  What was your first project?

I grew up watching films endlessly on repeat. I love to read and I vaguely remember hijacking the family camcorder just to recite fables and fairy tales in front of it when I was 3 or 4. Bizarrely I would even credit professional wrestling as an influence on my interest in acting, if nothing but due to the sheer spectacle of it. The thing that they all had in common was that communication was their art form, and I’ve always loved stories.

My very first professional job at 13 was an Australian television show called High Flyers, which was produced by Southern Star Entertainment for the Channel 7 network. It was about a group of children living in a small country town that had its own circus that many of the children were a part of. It’s where I acquired my skills of juggling and plate-spinning.  

What are some of the projects that you have been involved in here or overseas?

Some of the projects that are near and dear to my heart have been Monkey: Journey to the West (Theatre of Image/Bell Shakespeare), Power Rangers (Disney), Aladdin (Disney Theatrical Australia), La Cage Aux Folles (The Production Company), Netflix’s Marco Polo, Offspring (Channel 10), The Good Person of Szechuan (Malthouse Theatre), and The Sapphires (MTC/Belvoir/Black Swan Theatre).

Of the work you listed above, which one would you consider is a favourite?

I don’t think I could choose any project to be an absolute favourite. I’ve been involved in so many productions across more than 20 years, and they all came at varying stages of my life. Some were passion projects, some fulfilled childhood dreams, and others generated ongoing fans due to the popularity of the project. None of it ever feels like work to me, so it’s like being a kid in a candy shop. 

Who would you accredit as having the greatest influence on you and in what you do? Who would you select as the most enjoyable person/s you have worked with and why?

I owe my entire career to those who paved the way for opportunities to become available for actors like myself, not least of all my family, who to this day are still proably my biggest supporters. I studied acting at the National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA) from 2004-2006 and had access to some of the best tutors and practitioners in the world as well as diverse mix of colleagues who took a young 18-year old under their collective wings. 

My favourite director to work with was the late great George Ogilvie, who showed me what could be achieved with patience and an open heart. Another acting colleague, Wayne Scott Kermond, once reminded me that everyone has a story if you take the time to listen. And in Australia, I feel like we have some of the best, most generous and down to Earth crew. I got engaged to one, so I should know! 

These are just a couple of the countless individuals who made a lasting impression.

What project are you currently working on? What are planned for the next five years?

Currently I’m playing the Duke of Weselton in Disney Theatrical Australia’s production of Frozen the musical. I remember taking my niece to the Oscar award-winning film back in 2013, so it gives me great pride to be working for Disney once again on a story that has evolved with so much depth for the stage. It’s a powerful story of family, of hope and perseverance and doing whatever it takes for those you love. Everything that’s familiar and what Disney is famous for (magic, blockbuster songs, amazing costumes, spectacular dance numbers) is here in the one show. Best of all, like Aladdin and The Lion King that have come before it, I think it’s a show that has something for everyone, not just those with children, and that is particularly empowering for women. I’ve already booked tickets for my mum and sister!

What was the most enjoyable part of your career so far?

No matter the context of the show, the environment it’s set in, the type of character I’m playing, I think it’s always a reflection of life as we experience it. If I’ve done my job right, a person who’s a little tired, going through a hard time, or perhaps simply having a bad day can walk into the theatre and escape for 2-3 hours. Sure, they’ll be entertained, but if they ever reach that point of catharsis, it means there’s something in the piece that they’ve related to. From there, there’s every chance they’ll leave the theatre reinvigorated, with a cooler head and a warmer heart. Perhaps then they can start to repair the little tears in their lives and communities that they had before coming in. That’s the power of art. Being a part of this experience is the most rewarding thing about the craft.

What else would you want to accomplish?

I like to be challenged and would love to continue to diversify throughout my career. I’ve been in lots of contemporary work, or reimagined worlds based on classics, but tackling more of the classics in a traditional sense (Chekov and Shakespeare are two of my favourites) is something I would enjoy. Voice work in animation is also on my to-do list.

Do you have any projects coming up?

I’m very excited to continue bringing Frozen to more and more people. When we open in Melbourne at Her Majesty’s Theatre in June, the Australian production will be the only production of Frozen that people can see anywhere in the world. It’ll be a long winter for my hometown!

Frozen The Hit Broadway Musical is now playing at Her Majesty’s Theatre in Melbourne. | Frozen – The Musical

ScreenshoCast from Frozenthemusical.com.ag
Cast of Frozen – Australian Production | Frozenthemusical.com.au
Company of Frozen – Australian Production | Photo credit: Lisa Tomasetti

What advice could you give to other aspiring Fil-Aussie Actors who are still trying to establish themselves in the industry?

Get involved with everything you can around you. Watch EVERYTHING. If you can find a space or community theatre where classes are being held, enrol with the intention of being the least skilled person in the room (that way you have the most to learn). Diversify. And remember, one of the best things about being an actor is that you don’t need anyone’s permission to do it. All you need is a story to tell, and an audience who are willing to listen. Don’t have a story? Write one.

Disney’s Frozen will have the honour of being the first musical to re-open the magnificent Her Majesty’s Theatre since the pandemic began, as the much-anticipated Melbourne season of the hit Broadway musical opens, following its successful Australian premiere in Sydney in December 2020. 

The incredible new production from the producers of Aladdin, The Lion King and Mary Poppins has finally opened at Melbourne’s Her Majesty’s Theatre after a two-week delay due to coronavirus restrictions in Melbourne.

The principal Australian cast features our very own Filipino Australian Aljin Abella as Weselton.

Article by Felino Dolloso ©2021

Frozen is now playing in Melbourne

Tickets for Disney’s Frozen the Hit Broadway Musical are available online. Visit https://frozenthemusical.com.au for more information.

Produced by Disney Theatrical Productions (The Lion King, Aladdin, Mary Poppins), Frozen features music and lyrics by Academy Award®-winning songwriters Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez, with book by Academy Award®-winning writer Jennifer Lee, direction by Tony® winner Michael Grandage and choreography by Tony® winner Rob Ashford.

Frozen features an all Australian cast led by Jemma Rix in the role of Elsa, Courtney Monsma as Anna, Matt Lee as Olaf, Thomas McGuane as Hans, Sean Sinclair as Kristoff, Aljin Abella as Weselton and sharing the role of Sven, Jonathan MacMillan and Lachlan McIntrye.

Watch a performance from the Australian production of Frozen: The Musical:


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