Talking things Only Heaven Knows with Hayden Tee

Only Heaven Knows is a beloved musical set in the 1940s and 1950s, telling the story of one young man’s discovery of love and life in Sydney.

Playing the dual role of Lea/Lana is Hayden Tee. This will mark Hayden’s return to Australia after his multi award-winning performance of Javert in Les Misérables, which he reprised on Broadway and will soon be reprising again on the West End!

We caught up with Hayden during rehearsals to chat about the classic Australian musical!

Could you introduce us to your character in Only Heaven Knows

I play 2 characters in Only Heaven Knows, Lea Sonia who was a real female impersonator at the Tivoli in Sydney in the 1940’s. American born, French trained and a victim of an anti gay hate crime killed during a World War Two brown out by being pushed in front of a tram . And Lana is a grand old fairy very typical of the era, too unique and obviously feminine to convincingly hide as straight at a time when homosexuality was illegal which informs his entire journey and how he copes in the 1940’s and 1950’s in Australia.

Although Only Heaven Knowsis counted amongst the most important Australian musicals I feel like it’s lesser known to the general public. Now, right in the middle of rehearsals, how would you describe it to someone? 

Only Heaven Knows is about the family you choose versus the family your are born into, finding your community, the long march towards equality and a magnifying glass over how far society has come and how far we have yet to go. All told with great humor and heart.

This is a musical set in a particularly intolerant time and place. What do you think is the most important message that comes out of it for the LGBT community? 

We have come a long way but there is still a long way to go. Don’t become complacent, we are still on the slow march toward equality.

You’ve recently been travelling the globe, from Broadway to the Dubai Opera House, playing Javert in Les Miserables. Quite big stages! What’s it like to come into a smaller intimidate theatre like the Hayes? 

I think it is important to continue challenging yourself in everything you do. You can’t lie in a small space like the hayes- it demands an honest and authentic performance.

You’re also quite a makeup aficionado, which judging from your Instagram is definitely creating quite the dramatic Lana! Do you have any inspirations in particular for her look?

I have been a professional makeup artist as long as I have been a professional actor and although I have designed makeup for stage productions like Rent and Heathers and designed a makeup color story for Pippin on Broadway the majority of my makeup career has been in fashion such as designing makeup for 14 designers for New York Fashion Week. Drag makeup is a completely different venture for me. Lea Sonia trained as a female impersonator in Europe and was at her prime in the 40’s so I have used Marlene Dietrich and Joan Crawford for the makeup inspiration so far, it is still a work in progress so who knows how it will develop, I guess you will have to see the show to see the finished product.

Is there anything else you want to get up to while you’re back here in Australia before you head back to “The Barricades” in London? 

I don’t think I have the time this trip to do another show or concert but I will be recording a new single and filming a video clip whilst in Sydney this time.

And finally. I feel like Lana and Javert would have had trouble hitting it off. How would you introduce them to each other?  

Well Lana and Javert probably wouldn’t have hit it off but I think Javert would appreciate Lea Sonia, she is a tough broad who stands by her beliefs so I would probably introduce them by highlighting their similarities.

Hayden will be appearing in Only Heaven Knows at the Hayes Theatre from 26th June – 1st July. Tickets are selling out fast so head over to hayestheatre.com.au for more information and to book!