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An Exclusive Insight into Opera Australia's West Side Story on Sydney Harbour: A Conversation with Kimberley Hodgson

Feature by Justin Clarke

In the world of theatre, few experiences rival the grandeur of Handa Opera's productions on the iconic Sydney Harbour. Against the breathtaking backdrop of the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the latest, timeless tale of love and conflict, the iconic West Side Story is set to unfold in a spectacle like no other. Recently, we had the privilege of hearing from Kimberley Hodgson, who will be bringing her passion and talent to the role of Anita in this remarkable production. Kimberley shares her insights into the captivating story of West Side Story, her approach to portraying Anita, and the exhilarating experience of performing in such a vast and iconic setting.

Cast in rehearsals for Handa Opera's West Side Story. Prudence Upton
Kimberly Hodgson and Manuel Stark Santos in rehearsals for West Side Story. Prudence Upton


How do you think the Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour productions enhance the audience’s experience with its setting and grandeur?

There is no other theatrical experience quite like watching a Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour production. No other production in the world can offer you, not only an incredible production like West Side Story, but to watch it and to have the iconic backdrop of the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge, along with fireworks, is an experience unlike any other.

What is it about Anita and her story that captivates an audience? Do you have a certain idea in mind on how you will approach her?

Something that resonates strongly with me and what I think is most captivating about Anita, is the balance of fire and passion and strength in love and protection for her family and chosen family. She is vivacious, sharp and incredibly resilient and I am blessed to have many women in my life who I idolise and who I draw inspiration from who demonstrate these traits every day.

Cast in rehearsals for Handa Opera's West Side Story. Prudence Upton
Kimberley and cast in rehearsals for West Side Story. Prudence Upton

The Handa Opera productions are performed in such a vast setting; how do you think this will influence your choices as a performer?

I think the biggest challenge for me will be performing on the rake stage. Yes, the stage is quite vast, as in it is so much wider and deeper than a regular stage, but the rake is the most challenging component of the set and requires a lot of physical strength and cardio training to be able to perform on it safely and to make it look easy - which I can guarantee you, it is not easy!

How do you envision this production of West Side Story to capture a new audience?

What makes West Side Story so special, aside from the incredible music and the iconic choreography, is that no matter when this story is told, it is a story that still resonates with audiences today. The conflicts that are dealt with in the show are issues that we still see happening today. Which is why West Side Story is a production that, I believe, will continue to come back to our stages and resonate with audiences of all generations.

What is it about live performance in such a spectacular fashion that gets you the most excited? Do you think audiences feel similar?

It is exciting to be a part of a live spectacle like Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour’s West Side Story. Anything can happen in any live show, however being outdoors and performing with the unpredictability of the elements adds its own excitement and we create a unique performance every night with the audience.

Cast in rehearsals for Handa Opera's West Side Story. Prudence Upton
Cast in rehearsals for Handa Opera's West Side Story. Prudence Upton


Kimberley Hodgson's insights shed further light on the unique experience of performing in a production as vast as Handa Opera's Sydney Harbour productions. As she is set to navigate the challenges of performing on a vast stage, Kimberley's dedication to her craft shines through, promising a memorable and exhilarating performance every night. Her vision for the production's impact on audiences reflects the enduring relevance of West Side Story, making it a must-see theatrical experience for theatregoers in Sydney as well those outside of the bustling city.

Tickets to Handa Opera's production of West Side Story can be booked at



Kimberley Hodgson Headshot

Kimberley most recently played the role of Gigi in Miss Saigon for Cameron Mackintosh and Opera Australia.

Prior to this, Kimberley was appearing on stage in Michael Cassel Group’s Mary Poppins covering the roles of both Mary Poppins and Mrs. Corry. Kimberley also previously understudied for Anna in Disney’s Frozen: The Musical and understudied Jasmine in Aladdin the Musical also for Disney. Kimberley also originated the role of Brianna in the hit Australian musical Fangirls developed by Queensland Theatre and Belvoir Theatre.

On screen, Kimberley has appeared in a guest role in Harrow and played the role of Grace the 2017 feature film Don’t Tell from director Tori Garret. She has a Bachelor of Musical Theatre from Queensland Conservatorium Griffith University, where she received a Bachelor’s Excellence medal for her final year and a Certificate IV in Musical Theatre from Queensland College of Performing Arts. She has also undertaken Advanced Screen Acting at The Warehouse Workshop – Screen Acting Studio.

Kimberley was nominated Best Female Actor in a Supporting Role and Best Emerging Artist at the 2015 Matilda Awards for her role as Little Red Riding Hood in Into the Woods (Harvest Rain, QPAC). She toured nationally playing the original role of Sarah in the Australian premiere of Rolling Thunder Vietnam (Blake Entertainment) alongside Chong Lim, and sung at the 2016 Melbourne International Comedy Festival’s Eurovision Experience.



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