Justin Freind returns to duel it out in The Grand Duke

Bel canto tenor Justin Freind returns to the Grand Duchy of Pfennig-Halbpfennig in Gilbert & Sullivan’s rare topsy-turvy theatrical treasure, The Grand Duke.

Justin Freind
Justin Freind

You began your career early with the Bridgetown Repertory Club in regional WA at the age of 7 – did you think growing up that you would be so internationally successful?

Not sure if I think of myself ‘internationally successful’ but I have been very lucky to perform G&S roles in the UK and in New Zealand. Growing up I had wanted to be a classical pianist, but was never going to be good enough for that so my love of singing took over.

Theatre was and still continues to be a huge part of my life, even now as General Manager of Koorliny Arts Centre.

Where have been your most favourite venues to perform in and why?

I absolutely loved the sadly demolished Playhouse Theatre in Perth. It may have been small, and like a rabbit’s warren backstage, but it was such a beautiful place to perform.

The other theatre I loved was the Opera House in Buxton where I performed roles in The Zoo and Patience in 2004 and then The Pirates of Penzance and HMS Pinafore in 2005.

You are probably one of the few performers that has appeared in The Grand Duke more than once – as it is a one of the rarer G&S’ to stage – how is this production bringing something new to this story?

Yes, there aren’t many performers that have even done The Grand Duke as it is so rarely done by some companies as its always known as “the last show in the canon that really isn’t that good”.

This will be the third time that I have done the role of Ernest – 1999 with the (Gilbert & Sullivan WA) Society, then in 2012 with RAGSPT (Really Authentic Gilbert and Sullivan Performance Trust) in Dunedin, New Zealand. Its lovely being able to do the role again…..maybe this time the plot may make more sense to me!

With more insights than most, what do you love about your character? What do you hate about your character?

Mmm….its just a great role. It probably helps that I have ‘managed’ a theatre company when I was the President of the Gilbert and Sullivan Society of WA for nearly 10 years, and then managed the Cummins Theatre (Merredin) and now as GM at Koorliny Arts Centre (Kwinana) I probably have a good insight how to manage a theatrical troupe, because as we all know, us thespians are all a little crazy as each other.

Operetta/ opera, musical theatre, directing – which shows are you looking forward to performing or producing in the future?

I certainly don’t get to perform or be involved with theatre as much as I would like to nowadays due to work commitments, but hopefully there are a few things coming up next year!

Which song do you think the audience will be humming after this show?

Well, my song of course!

What would be a good theme song for your life?

 No doubt….. My Way by Frank Sinatra.

Justin Freind - The Grand Duke 1999
Justin Freind in G&S WA's 1999 production of The Grand Duke at Playhouse Theatre, Perth WA


The Grand Duke opens
at The Dolphin Theatre, Crawley ~ 13 – 22 October 2022.