Debra Byrne

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Debra Byrne
Born Debra Anne Byrne
(1957-03-30) 30 March 1957 (age 59)
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Nationality Australian
Occupation Actress, singer, producer
Years active 1971-present
Spouse(s) Neil Melville (¿? - ¿?) David Dudley (¿? - ¿?)
Children Lauren Ingram (née Byrne)
Arja Brunnen (née Byrne)
Lucille Le Meledo

Debra Anne Byrne (born 30 March 1957 in Melbourne), formally billed as Debbie Byrne, is an Australian pop singer, actress and entertainer.


Early career as pop singer[edit]

Byrne made her television debut on Brian and the Juniors, an early predecessor of Young Talent Time, which was hosted by a young Brian Naylor. She stayed with the show for 12 months. In 1971 she was cast as one of the original six Young Talent Time cast members. Byrne proved to be a popular cast member and in 1974 she won the Logie Award for Best Teenage Television Personality and the TV Week Queen of Pop Award.

In 1975, her final year with Young Talent Time, she released her first solo single, "He's a Rebel", a cover of the Phil Spector produced hit by the Crystals. For seven weeks the song stayed at Number 1 on the Victorian pop music charts. Her follow-up single was also a huge hit. It was a double A side consisting of a second Crystals cover, "Da Doo Ron Ron", and another track called "The Boogeyman". Later in 1975 she again won the Logie Award for Best Teenage Television Personality and the TV Week Queen of Pop Award.

In 1976 she was invited to London by Peter Gormley Management to record at the famous Abbey Road Studios under producer Cliff Richard. While in London, she made many public appearances, including The Cliff Richard Show.

Byrne's first Australian television guest appearance as a featured solo artist was on The Graham Kennedy Show at the age of fifteen. Since then she has made a guest appearance on every major Australian Tonight show and was a regular performer on the ABC series The Saturday Show. In 1978 she merged singing with acting for the first time on the ABC's Sammy Award winning Follies series. In 1980 Byrne co-starred alongside John Farnham in the ABC television show Farnham and Byrne.

Career stall and come-back in leading roles[edit]

After much rumour, Byrne's career stalled between 1980 and 1985 due to a heroin addiction. A further stumbling block occurred when a sex tape of her and a former partner was stolen and leaked to the media.[1]

She made a successful and highly publicised career comeback in 1985 with the starring role as Kathy McLeod, opposite Matt Dillon, in the film Rebel. She was nominated for an AFI Award for Best Actress in a Lead Role for her performance in this film.

In 1985, she played Grizabella in the original Australian cast of the musical Cats at Sydney's Theatre Royal. In 1987, she featured in Jerry's Girls in Melbourne and Sydney, then played Fantine in the original Australian cast of Les Misérables. She reprised the role of Fantine for The Complete Symphonic Recording of Les Misérables, which featured the best performers from worldwide productions. The album won a Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album. She also recorded a little-known 'eco' song called "Nature's Lament" with the Australian cast of Les Misérables.

In 1988 she was invited to perform at the Royal Bicentennial Concert for the then Prince and Princess of Wales. Her backing group for the concert was composed of 1500 children.

In 1991 Byrne released her album Caught in the Act, which eventually went gold. And in 1994 she released her contemporary album Sleeping Child, which includes songs about her children, relationships, sexual abuse, substance dependence, loss and grief.

Byrne played Norma Desmond, opposite Hugh Jackman, in the first Australian production of Sunset Boulevard in 1996.

In addition to her stage career, Byrne has appeared on such television dramas as The Secret Life of Us, Home and Away, Police Rescue, The Flying Doctors, G.P., State Coroner and Law of the Land.

Cabaret and concert performances[edit]

Her extensive cabaret and concert performances include writing, directing, choreographing and starring in the cabaret show Girls, Girls, Girls. The show also stars Wendy Stapleton and Nikki Nicholls and was the 2002 winner of the Herald Sun Best Cabaret Award. And her live cabaret show, Caught In the Act Again, earned a Green Room Award nomination for Best Cabaret Performance and Best Musical Arrangement.

Since 1972 Byrne has been a regular performer at the Christmas Eve Carols by Candlelight concert at Melbourne's Sidney Myer Music Bowl. At the 2005 concert she performed a duet of Silent Night with her five-year-old daughter, Lucille, who was making her professional stage and television debut.

In 2006, her autobiography Not Quite Ripe was published.

On 6 July 2007, it was announced that Byrne would be reprising her role of Grizabella in the ExitLeft production of Cats, to be staged at the Derwent Entertainment Centre in Hobart in late-October 2007.[2]

Recent stage and television roles[edit]

In 2009 she played the role of Sue in Metro Street at its world premiere in Adelaide and its subsequent tour to South Korea.

Byrne played the role of the Bird Woman in the original Australian production (Melbourne/Sydney) of the stage musical, Mary Poppins.

In 2012, Byrne began playing the lead role of Claire Christie in the Nine Network's Tricky Business.

In 2014 she was cast as a series regular on Fat Tony & Co. playing Judy Moran, wife to Lewis Moran who was part of the Carlton Crew that were heavily involved in the 2004 Melbourne Gangland killings. Fat Tony & Co. focuses on the rise and fall of notorious drug dealer Tony Mokbel and is the sequel to the first series of Underbelly.

In 2016, Byrne performed the role of Carlotta Campion in a concert version of Follies at the Melbourne Recital Hall for a limited three performances in May.

In late 2016 / early 2017, Byrne will make an appearance on the Australian series Upper Middle Bogan.

In 2016, Byrne will be performing with Vika Bull in their Carole King tribute show Tapestry.

Personal life[edit]

Byrne is divorced from Australian actor Neil Melville and was the partner of French musician, Ced Le Meledo, with whom she collaborated on the live show Paris-Melbourne. She has three daughters with different partners, Lauren, Arja and Lucille with Ced.


  • 1974 TV Week Logie Award for Best Teenage Television Personality,
  • 1974 TV Week Queen of Pop Award,
  • 1975 TV Week Logie Award for Best Teenage Television Personality,
  • 1975 TV Week Queen of Pop Award,
  • 1985 AFI Award nomination for Best Actress in a Lead Role for Rebel,
  • 1985 Mo Award for Female Vocal Performer,
  • 1991 Grammy Award for Best Theatre Musical Soundtrack, shared with cast of The World Symphonic Recording of Les Misérables,
  • 2002 Herald Sun Best Cabaret Award for Girls, Girls, Girls,
  • Green Room Award nomination for Best Cabaret Performance and Best Musical Arrangement for Caught in the Act Again,
  • 2009 Daegu Musical Award for Best Actress for Metro Street.

Partial discography[edit]

Solo recordings[edit]


  • She's a Rebel (1974)
  • The Persuader (1985)
  • Debbie Byrne
  • Caught In The Act (1991)
  • Sleeping Child (1994)
  • Heaven Down Here (5 song EP) (1995)
  • New Ways To Dream (1997)


  • "He's a Rebel" (1974)
  • "Da Doo Ron Ron"/"The Boogeyman" (1974)
  • "Dirty Ol' Man" (1975)
  • "How Can I Tell You?"
  • "Tell Sonny Not to Come"
  • "You Promised Me the Love"
  • "Heroes" (1985)
  • "Natures Lament" (single with Les Miserables cast, 1989)
  • "Diamond In The Rough"/"Say Goodbye To The Broken Hearted" (1994)

Collaborative albums[edit]

  • Cats - original Australian cast recording (1985)
  • The Complete Symphonic Recording of Les Misérables
  • The Young Talent Team Sing the Hits!
  • Young Talent Time – The Collection
  • Great Moments in Australian Theatre
  • Young Talent Team 10th Anniversary Special
  • Rebel Soundtrack
  • The Best of Carols by Candlelight
  • Kate Ceberano and Friends (for the duet "You've Always Got The Blues") (1994)
  • John Farnham – One Voice: The Greatest Hits
  • Disney Duets – A Family Celebration
  • With all my HeartJohn McAll on Piano




External links[edit]