Getting to know you: Hayanah Pickering from The King and I

Opera Australia and John Frost’s production of The King and I is currently playing in Melbourne at the stunning Princess Theatre and this national tour marks the professional music theatre debut of many up-and-coming performers. AussieTheatre is thrilled to be featuring an interview series entitled Getting To Know You to introduce these new artists to their music theatre audience!

Hayanah Pickering
Hayanah Pickering

Today we chat with Hayanah Pickering, a multitalented performer who also holds a degree in Psychology from UNSW. Hayanah grew up in a family of music and theatre lovers and developed a passion for the stage at a young age. She trained at The Actors Centre Australia and Screenwise Film and Television School and has worked as a performer at Dreamworld, Movieworld and with the hit children’s entertainment group The Wiggles. .

Getting To Know You

What is your role in the production?

I play Angel George in the Small House of Uncle Thomas ballet, and also one of the royal wives throughout the rest of the show.

When did you know you wanted to become a performer?

I started dancing from a very young age and always loved performing. I couldn’t wait to be back on stage. While I had been involved in a number of dancing jobs and events through my teens, I didn’t actively pursue a full time career in performing until after I had finished an unrelated degree at uni. While I was completing my degree, performing remained my passion and I knew then that that’s what I needed to do with my life.

Where did you train?

I went to local dance schools when I was younger, and was involved in a number of community theatre productions which taught me a lot. I learnt the most “on the job” through gigs and various performing jobs. I later went to two drama schools, Actors Centre Australia and Screenwise in Sydney, to expand my skills and work towards becoming a more well rounded performer.

What was your reaction when you discovered you had been cast in this show?

At first I was so shocked I couldn’t believe I’d heard correctly. I then ran outside (I was working at a part time job in an office at the time) and called my parents to tell them the news.

Your first musical theatre job has you performing with award winning veterans of the stage and screen – including Lisa McCune, Marty Rhone, Jason Scott Lee and Lou Diamond Phillips – what have you learnt from working with such an experienced cast?

It’s such a privilege to work with all of these wonderful artists. Each time I watch them rehearse, it’s a lesson in performing just because I see the work, care and dedication they put into each scene and song, yet they make it look so effortless during shows. Every part of their performance has meaning and depth dehind it. They’re also such lovely, nice people who really care about the rest of the company, so they’ve also shown me the value of being a generous performer both on and off the stage.

Hayanah Pickering as Angel/George in The King and I. Image by Oliver Toth
Hayanah Pickering as Angel/George in The King and I. Image by Oliver Toth

The King and I features an incredible 15 minute Jerome Robbins ballet in Act 2 – how do you keep yourself fit and ready for the performance every night?

Generally, I go to the gym to keep fit, as well as take regular dance classes. I also like to mix things up a bit when I can and take up various activities such as Oz-tag, tennis, acrobatics, soccer. I always have a list of new activities I want to try to keep things interesting and also to stay fit. While on tour it’s a bit more difficult but just regular stretching and little home or gym workouts really help.

Describe the production for us in three words.

Three words I would use to describe this production of The King and I are lavish, evocative, stunning

What has been the most exciting/memorable moment so far?

I struggle choosing “the most” exciting or memorable moment. I have two that really affected me. The first was the first time I stood on the stage in the theatre during rehearsals and looked out into the seats. It was a sudden moment where I thought, this is it, I’m here and about to perform in a professional show that I’ve watched since I was a little girl. The second was the standing ovation after the first performance. That was an indescribable feeling.

Is there anything you have learned during this contract about the music theatre (or theatre) industry which surprised you?

The most surprising thing I have found, during my first experience in a professional musical has been how understanding people have been to first-timers. There is so much for everyone to do but, with everyone working hard and being so busy, more experienced people in the company (both on the performing side and the non performing side) have still found time to be so caring of the newbies.

What is your go-to ‘belt it out in the shower’ song?

I don’t really have a single song I like to belt out at home. I like to mix it up depending on how I’m feeling at the time. Sometimes it’s a music theatre song, sometimes it’s a bit of Beyonce or a pop song.

For more information about The King and I and to book tickets for Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney, visit

Check out our fantastic photo feature by Oliver Toth here

Erin James

Erin James is's former Editor in Chief and a performer on both stage and screen. Credits include My Fair Lady, South Pacific and The King and I (Opera Australia), Love Never Dies and Cats (Really Useful Group), Blood Brothers (Enda Markey Presents), A Place To Call Home (Foxtel/Channel 7) and the feature film The Little Death (written and directed by Josh Lawson).

Erin James

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