In the heart of Australia’s vibrant cultural scene, the latest production of the iconic musical Grease has been captivating audiences with its infectious energy, timeless music, and a talented cast that breathes new life into the beloved characters. At the forefront of this dazzling ensemble is Annelise Hall, a shining star who has taken on the iconic role of Sandy, a character immortalised by Olivia Newton-John. This production, set to unfold its magic across Melbourne, Sydney, and Perth, promises a fresh take on the classic tale of high school romance, rock ‘n’ roll, and the indomitable spirit of youth.
Grease, with its rich history and global appeal, has once again proven its enduring charm by assembling a stellar cast of Australia’s finest. As the curtains rise, the stage is set for a journey back to the 1950s, where the T-Birds and the Pink Ladies rule Rydell High. Annelise Hall, with her rich background in musical theatre, steps into Sandy’s shoes, offering a nuanced portrayal that blends the character’s sweetness and strength in a captivating performance.
Annelise Hall’s journey from the tranquil streets of the Northern Beaches to the heart of Australia’s musical theatre scene is not just a story of ambition and achievement. Her narrative shines a light on the profound influence of early exposure to music, the nuances of character embodiment, and the holistic approach to nurturing the next generation of performers.
Growing up in St Ives and Newport, Annelise Hall found her calling amid the harmonies of the Corpus Christi church choir and the vibrant performances of local musical societies. The support and opportunities provided by her family and community served as the bedrock for her burgeoning talent. Her early years were not just about honing her craft but about embracing the communal essence of musical theatre. “There’s something very fun and addictive about performing,” Annelise recalls, reflecting on her formative years. Her involvement with the Sydney Children’s Choir was pivotal, providing a structured environment where her musical skills flourished, laying the groundwork for a career that would eventually captivate audiences across the nation.
Can you share a bit about your journey from the Northern Beaches of Sydney to becoming a musical theatre performer? How did your early life influence your career choice?
So I grew up on the North Shore in St Ives and then my parents moved to Newport. I was lucky to have so many opportunities in these areas as well as parents who were willing to shuttle me around to activities. From a young age I loved performing, I was part of the Corpus Christi church choir and the Christmas nativity is a core memory for me. I went on to do a lot of community musical theatre with groups like Stage Artz and Chatswood Musical Society as well as high school productions at Brigidine College, Knox and Riverview. I was part of the Sydney Children’s Choir from a young age which was an integral part of my journey as a musician, with weekly sight singing and musicianship classes on top of choir rehearsals and performances. There’s something very fun and addictive about performing and letting it go was never an option for me so I followed it from high school to university to the professional industry!
Annelise’s ascent in the world of musical theatre is marked by her ability to seamlessly transition between diverse roles. From portraying the carefree Sophie in ‘Mamma Mia!’ to embodying the intense and driven Hope in ‘The Marvellous Elephant Man’, her adaptability is a testament to her skill and dedication. Her approach to character development goes beyond mere portrayal; it’s an immersive process where she blends instinct with a deep understanding of the character’s psyche. “I bring an element of myself to it and just change the energy, accent, physicality etc. to suit each role,” Annelise explains, shedding light on her method of capturing the essence of each character she portrays.
You’ve had a diverse array of roles, from Sophie in Mamma Mia! to Hope in The Marvellous Elephant Man. How do you adapt your performance style to such varied characters?
My first thought is to follow my instincts and get into the energy of the character. Hope for example had a very heightened, almost stressed energy at all times so I’d allow myself to get into a place where my breathing changed and found physicality that demonstrated that stress.
But I also think it’s important to know what you bring to the table and become really good at whatever that is. There’s definitely a lot of crossover between my work and I think it’s because I bring an element of myself to it and just change the energy, accent, physicality etc. to suit each role.
Revisiting the role of Sandy in Grease offered Annelise a unique opportunity to explore and deepen her connection with the character. The transition from an American Sandy at QPAC to an Australian version in the current production introduced new layers to her performance. This shift wasn’t just about a change in accent; it was about reimagining Sandy’s persona, making her stand out while maintaining the character’s iconic charm. Annelise’s commitment to finding “nuances and depth in each moment” and her adaptability to new cast dynamics highlight her relentless pursuit of excellence in her craft.
Playing Sandy in Grease at QPAC and now in the current production, how has your interpretation of the character evolved?
Well the character is Australian in our current version whereas I was American in the QPAC production. That changes quite a lot as it is more of a challenge for me to vocally match the rest of the cast. A US dialect is very forward and direct, so this naturally makes Sandy’s Australian voice stand out.
I have tried to keep finding nuances and depth in each moment. I have also changed my performance to match the new people I’m working with, which has been so exciting.
Annelise’s role as a vocal coach at VocaLab isn’t confined to teaching techniques; it’s about empowering individuals through the art of storytelling. She encourages her students to look beyond vocal perfection and focus on the emotional truth of each performance. Her philosophy revolves around harnessing one’s unique strengths and relentlessly refining them. “Know your type, know the roles you want to play and the songs you want to sing,” she advises, emphasising the importance of self-awareness and dedicated practice in the journey of a performer.
As a vocal coach with VocaLab, what are some key pieces of advice you give to your students, especially those aspiring to enter musical theatre?
I would say to focus on telling the story. At VocaLab we work with a lot of people who have been through challenges in their voice journey, such as vocal injuries, tension issues from reflux or allergies etc. which can sometimes feel disempowering. So I try to encourage people to take the focus off the voice and work on staying truthful in each moment, because ultimately telling the story is the most important thing. I also encourage people to figure out what they bring to the table and then become the best at doing that. Know your type, know the roles you want to play and the songs you want to sing. I also encourage people to keep going. You don’t need to work at 100% if it means you’re going to burnout, just stay in the game and keep showing up and you’ll find your version of success.
In a field as dynamic and demanding as the performing arts, Annelise Hall stands as a beacon of inspiration and guidance for emerging talents. Her advice resonates with authenticity and compassion. “Enjoy the journey!” she exclaims, urging young performers to cherish each moment, whether it’s the camaraderie of high school productions or the disciplined routine of dance classes. Her emphasis on consistency, openness to feedback, and the creation of one’s work speaks volumes about her commitment to nurturing a supportive and thriving artistic community. Annelise’s narrative is a reminder that success in the performing arts is not just about the applause at the end of a performance; it’s about the journey, the growth, and the countless stories that unfold along the way.
Given the challenges and triumphs of the industry, especially in recent times, what advice would you offer to young performers just starting out?
I would say enjoy the journey! Some of the most fun you can have is doing high school productions and going to see your friends at dance class every week.
If you’re serious about being in the industry, keep asking questions. Stay consistent with singing, dance and acting classes. Go see as much theatre as you can, good and bad. Be open to feedback and focus on the work, never let ego get too involved, as hard as that can be. Start creating your own work, nothing will be perfect when you start but it can only get better from there. Be kind to the people you work with, and avoid jealousy. Always be happy for people who find success, there is enough room for everyone. Just keep going and stay motivated, no matter how many people tell you no. Stay in the game!
As this production of Grease prepares to tour the country, audiences will erupt in enthusiastic applause, a tribute to the allure of this classic musical. Amidst the echoes of this jubilant response, it’s Annelise Hall’s portrayal of Sandy that lingers in the spotlight. Her rendition transcends mere acting; it’s a heartfelt homage to a character that has charmed generations. Annelise’s embodiment of Sandy’s journey, from innocence to empowerment, resonates deeply, leaving an indelible mark on the hearts of the audience.
To see Annelise in Grease on it’s national tour click HERE.