Anna plays Eliza in the Australian production of My Fair Lady, the same role that launched Julie’s stellar career 60 years earlier.
The legendary star is back to direct the production which opened this week at the Sydney Opera House, and Anna is understandably excited to have the chance to learn from one of the greats.
The Carousel sat down with Anna, who already has a CV spanning international opera, theatre, concert and film, to get her thoughts on the role of a lifetime.
Did you grow up watching Julie Andrews?
I loved The Sound of Music when I was a child. I knew every line and watched it far too many times. We watched it religiously in my house.
I grew up with the original Broadway cast recording of My Fair Lady with Julie Andrews and Rex Harrison. I was familiar with Julie’s work.
She has been an idol of mine for a very long time.
What was it like working with Julie Andrews?
I did three auditions with Julie. She has huge opinions of the way in which the show should be done because she knows. Her mentor was Moss Hart the original director. She said amazing things in the audition like “Now what Moss Hart meant by this was…” It is brilliant that she has that knowledge.
In the final audition I did all the material really quickly and so we spent about 45 minutes just chatting and getting to know each other which was surreal.
Were you star struck?
I don’t get star struck by a lot of people. I had done the original auditions with her and she was so warm and a wonderful person.
Everything you think that she is going to be, she is. She is just a lovely person with this amazing aura.
Were you always a performer?
I actually wanted to be a violinist and had learnt violin from a very young age. I sang in choirs such as the Australian Girls Choir for a long time. However, I was very shy, as a child so didn’t necessarily think that I wanted to get up and pretend to be other people on stage in front of other people.
I always loved musical theatre though and I went to the theatre a lot as a child. Theatre and music was a huge part of my life and then I started to do school productions and amateur productions, as I got older. I just loved it. So, I decided it was the path for me.
Are you worried about the Cockney accent?
I’ve got a pretty good ear for accents; I will also be working with a wonderful dialect coach in preparation because singing in a different accent can be quite hard on the voice. I will be looking at making that as safe, healthy and sustainable as possible.
How do you prepare for the physical and vocal challenge of a role like Eliza?
As musical theatre performers we are used to eight shows a week. However, obviously, there are some roles are more demanding than others. This one will definitely be a challenging role. It is not daunting but it will definitely require me to be at my best.
The show is quite dialogue heavy, there are big dramatic scenes, dancing and of course the singing that is required. I feel fortunate to working on quite a rigorous and physically demanding show at the moment in Guys and Dolls. I will just be adding to that, I will go to dance classes, work with a dialog coach, have singing lessons and of all the time be trying to stay as health as possible.
What are you most excited for in this production?
I am excited about the challenge of it. I am hugely excited that I get to sing these amazing songs with a big orchestra. It is a big original orchestra because we are working for Opera Australia. A lot of orchestras are scaled down for productions these days but it is all original orchestrations. I am so excited to be a part of that, and to think that I get paid for doing it!
There is an amazing cast – Robyn Nevin, Alex Jennings, Reg Livermore, Tony Llewellyn-Jones.
Congratulations on your debut album Dream. What inspired you to make it?
My partner said to me “why don’t you think about doing an album?” I had never really thought about recording. I am a perfectionist and the thought of it scares me. The thing that we love about listening to voices is the human aspect and the imperfections but as an artist I want it to be perfect, so it always scared me. As I said I quite enjoy being scared by things professionally. That is a reason to do something in my book.
I knew that I didn’t want to do a ‘best of musical theatre’; I didn’t want to do songs I sung every day for work or for auditions.