To celebrate five years of Close-Up Culture, we are welcoming our favourite interviewees back onto the site to see what they’ve been up to.
Actor Annelise Hall returns to talk about her incredible success on the stage and her plans for the future.
Hello Annelise, welcome back to Close-Up Culture! It’s been amazing to see how successful you’ve been since our first interview. How have you been?
Hi James! I’m doing really well thanks, it’s great to be able to talk to you again.
You recently played ‘Sandy’ in a reimagined stage version of Grease. What was it like being part of such an inclusive and forward-thinking production?
It was an incredible experience to be part of Grease, not only once but twice! This production was particularly exciting because director Alister Smith chose to gender swap a lot of the roles, for example Sonny was played by Carla Beard and Ms Lynch played by Beau Wharton.
The show is so clearly problematic and so through small changes like this you recognise the issues at hand and give the power back to those being oppressed. It was also great to work on such a huge set and stage. Adam Gnir’s huge scaffold set represented the tall Chicago skyline where the show is set. This paired with the 2000 seat QPAC Lyric Theatre and a kick ass lighting plot made it feel like a rock concert.
The role of Sandy is iconic and, I imagine, daunting for anyone who takes it on. What approach did you take to the role and putting your own spin on it?
I definitely tried to make Sandy a strong, powerful character in our production. The lines from the original Broadway production allow this to happen more naturally, which you don’t see in the movie. For example there is a physical fight with Rizzo and you see from the start Sandy standing up to the girls and Danny for the way they treat her.
Our ending of the story shows that Sandy doesn’t transform to impress Danny but instead she does it for herself to gain power among the girls, to free herself from the ideals of Old America and find a sense of personal expression and liberation.
You’ve also starred in a production of Mamma Mia. How was that experience?
Mamma Mia was an absolute dream! I have always been a huge fan of the show and movie so to be able to play Sophie Sheridan was truly incredible. We performed up on the Sunshine Coast, so day to day was spent at the beach and nights at the theatre! The audiences were so enthusiastic, especially during the Megamix at the end when everyone gets on their feet, it really made us feel like rock stars every night.
You’re really well established now as a lead performer on the stage. What do you love about musicals and performing live?
I love musicals because you’re always working in a team. Since I was young I’ve always found myself a whole lot less nervous going on stage for a musical over a solo performance. Everyone has each other’s backs so each night you get to go on stage and just play, it is a lot of fun.
A huge congratulations on being cast as the Soprano for Lord Mayor’s Christmas Carols. What does it mean to you to be involved?
I have been doing Christmas carols each year as part of a choir or group, but always just for fun, so to be able to sing as part of such a huge scale production is really exciting. It’s a great opportunity to be working alongside such talented artists such as Kate Miller Heidke and Sheppard. It will be broadcast on Channel 9 this year so I recommend getting some egg nog and Christmas cookies and watching with the family!
On that note, what’s your favourite Christmas movie and song?
Ooh it’s gotta be Love Actually or The Holiday. Both iconic movies. But Alvin and the Chipmunks is also hugely underrated! Favourite Christmas song is hands down Six White Boomers. An Australian classic.
Since we last spoke, a lot has changed in the world. We’ve seen a big hit to the arts community around the world. What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced in the last four years?
I’ve been fortunate to have spent the past few years up in Brisbane where we haven’t been affected nearly as much as Sydney or Melbourne. However, our first run of Grease on the Queensland Conservatorium stage was shut down less than a week before opening due to a covid outbreak. Luckily, the incredible team managed to get us back on the stage as soon as the lockdown ended to 50% capacity.
It’s also meant my family and friends haven’t been able to come up from Sydney this year to see my performances. Fortunately Grease was filmed and will be streamed later in the year. Despite all these challenges, we have been really lucky up here to get by generally untouched.
And what do you feel has been your biggest triumph in that time?
My biggest triumph would be working with and learning from such excellent, talented, genuine people on Grease and Mamma Mia.
How do you feel you’ve grown as a performer, and a person, in the last four years?
I’ve definitely learnt a lot about myself and helped discover what I bring to the table during my time at uni and working on these shows. I’ve learnt how to really enjoy the discipline and how to be okay with imperfection as a performer and a person.
If we did another interview in four years time, where do you hope to be in your career and life in general?
I hope to still be doing what I love, whether it’s performing, teaching or something else in the field. I hope to be living by the beach, curled up on the couch with a dog and listening to really good music.