Kerrie Anne Greenland is a Melbourne based Musical Theatre performer known best for her portrayal of Eponine in the 2014-2016 Australian and Asian tours of Les Miserables. Her nightly poignant and heart– breaking performances earned Greenland the 2015 Helpmann Award for Best Female Actor in a Supporting Role. She went on to play Violet in the 2016 production of Side Show at Sydney’s Hayes Theatre, Cassandra in the 2017 production of Paris- A Rock Odyssey at the Melbourne Recital Centre, Esther Smith in the 2018 production of Meet Me in St. Louis at Sydney’s Hayes Theatre and herself in the 2019 production of Everything’s Coming Up Sondheim at Melbourne’s Chapel off Chapel.
Greenland graduated from the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA) in 2012 with a Bachelor of Arts in Musical Theatre and began her Masters at the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music in 2019 before deferring to give birth to her son, George. There she played the roles of Miss Wordsworth in Britten’s Albert Herring, and Eurydice in Offenbach’s Orpheus in the Underworld. Kerrie Anne explained, “it’s been wonderful to explore my coloratura soprano and challenge myself by studying different languages and style of singing”.
In 2016, Kerrie Anne released her solo album Pictures and in 2018 began touring her concert, with the same title, Pictures: Songs from Movie Musicals, around Australia. Pictures is dedicated to songs from the movies including classics such as Carousel and more contemporary movies like Frozen.
Her live show entwines music with snapshots or pictures of her childhood in Adelaide which is where I start this interview.
GROWING UP AT THE PICTURES
You grew up in Adelaide where your mum and dad ran a cinema, tell us about that?
My dad and step mum worked at Wallis Theatres, so we spent a lot of time watching movies and playing games in the video gaming room. EJ (my step mum) apparently still has a carton of the popcorn salt which we used to love devouring.
What is the record for the show you saw the most times?
The move that sticks the most is the Sword in the Stone… it must have done a re-release at some point. In terms of movie musicals, it was Sleeping Beauty which I literally destroyed the video tape we had at home, I watched it that many times.
Do you have any funny or endearing memories that stand out to you?
This is totally not related… but one of my favourite, funny early memories is of my little brother, Peter (now a chef), who when told he couldn’t have cream because it was off said “can’t you just turn it back on again?”
Did you take singing and dancing lessons as a child and if so, how old were you when you started?
I did. I remember leading the school assembly when I was 5, lol. I remember being bullied for singing hello … apparently, and offering to sing solos in choir. I did go to Mighty Good Talent School, for those Adelaide people out there, but I was never “good enough” to be in the performance team. (side note, I also was only offered representation by one agent after WAAPA).
As children, the people around us make lasting impressions on our lives, who were your role models? Is there anyone you looked up to?
Probably most of all my mum. She is the strongest most independent person I know. I value that.
I know you saw a fair few musical movies as a child and adored them but at what age did it occur to you that “Hey I could do this as a career?”
Honestly? Not until I was an adult. I was at ANU in Canberra studying a Bachelor of Science (Psychology)/Bachelor of Arts (Drama) when we did a unit on the American Musical and a friend said they were auditioning for WAAPA and I was like “you can study Music Theatre?!?”. Three things: yes, I am the eternal student, I do feel silly only realising I could study MT at age 20!! and no, my friend didn’t get into WAAPA.
You seized the opportunity to train in musical theatre as a young adult, was it difficult for you to move away from home and what advice would you give to individuals looking to relocate for university?
I think it’s a wonderful thing to do. It is a way of exploring the world away from the comforts of home but safely with the support of a new class of people who will grow with you and adore doing the same thing you adore doing.
Did you have a picture in your mind as to what you expected WAAPA to be like and how did the reality differ from or exceed in expectations in regards to that picture?
I kinda expected it to look like the movie Fame… hehehe. To be honest sometimes it did, just with trees and large open spaces instead of a building in the city. There were times you could walk through the corridor and have dancers stretching, musicians playing with muted instruments, actors working on a dramatic monologue or duelling with fencing swords and the MT students singing down the hall or steaming.
Did you receive any advice that stays with you today?
“The day I stopped worrying so much about the audition was the day I started working” Rodney Dobson. And he hasn’t stopped. In fact COVID I’m sure is the first time Rodney has had some down time. I hope he’s well. Love ya Dobbo.
Outside of studying, what were your favourite things about living in Perth? Did you fall in love with any places in particular?
I had a vespa. And I used to love riding to Subiaco for the markets. I tried my hand at aerial yoga which I wish I could do all the time.
If you could go back to WA, what is one place that you would like to explore that you haven’t?
I have been back with my other show Rain or Shine the Judy Garland Story, actually, and I spent more time in Kings Park. I’m really grateful that I had that opportunity.
MUSICAL THEATRE CAREER
Your made professional musical theatre debut as Eponine in Les Miserables, what was the audition like?
I had my first audition on the same day as Grease call backs, I was up for Jan, and sang ‘Woman’ from The Pirate Queen (still a fave), so I was pretty relaxed actually. Then I had a call back with Eponine and Fantine material where I felt I connected more with ‘I Dreamed a Dream’ than ‘On My Own’, and I was called back for the following Friday for ensemble.
I got a call on the Monday saying they wanted to see me tomorrow, and I was worried because then what if I miss my Friday audition!?! I didn’t realise it was for the role. In fact I remember saying to the wonderfully talented Sophie Wright who was also auditioning for Eponine that “That is will be awesome, you will get the role and I will understudy you. Yass!!” I genuinely believed that. So maybe that’s why I was pretty chill singing for Cameron Mackintosh. I got the call a few weeks later. Sophie was offered Elphaba cover, so I was super happy for her too.
Musical Theatre is more than just singing, dancing and acting, it is about allowing the character’s story to unfold on stage. What was your favourite character to portray?
I mean, Eponine was incredibly special. I underestimated how important that character is to people seeing the show and playing a Siamese twin with Laura Bunting was challenging. We had to act off of each other without seeing one another, dance attached at the hip, and belt high E’s more times than I can count throughout the show.. through tears! However, my favourite, and the one I was most nervous about was playing myself. Having to be myself in my concerts was daunting but liberating.
Looking back, what advice would you give a younger you or a young person auditioning for a major musical?
I really knew the material for that audition. Preparation is key. Nerves can only get you if you’re under-prepared.
Les Miserables toured all around Australia and Asia for two years, was your portrayal of Eponine different in 2014 as to 2016?
Absolutely. I was such a sook when I started and by the end I felt like Eponine was an empowered woman on that stage. It took me so long to figure her out.
Kerrie Anne singing ‘On My Own’ from Les Miserables.
What was your first reaction when you heard you had been nominated for a Helpmann Award and how did it feel when your name was announced as the winner?
I was with Joel Parnis watching Madame Butterfly at the Opera House when they announced the nominees, so it was pretty special being with someone who made a big deal of it. It was very cool. Winning… we had opened the Helpmanns that year and my nomination was the 4th one, so no time to get de-dirtied and into a pretty dress. So I sang ‘On My Own’ as a part of the opening, went back stage and took off a little bit of the dirt and waited side stage, that’s where I entered to accept it. It was weird hearing my name called out being alone in a theatre wing, but after photos etc I got to celebrate with my cast-mates.
The production of Side Show was in some aspects very different to Les Miserables, what was your favourite part of performing in Side Show?
The challenge of being a twin was an exceptional life experience. Amy Campbell choreographed the show and was incredible to work with. Especially after the only “dancing” I did in Les Mis was fight choreography.
For those who don’t know, you played Violet Hilton who was conjoined to her sister Daisy, what was the most challenging part of the role and did you and Laura Bunting (who played Daisy) have any funny or memorable moments?
The final duet of the show is I Will Never Leave You, and Richard Carroll directed that moment to be the one time we split and face each other. I literally had to swallow my tears to I could keep belting every night. We had a pretty incredible connection. From day one our vibrato matched up, it’s like we were meant to sing together. And I hope we do again.
In Meet Me St. Louis you played the character Esther which in the 1944 movie was of course played by Judy Garland, what was the most challenging thing about filling those shoes but also making the role your own?
I adore Judy, so much so I wrote a show about her. I think because of the nature of Neglected Musicals and having no time to rehearse meant that there was no time to be apprehensive. The best bit though, was singing ‘Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas’ holding Jessica Vickers every night, it was a song that hit home for me and many audience members.
Kerrie Anne singing ‘I Will Never Leave You’ from Side Show alongside Laura Bunting.
Often as an adult, we picture things differently than we do as a child, are there any places that you have visited as both an adult and a child and how did the experiences differ?
Adelaide feels pretty much the same. It’s a big country town that takes forever to drive to get anywhere.. well, it does when your family lives on all sides of town. Lol.
In March 2020, you gave birth to your son George, when you are able to travel to Adelaide, what are you most excited to show him?
The borders closed 5 days after he was born, so sadly he hasn’t been able to get to Adelaide or my Partner, Rainer Pollard’s family in Toowoomba. But! My mum was here before and for the birth, that was really special. I cannot wait for my family to meet him, and hopefully it’s before he gets a girlfriend/boyfriend… though he does like kissing Sophie the Giraffe.
How has COVID– 19 been for you, especially as a mum to a four-month-old child?
It has so far been all about George. It has been the biggest blessing having the wonderful distraction that a baby is. Going into this next stage of lockdown I think will be more difficult as I look to working vs just being full time mum.
Do you have any new or re-discovered hobbies?
Childcare. In fact I am studying a Certificate III in that area online during this lockdown so that I can have another passion besides the arts to keep me employed as I just simply don’t love working in retail.
You have toured two shows, Pictures and Rain or Shine: The Judy Garland Story, are there any plans to tour post- COVID?
There will be. We have a few tentative dates in 2021, and maybe I’ll get an Operatic show up and running too.
Kerrie Anne’s album Pictures is available to purchase.
Do you have a message for the Australian Theatre Community?
I have always said do what makes you happy. That can change, what made you happy yesterday may not make you happy today, go with it and whether it’s singing, cooking for someone, knitting, binging a show, DO WHAT MAKES YOU HAPPY!!
Where is your favourite place to be on your own?
Knitting. With a cuppa.
If you could be conjoined to one person for 24 hours who would it be?
My partner, Rainer. I could probs do that for the rest of my life though… so long as I could still see his face.
If you could have dinner with anyone who would it be?
Diana Perini. She was a WAAPA classmate of ours who we lost to cancer.