I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Erin Cornell about her incredible performing career and international journey. From her stories of when Stephen Schwartz accidentally let slip she was to fly high in Osaka as Elphaba in Wicked to having the most fun she’s ever had onstage in London’s well reviewed production of A Class Act as Mona. Last but not least, we can’t leave out Cornell meowing her way across Asia with her face on a bus, as she played the iconic role of Grizabella in Cats. That’s only a slice of her whimsical career stories.

Cornell shared that she feels like her life has come full circle, as she currently is rehearsing another of her childhood dream roles – Fantine in CentreStage’s production of Les Misérables, directed by Martin Croft. Cornell began her musical theatre journey at Victorian College of the Arts with Croft as one of her mentors and educators. He also played her Old Deuteronomy for a part of the Asia tour of Cats. She explained it felt kismet to work with Croft again. “It feels like the stars aligned with the role, location and director”, Cornell said.

Speaking about Fantine, Cornell reflected, “It feels like a blessing to nurture her. She lives in a heavy world and does everything for the love and survival of her daughter. She believed in love and got hurt. People can feel and relate to this”. Cornell continued to openly talk about how she was brought up by her single mother and how strong and resilient her Mum was for her.

When based in London, Cornell had the pleasure of being recalled for Fantine twice for the iconic West End production. “I remember standing on the stage at the Queens Theatre for one of my final recalls. It was my birthday and I thought ‘even if I don’t get this look at what you’re doing today Erin and where’”, says Cornell. Fantine has always been a dream role for Cornell since she was a kid, and she is truly thrilled that the time is now, the day is here to finally play her.

Cornell explained that she enjoyed living in the UK and misses it immensely, bringing up another memory of living there – having a a bit of reflux, scoffing an incredible Gordon Ramsay Christmas dinner backstage at Claridge’s, pre-show with Dame Edna. Cornell did miss home back in Oz though and fortunately when the opportunity came up, she was able to return to Australia as the Grizabella standby to Delta Goodrem with the Australian Cats tour. “I won’t sugar coat it – it was challenging to sit backstage after playing the role for so long, but fortunately Delta was and is one of the kindest and most talented people to have walked the planet and to have that transition with. Forever grateful that it brought our friendship”

That got us into conversation about when Cornell appeared on The Voice, Australia. “I learnt a lot, loved the crew so much and had a great response” she said. “Once my performances were live, I also experienced my first ever does of trolling. It was weird and awful. There was so much positive feedback from my performances, but the trolling for a while was uncomfortable. The legendary Eddie Perfect said to me ‘The bigger you risk, the more dickheads you reach’. I think it’s far better to be the one who does things than the one who talks about those who do things”. Cornell beamed and said “It stuck with me”.

After The Voice, Cornell joined the mammoth Queen Symphonic Arena Spectacular for its Japan leg. “It was a wild ride with no rehearsal for me besides the sitzprobe”, she said. “That happened to again sit on my birthday. We had been singing through the twenty something Queen songs when all of a sudden the orchestra and rock band started playing a tune. I freaked out as I thought ‘I don’t remember learning this one??!!’ It was indeed them playing me “Happy Birthday”, Cornell laughed.

Most recently, Cornell continues to be inspired to coach globally, in person and online performers in mindfulness and singing. “I think it’s really important to nurture and pass on anything we have learnt. Making the journey a little simpler for someone else”. She reflects about her approach to auditions, and that if you don’t get the part to respect the grief. “It’s like a little being you’ve grown. You birth it, you invest in it, you care for it, you have hopes for it and sometimes it dies. Really feel the grief. It’s sad. Then we can move on instead of the bitter chip that sometimes remains”.

Most recently Cornell has begun song writing. “It’s pure bliss to me and was birthed in lockdown. My genre is celtic mystic and it feels like a gateway to my soul. I absolutely love it and can’t wait to share it with the world when the time is right”. Until then, she has been in the studio and is releasing her debut covers album “Spirit of the Deva” on the 3rd of June. It will be available to purchase on CD at the Les Misérables performances, and on all online networks. The album includes songs from her theatre career and ultimately songs which hold personal meaning for her. There is a GoFundMe page if you would like to be part of her process and order a hard copy album – https://gofund.me/0861d1d0

Ultimately, Cornell is looking forward to playing her dream role of Fantine. “You never know when you can affect someone with your performance or presence. We have gifts and are at service to share them. It is our responsibility to let them loose and free”

You can see Erin Cornell as Fantine in CentreStage’s Les Misérables playing from 3rd of June – 11th of June at The Costa Hall, Geelong. For tickets, please use the following link: https://geelongartscentre.org.au/whats-on/all-events/centrestage-presents-les-miserables/


Article written by Annie Zeleznikow.