I sat down with good friend Gretel Scarlett after she found out the news that she will be playing Sandy in the New Production of Grease, touring Australia in 2013 and here is what she had to say:
LB: What was your reaction when you received the phone call from your agent to say you were Australia's new Sandra Dee??
GS: Funny you should ask… I was actually having coffee in Melbourne city, when my gorgeous agent rang and said "Ok we have an offer for Grease. I am opening the email attachment, reading the letter and it says
'We are delighted to offer Gretel Scarlett the role of Sandy in Grease.'" My jaw dropped! I think I just kept saying "you're joking! Oh my god, oh my god!" I was laughing… And crying! It was an absolute surprise. I didn't for once think that it was going to say those words or that they were considering me for the role of Sandy. So I asked her to Double check that the word 'understudy' isn't on the offer!
LB: What did the audition process involve?
GS: It was a rather quick process over 2 weeks, but felt like a lifetime! Thinking Sandy was out of the question, I submitted myself for one of the pink ladies. I went in on the first Tuesday in Melbourne for my singing audition. There was a panel of about 6 (both UK directors, choreographers, our Aussie team and our wonderful Producer, John Frost) and I sang my song. They gave me call back material (scenes/songs) and to also do a dance call. So I came back the next day to do an ensemble dance call with a whole lot of girls. It was a basic movement call, but it focused on style and energy! They asked me to come back on Thursday to read and sing all the Sandy/Pinklady material. After about 25 mins in the room with them, they asked if I was able to be flown to Sydney the following week to perform for the producers! The following Wednesday in Sydney, I had a one-on-one session with the creatives to workshop the material and "prepare" for the UK and Aussie producers. It was an extremely long day, reading opposite potential Danny's, singing 'Hopelessly Devoted' and 'Sandra Dee' numerous times… I was there for over 6 hours and was one of the last to leave. Then the waiting began!
LB: What is the process now for you as the new Sandy?
GS: We haven't started our rehearsal period yet, but this last week has been a very busy one – lots of media calls, radio interviews, TV interviews, groups launches… Which is a lot of talking and smiling! Ha!
LB: What are your last 3 Performance credits?
GS: I was last in Wicked the Australian tour and Asian tour playing Elphaba's Mother, and understudying and playing the roles of Elphaba and her sister Nessarose. Before that I was cast in the 10th Anniversary tour of Mamma Mia! as ensemble and covering and playing the juvenile lead Sophie, and her two friends, Ali and Lisa. Prior to that I played the role of Sal in the Original Australian cast of 'Breast Wishes'.
LB: Rumor has it that you went on for Elphaba a 3rd into a performance of Wicked. What was that like?
GS: I actually recount this experience on my blog! I had to write about it, as it was such a whirlwind! To sum it up, I was tapped on the shoulder halfway through the OzDust ballroom dance number and was told I was "going on"… That's about 1/4 of the way into the show. The next 6 minutes was pure department team work – head of wigs, wardrobe, sound, mechanics, props – everyone was running around literally dressing me like a rag-doll, painting nails, mic-ing me up, putting wigs on and being painted like a wall! After those 6 minutes of madness it was just GO! It was pure adrenaline and focus; hitting the marks I was told in rehearsals and performing to the best I could under those circumstances. It was nerve racking, exciting, thrilling, terrifying but one of the best experiences I can recall. However, I did have no underwear on for the first Act. Ha!
I only wish I could've gone on again to consolidate, have some preparation time and feel my feet. You never know; maybe I'll get the chance to play the role one day!
LB: As a WAAPA graduate do you believe it is essential for a performer to study at such a school??
GS: I would never say it is essential to have a bachelor of music theatre to be in this industry. I know a lot of performers who don't come from an institution and are doing splendid! However, I would definitely recommend a course like WAAPA to hone in on certain skills. The greatest thing I can attribute to WAAPA is the safe environment to learn, fail and find yourself as an artist. I think it's extremely important to recognize the things we need to work on, and by doing a course like this, it gives you 3 years to lock yourself away from the temptation to audition and have agents, and allow yourself to concentrate solely on making yourself the best you can be at that time – and grow up! I do believe institutions like WAAPA do churn out graduates that casting associates may find reliable (possible understudies, supporting roles and principals) as there's a sense of focus after "3 years of pure training". I don't think it's essential, but I do believe it has the potential to put you in a different category to others auditioning.
LB: Do you have any advice for up and coming performers in the amateur theatre world?
GS: Keep performing and keep watching as much theatre as possible. All spectrums! Not just musicals – you can learn a lot from watching a play or a dance piece. Keep training. Audition for institutions like WAAPA. Stay focused. Allow yourself to be critical of yourself and not just others, and understand that this industry will not spoon feed you. If you want something, you have to work and train hard for it.