Queenie van de Zandt has an extensive career in the entertainment industry. A versatile performer, she has worked in musical theatre, plays, cabaret, television and film. She has also established herself as Australia’s leading teacher of audition technique for musical theatre, song performance and cabaret. Yet, it was performing as her alter ego, Jan van de Stool, on television talent show Australia’s Got Talent, that propelled her into the public spotlight.
During her time on Australia’s Got Talent, many viewers thought Jan van de Stool was a real person. The confusion was further fueled on social media with Jan van de Stool saying this about Queenie van de Zandt: “There is no truth to the ugly rumour that I am the same person as the bit-time musical theatre player and occasional cruise ship singer Queenie van de Zandt. I do not understand why people get confused. We are both Dutch and that’s it. I used to be her singing teacher and she is just riding on my coat-tails.”
The hilarious banter continued back and forth between Jan van de Stool and Queenie van de Zandt, with readers even jumping in to defend Queenie van de Zandt against Jan’s harsh comments! It all resulted in a significant amount of exposure for van de Zandt.
Queenie van de Zandt first appeared on Australia’s Got Talent at the invitation of the producers. She also received an invitation to appear as a contestant on The Voice after her performance of ‘What Kind of Fool Am I?’ at Twisted Broadway.
“I was thinking about them both, but in the end I said no to The Voice. I just thought I couldn’t do it. There’s so much more at stake,” said van de Zandt.
Instead, van de Zandt appeared on Australia’s Got Talent, but in the form of her alter-ego Jan van de Stool.
“It’s easier doing comedy as Jan because I don’t feel responsible. I feel free to be very edgy and say what I like because it’s not me, it’s Jan and Jan would say that. If it’s a bit wrong, then I think, ‘Jan shouldn’t say that next time!’ It feels very unrelated to me. She feels like a very different entity,” said van de Zandt.
The character of Jan van de Stool first came about when Queenie van de Zandt had a great desire to sing the big belt songs she never had the opportunity to perform as a character actor. However, rather than simply putting on a concert of show tune belts, van de Zandt knew she needed some sort of gimmick to provide a hidden structure, so the show wouldn’t just look like an audition piece.
“I was mulling and mulling over it and then I realized that every single song I’d chosen was about a woman in a relationship and so I thought I can make it like a self-help course,” said van de Zandt, who admitted she is fascinated by self-help courses and books.
“So I thought I’ll make a really dodgy, self-help guru at the scout hall and I’ll call it ‘Don’t be Clichéd Archetype, be a Self-Made Dynamite’ as a book that she has written and is trying to promote and she’s brought ten of her graduates today to share with you different archetypes,” said van de Zandt.
The character of Jan van de Stool first appeared in cabaret in Brisbane in 2002. She was a very small character who opened the show by welcoming people to the “scout hall”, the location of the toilets, mention the “book” and then introduce the ten women that Queenie van de Zandt would transition into for each song performed.
Queenie van de Zandt had been seeing a therapist on and off, named Jan. Van de Zandt thought Jan was the most amazing woman and so named her cabaret alter ego “Jan” in honour of her own therapist. The night before the cabaret opened, van de Zandt performed the show for some close friends who suggested she do the voice of Jan in her own mother’s Dutch accent.
The next night, van de Zandt opened the cabaret and, without any rehearsal doing the character in a Dutch voice, Jan van de Stool appeared for the very first time. There was an incredible response from the audience to the character of Jan.
Van de Zandt had written a lot of different material over the years but nothing that had received a reaction like Jan van de Stool. She knew it was special. So did her agents, who encouraged her to do more with Jan.
Van de Zandt asked actor and writer Tony Taylor to help develop the character of Jan van de Stool. Together, they created a 20 minute segment for an annual show in Brisbane featuring female performers. They dumped the idea of Jan trying to promote a self-help book and developed her character further by having her married to Pieter, her husband and cousin, and born in a tiny village in Holland. The musical director of the event was named Helen – and so they used her name to create the character of Jan’s pianist.
Fellow performer Chelsea Plumley suggested Jan be a music therapist rather than just a counsellor therapist to allow van de Zandt to really use all her music talents.
The segment was developed further, extended into a longer cabaret show and performed at the Ensemble Theatre in Sydney and then the Melbourne Fringe Festival.
Now, the brutally honest, Dutch music therapist, Jan van de Stool, is in demand as a host for charity events, the corporate world and tonight’s Helpmann Awards.
“I much prefer to host as Jan than myself. Jan can totally get away with it. She’s an idiot! She’s a clown,” laughed van de Zandt.
Regardless of what Jan van de Stool says at the Helpmanns, Queenie van de Zandt has plenty of work following the event. In August she will run her Advanced Audition Course to help 20 emerging performers take the next step in their career. If you’d like to be one of them (or even just to observe the workshops), click here for more details.