At just 21 years of age, Australian actress Rachel Marley has had her fair share of the spotlight. After debuting on the professional music theatre scene at the age of nine in GFO’s production of The Sound Of Music, Marley went on to perform the title role in the 2000–2001 GFO production of Annie, opposite Anthony Warlow.
12 years on, after graduating with First Class Honours in Music Theatre from La Salle College (Singapore), Marley has studied dance, voice, acting, piano, musicianship and has just finished the premiere season of Spring Awakening in Singapore.
AussieTheatre caught up with Rachel to ask her about her experiences over the last decade, and to see how working as a child performer on Annie has shaped her career so far…
AT: What role did you perform in the Singapore Premiere of Spring Awakening? It’s traditionally a very young cast — was this the case in your production?
I played the role of Martha Bessel. Yes, aside from the adult roles our cast is aged from 16 – 34. I know that Adrian and Tracie Pang who run the production company (Pangdemonium Productions) felt it was important to maintain a young cast for the roles and show Singapore what young talent is out there.
AT: You were lucky enough to play Annie in the GFO production of Annie in 2000–2001, alongside Anthony Warlow. How did that experience shape you as a performer?
It certainly had a big impact on my life. It really exposed me to my passion of Musical Theatre, helping me realize that this was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. Working with Anthony was an incredible experience. He is such a veteran of Musical Theatre in Australia and I learnt so much from him about being a performer and being a professional.
After 12 years, Annie is currently in a revival season in Sydney. What have you been up to in the years since Annie?
I went to high school at St Vincent’s College on a vocal scholarship. In that time I kept working on all the skills I needed to be a performer. In 2008, I moved to Singapore to pursue a BA Honours in Musical Theatre at Lasalle College of the Arts under the guidance of programme leader Tony McGill. In my time there I was lucky enough to perform such roles as Olive in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Miss Dorothy in Thoroughly Modern Millie and even got the opportunity to perform Glitter and Be Gay as my Showcase piece! I was also lucky enough to work with such directors as Darren Yap, Kaye Tuckerman and Terrence O’Connell. Since graduating last year with First Class Honours I have worked as a singing teacher at Lasalle College of the Arts for the Music Department and performed in various jobs leading up to Spring Awakening.
AT: Spring Awakening deals with complex themes and heavy issues. What do you think the message of Spring Awakening is?
I think there are a few messages to be taken from Spring Awakening. I saw Spring Awakening on Broadway with the original cast back in 2007, when I was 16. I was going through a rough time in my life and this musical spoke to me. It reminded me that I was not alone. I feel that this show tells teenagers that what they’re going through is normal. That everyone will have experiences like this, that this time will pass and that, like I discovered, they are not alone. I also think it teaches adults the importance of not only talking to their children but also listening. Respecting them as individuals, not just talking down to them.
AT: You have worked professionally in both Singapore and Australia — can you tell us some of the differences/similarities (if any) between the two industries?
I think there a lot of similarities between the two industries however Singapore’s industry is a little smaller. As with any industry, people are passionate about what they do and they work towards a common goal, to create a show that moves people, in whatever way that may be. The main difference I’ve seen in the theatre industry in Singapore is that it is more open to color-blind casting, which I think is a great thing. However one problem that is apparent in Singapore is the Censorship laws. It took a lot for the production company of Spring Awakening to pass the social issues of the show through Censorship and I think it is such a shame that the Singapore public can’t be exposed to certain shows because of their content.
AT: What is your next creative venture after Spring Awakening?
I’m actually moving to London after the show is finished to try my luck in the industry there.
AT: Does the Singapore theatre scene appeal to you?
For anyone who is interested in working in Singapore, the industry is really beginning to flourish here so it is a great time to be here.
AT: What is the role you would most like to perform, from any show?
Hard question! I’ll pick three! I would love to play Lucille in Parade, Natalie in Next To Normal or Galinda in Wicked. Any of those would make me very happy!