Face to Face with Hayden Tee

New Zealand-born Hayden has made his mark in the world of Musical Theatre both down under and internationally.

Hayden Tee | Photo by Kurt Sneddon

His iconic portrayal of Inspector Javert in Les Miserables has been seen across the world on Australian, Asian, Broadway, and West End stages. More recently, he was seen as Ms. Trunchbull in the West End cast of Matilda The Musical. Other notable credits include Lea/Lana in Only Heaven Knows (Hayes Theatre) Thomas Andrews in Titanic (Aus Premiere), Freddie Eynsford-Hill in My Fair Lady (both for Opera Australia and in the U.S.), Marius in Les Miserables (West End), Joe Cable in South Pacific (Adelaide Festival), and Gus/Growltiger/Bustopher Jones in Cats (World Tour with RUG). On top of performing, Hayden is a well respected Makeup Artist and is a creative director for Inglot Cosmetics.

Hayden has previously released two albums (Hayden Tee and Generation WhY), and his new album Face To Face is currently available for purchase.

Tell me a bit about your new album!

This is my third solo album. I’ve done all of them with my long time collaborator and music director Nigel Ubrihien, he’s an absolute genius with his arrangements. I guess when I was younger, in my 20s, I was covering pop songs and doing MT versions of them, which I still enjoy doing, but I really wanted to make this all about musical theatre and make it sound symphonic. So we put together a 63 piece orchestra, which is nuts. We flew to Budapest for 2 nights and recorded all 9 tracks in 9 hours, which was intense, but we got it done. It was just the orchestra, not the vocals! It basically took 3 years… I finished Javert on the West End, had one day off, then went to Budapest, and then moved back to New Zealand to nurse my grandmother and during that 6 months would fly into Sydney or Melbourne and hire a studio wherever Nigel was to put down a couple tracks. A few were done in London while I was doing Matilda. There hasn’t been any hurry with it – I just wanted to get it right. It’s absolutely musical theatre, which I love. And it’s a bit over the top [laughs].

How did you go about selecting the songs?

We had a really long list to begin with, as you always do. Basically what we wanted to do first was to have something from all the different genres of musical theatre, if we could. So there’s some Jason Robert Brown, some Schoenberg… the one thing I really am disappointed in is that we didn’t get a Sondheim on there (but that’ll be on the next album that we’ve already started planning!). There was one, but it wasn’t right, it didn’t “make the cut.” The list was a mixture of what spoke to us dramatically, some were always just there because we’d always wanted to do them – like “Stars” was always going to be on there and always going to be track #1. But then when we had this big list we were wondering what the theme was, and we noticed that all of the songs that really spoke to us were songs that were sungs by antagonists and/or rebels, and that’s kind of the thread of it. So Marius, who sings “Empty Chairs” isn’t an antagonist, but he is part of the revolution. Floyd Collins isn’t really an antagonist either, but he certainly is a rebel in that song. That’s kind of how we distilled it down. Oh, we did swap one out in the end – after we did all 9 tracks I started doing Trunchbull and was like “I reaaaaally want to do ‘The Smell Of Rebellion’,” so we ditched “Music of the Night” for it, which I’m really glad we did. We needed a bit of relief [chuckles].

Hayden as Miss Trunchbull | Photo by Manuel Harlan

On that note, how was playing the Trunchbull?

I loved it. Matilda is my favourite musical. I saw it in previews on Broadway and absolutely fell in loved with it. It was a dream role and a dream show to do. And I never had the opportunity to do it – when I was living in New York, the casting brief said 6’3″ and above only, and I’m 6’1″, so I never got that chance. And in Australia I was doing Javert so it clashed. So I knew that London was the only place that still had a production running at that point, and it’s one of the reasons that I got my visa at that point, when they offered me Javert I said yes as long as they sorted it for me. And it was crazy, I had 7 callbacks. I’ve never done that many callbacks. But to be honest, it was kind of cool. It was a challenging year but a great year.

And what can audiences expect from your upcoming concert at Darlinghurst Theatre?

A little bit of everything, really. I wrote the whole show in Tahiti. It’s a mixture of songs from the album, there are a couple from my old album, and quite a few completely new ones AND a few from my next album (because we’re crazy and we can’t stop!). It’s a bit of a mish mash but it works, and it certainly tells the story of where I am in the world right now.

Hayden Tee as Javert |Photo by Matt Murphy

With such an impressive resume of roles under your belt, I have to ask – which has been the most important or career defining for you?

Javert, definitely. Just because it’s a role that’s been so good to me, I’m very grateful for the opportunities to travel. And right now, I feel like I’m living the best of that, opening it in my home country [New Zealand]. My father’s never seen me really do anything because he doesn’t have a passport and hasn’t left the country. It’s nerve wracking, more nerve wracking than doing it on Broadway, believe it or not, but it’s wonderful. Whatever I’m doing at the time is kind of what I get obsessed with. But all of them have been amazing, and they’ve all somehow coincided with something happening in my personal life and come along when they’re meant to.

Face To Face is now available to purchase at the Broadway Records website.

Hayden Tee: Up Close and Personal will be performed at Darlinghurst Theatre on December 8. For tickets and more information visit the Darlinghurst Theatre Company website.

Gabi Bergman

Gabi Bergman is a Melbourne-based performer and educator. She holds a Double Arts degree in Theatre Studies and Film/Screen Studies and a Master of Teaching (Secondary Education). Gabi has always been an avid lover of theatre, specifically musicals, and spends way too much money than she’d like to admit on tickets. Her most prized possession is her crate of theatre programs.

Gabi Bergman

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