20 years ago, a young Rachel Marley starred opposite some of Australia’s greats as a very famous red-headed orphan.
At just 10 years old, she walked the red carpet, meeting celebrities and performers — and even the Prime Minister! Her face was everywhere: taxis, billboards, and buses. She went on to study overseas and continue her career internationally, with recent credits including Olive in The 25th Annual Putnum County Spelling Bee, Miss Dorothy in Thoroughly Modern Millie, and Martha in Spring Awakening.
Now, in her upcoming cabaret Life After Tomorrow, Rachel takes us back to where it all began, posing the question: How do you attempt to compete with the ghost of your former self?
With her show opening in just a few weeks’ time, I had a chat with Rachel about
What inspired you to write Life After Tomorrow?
I’ve actually had this idea for a long time and seeing as this year is 20 years since I played Annie, it seemed like the right time to do it! Plus, last year Martin Charnin, the original lyricist and creator of the show, passed away. Martin was my director when I played the role and he probably never really knew just how much he changed so many other little girl’s lives, including mine. It felt important to me to share my own experience of life after Annie and what it means to be an Annie when you no longer are to honour the gift he gave me.
Can you tell me a bit about the writing process?
It’s been a really interesting experience! As this is my first cabaret and I’d had this idea for so long, I had so many thoughts on what I wanted to do that it was hard to know where to begin! I had songs that I felt spoke to me and my experience that I wanted to include but I was worried about how to find natural ways of working them in. During lockdown, I decided to attend a few online workshops that were specifically about creating your own cabaret and from there I realised I needed to just write the story first. As I started to do that, songs naturally started popping into my head and finding their way into the story. As a teacher once said to me at university, in a musical we sing when the emotion is so great that we can’t speak anymore and this is the motto I’ve tried to follow in my cabaret writing experience. The songs are there to aid the story.
What was the most challenging part?
Probably getting started! As I said, I had so many ideas that knowing where to start was difficult! But once I got going, it just flowed. The other challenge has been editing. As this is my own story, it’s important to be able to step outside of it and be impartial when deciding what to cut and what to leave in.
And what has been most exciting?
The most exciting thing is probably getting to share this story with people. A lot has happened since Annie and I’m excited to be able to share it! I’m also really excited about the songs I have in the show. There’s a lot of variety which makes it a fun challenge for me! Plus working with my Musical Director Matthew Reid has been a wonderful experience!
Do you have a favourite song or moment in the show?
I don’t want to give away too much! A few months after I finished Annie, I was lucky enough to workshop a new show with Andrew Lippa and Brian Crawley. In that week, I became the first person to ever play Sara in the musical version of A Little Princess. During that time Andrew wrote a song based around my voice called “Another World”. I am very excited to be revisiting this song 19 years later and singing it in the context of what life was like as soon as Annie was over. I also have a great love for Rodgers and Hammerstein and am very excited to be singing “If I Loved You” as it has a very deep personal meaning for me.
Why should people come and see Life After Tomorrow?
Life After Tomorrow, in its essence, is a coming of age story. At its heart, it’s about growing up. It explores what it means to become an adult and to realise who you are and who you want to be, something I think many can relate to. It’s got a variety of songs so that there’s something for everyone! And I hope that it’s going to be an evening that everyone can enjoy and walk away feeling uplifted.