WE WILL ROCK YOU (MELBOURNE)
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Annie Crummer
(Killer Queen)

 

 

 

Ed: Continuing our interviews with Annie...

Part 2

6 July 03

Annie Crummer’s audition in front of the creators of We Will Rock You’ was easier than she had expected. Roger Taylor, Brian May and Ben Elton made her feel very relaxed.

“I think it’s because they – especially Brian and Roger – come from the same place we do… they know how we feel. They don’t come from a corporate type background, but from the same passion and that’s why it was just instantly comfortable. And thank God, because imagine what would happen if you were freaked out by it!!

I mean we all know Brian is the rockin’ love-god legendary guitarist, but he comes from the same place and I felt that, and it made it very easy for me to just turn it on.

Because, you know what? You know how you feel when you have these guys utmost attention… at that one moment in the world when you have their complete attention? That’s gold man!!! I knew they were digging it too because Brian and Roger were standing and clapping.”

Having impressed them singing Play The Game and Another One Bites the Dust, Annie did some scene work with Ben Elton.

“Ben was just wonderful as well. Thank God he’s an actor too because not only did he tell me how he wanted the scene done, he did it for me, and it was just like Simon Says… you just do it!!

There was a lot to take in, but they know that, they know you’re trying to remember every goddamn thing they say! But I know how to bulls**t well… it’s just good acting!!”

Even though Annie knew her audition had gone well, she had just been through the disappointment of not getting a part she had spent a lot of time and energy on, so she didn’t want to get too excited.

When she got the call telling her she had the part, she couldn’t believe it. Sometimes she still finds it hard to believe.

“When they rang me, I just didn’t make any sense at all. I just screamed and cried and put my head in my hands.

Let me tell you mate, every day - even today - when the phone rings I still get scared!! I keep thinking they’ll say “Oh - you know - Marcia can make it now’. Because you just never know!!” [Annie is referring to Marcia Hines, an African-American performer who has had a very successful career in Australia.]

Telling me she never forgets to thank people, Annie adds that she has yet to thank Brian, Roger and Ben for being the biggest part in her getting the Killer Queen role.

“They were so enthusiastic, I like to thank people for things like that. In a strange way, I believe Freddie was a big part of these choices as well. I believe his spirit was in the room. He wouldn’t miss something like that!!”
Almost as soon as she heard she had the part, Annie set off for London, to see the London production and meet Sharon D Clarke.

“Once I’d won the role, I thought… basically I’d better change my life now! Because I’m not a trained actor, I have to learn something the way that it works for me. That way is watching it and listening to it and when I get told something once, I have to get it.

I was lucky enough to see the show a number of times. I didn’t know what to expect because I still didn’t know what the show was about so it was so fresh for me.

When I looked at Sharon, I didn’t even need to hear her sing, I could just tell this woman is a powerhouse.”

Annie was also invited to record a new version of Another One Bites The Dust singing to the original multi-track at Roger Taylor’s studio.

“This is a bit more hip, a bit more what’s going on today. The tempo is up. I do all the vocals, lead and backing on it.”

For Annie rehearsals have been both enjoyable and nerve-wracking.

“First day was scary. Ben was there, saying, ‘you have a read now’. But you get told to do something and you just bloody do it. You can’t say ‘I’m too shy, or I don’t know it’.

My goodness, I’ve already learnt so much and its great being part of a team that has the same focus and passion. We don’t even have to explain what we mean to each other…we just kinda talk with our eyebrows, there’s this unspoken language that goes on.

Its exciting just working with the piano, I can’t wait for the band to join in, it will ROCK!!!

You should see and hear our ensemble, they just open their mouths and this power comes out, and when they get told a move… they remember it!”
Enthusiasm and humour bubble from Annie as she discusses her costume and how she assumes the character in it.

“ The designer and the wonderful team working on wardrobe are just top class, they are the A Team! Even the shoes I’m wearing, you’d think they’d be uncomfortable because they are so high, but they are just moulded to your foot. That is so important because you have to move around a lot so you have to be comfortable.”

Almost collapsing with laughter, Annie continues, “Oh girl, you should see my corset, I didn’t know I had boobs before - now I’ve got two big basketballs!! Anyone want to play a game? They just look massive! But the wonderful thing is they have these tricks like adding bits of Lycra so we can move and breath properly.

Putting the layers on, you just start to become this character. I just had a five hour wardrobe fitting and it was hard ‘cos I was just bubbling; I just wanted to be the BITCH!! Sharon said that to me too. As soon as she starts to put her eyes on it’s, ‘Oh dear! Here it comes… !!”

The only regret Annie has at the moment is having banned all her New Zealand friends and her family from visiting her.

“I’m trying to learn all this and get it in my head. I have to learn the stuff and if there are people here I will want to provide for them when I should be learning. It’s hard to isolate yourself like this, but it’s so worth it ‘cos I know how to learn something to make it work for me and I have to sacrifice a few things to get that. But once I get this role in my head…. Melbourne had better look out!”

**********************

Next time come further behind the scenes with Annie. Find out the challenges she has had to meet and how it felt appearing with the cast on TV for the first time.

'Bushfire Blonde'


Part 1

24 June 2003

Almost as soon as Annie Crummer starts talking, the feeling you have is of being picked up and swept away, wrapped in boundless energy and raw power, much as you would be in one of the rogue waves that crash onto the Tahitian Islands her mother comes from. Vivacity and enthusiasm spill from her. Watch out Melbourne, if her wickedly infectious humour is anything to go by, this woman’s performance IS going to kill you.

The sixth of seven children, Annie grew up in West Auckland, New Zealand. Musically, one of her strongest influences was her Cook Islander father - himself a smooth crooner. As a child, she remembers her brothers playing a lot of Queen music, meaning it was, as she laughingly says, computed into her brain.


What she can’t recollect though, is a time she didn’t sing. She told me her father jokingly says she was singing from the time she was in her mother’s womb. So for Annie, her path in life has always been defined. She wanted to sing and that is what she has done. As she says, “I’ve never had any other job.”

While her Dad wasn’t the classic pushy parent, he encouraged her in her ambitions. Staying in the background, he would still manage to be there at her side, just before she went on stage.

“His was always the last voice I heard before I went on stage, I was in every talent quest in the world and he would always say, ‘Now don’t forget, whack it out girl - and don’t forget to croon!’. You see, I didn’t know what the word vibrato meant until I was eighteen.”

Partnering her cousin Mary, Annie took part in her first talent show when she was five, singing, she thinks, Pearly Shells. Winning that competition gave her a taste for success – literally, as the prize was a huge bar of chocolate! Giggling delightfully, Annie said it wasn’t difficult, because, “When you are that young, everyone loves you – even if you are crap!!”

At fifteen, Annie decided she didn’t want to be at school any more.

“I loved school but I knew what I wanted to do, so the next day I just didn’t go to school, I stayed home and watched soap operas – as you do! One day I was watching TV and this talent show came on asking people to audition for the Threshold Production Company, and I thought, ‘that’s it, I’m going to enter’. I entered and won one of six prizes, which was a record release. So it was like, lucky I sat at home watching soap operas!!”

That record was Once or Twice which took a sixteen-year-old Annie into the New Zealand charts, coincidentally reaching number sixteen. After that, singing opportunities just kept coming, and she welcomed everything. Even singing jingles was useful as it taught her about studio techniques.

Annie’s association with Dunedin band Netherworld Dancing Toys was her next big break, leading to the performance every New Zealander remembers her for. The mélange of sounds produced by her soaring Pacific Soul backing vocals, and their alternative, cool, music of the underdog sounds, exploded when Annie decided there was one section of the song For Today where she says,
“I tell you girl, I just had to sing and let it go!! I just couldn’t hold back, and THAT bit of singing is why I’m known.”

After that, Annie’s musical career was assured. With two successful albums in New Zealand, she has also supported artists such as John Farnham and Jimmy Barnes, and has crossed the Tasman to appear as a soloist in Rent.

Finding out in January she had been unsuccessful after what she describes as, “ the long ongoing and quite grueling audition process,” for The Lion King, a friend mentioned to her that he had heard auditions for We Will Rock You were about to happen.

With only four days to go, Annie read the synopsis and looked it up on the web, where she saw a picture of,
“This magnificent, rocking love goddess – that was Sharon [D Clarke – Killer Queen in the London production]. I saw the picture of her and I thought ‘OH MY LORD!!’ I didn’t have an agent but my friend did, so I got all the information from him. I thought, ‘Gosh, I don’t even know anything about this show but I’ve got no fear and no expectations so I have to go for it’.

The casting agent had heard of me because of my involvement in Rent, and she faxed through all the information and said ‘we’ll see you on Sunday at 9 o’clock in the morning’!!! So I thought, well OK… when it comes to Sunday, if I wake up, I wake up.

I think one of the reasons I managed to get up that day was I knew, if I got through it, I would audition in front of Brian and Roger and Ben. That was enough motivation to get me out of bed!! I went to the audition with no expectations, but they must have liked it because they asked me to come to Melbourne the following Friday.”

The next week was a busy one for Annie. There was a TV show and a performance with her band, not to mention all the additional material she had been asked to learn.

“I had virtually all the stuff that she – Killer Queen – has to do in the show. They said to learn EVERYTHING!! But I was so excited to be going to Melbourne and I knew I had the maturity and experience to understand the audition process.“

***********************

Next week you can follow Annie through her audition, and over to London where she worked in Roger Taylor’s studio recording Another One Bites The Dust. Annie will also be giving us her thoughts of the rehearsals so far… her outrageous description of how her costume enhances her natural ‘assets’ is not to be missed!!

'Bushfire Blonde'