Gretel Scarlett interview
Gretel Scarlett is currently playing the lead-role of Sandy in the Australian tour of Grease The Musical and, after electrifying seasons in Brisbane and Sydney, Grease is now showing at Her Majesty’s Theatre in Melbourne. Damon Collum catches up with Gretel to find out a bit more about her:
You’ve no doubt had an amazing journey so far. I couldn’t help notice your studies in nuclear medicine. Can you tell me a bit about that, what lead you there and have you ever thought, ‘what if’ I had continued down that road?
I have always been quite good at science and maths, but when I was studying full-time ballet in grade 11, I unfortunately was working so hard that I suffered from numerous stress fractures in my tibias (shins). The only way these were diagnosed, were by a bone scan. This was how I was introduced to Nuclear Medicine. I was fascinated that internal radiation could diagnose and treat patients. After finishing ballet and graduating high school, I didn’t want to go down the performing road yet; I was young and needed more time. I was accepted to the University of Sydney to study Nuclear Medicine and I loved every minute of it. My hunger for performing came back though, so I left the course to study Music Theatre at WAAPA. I’ve definitely wondered ‘what if’, but I know that I can go back to that whenever I feel. It’s something I really connected with, but my performing career is where my heart lies.
People talk about triple threats, but you seem so much more than that, from dance, teaching choreography, acting and singing. Does you heart lie in one of these?
I agree that the concept of triple threat is thrown around a lot. I resonate most with the performance side of things. I love combining singing, dancing and acting all at once, and making it look as seamless as possible. There’s a real buzz when I get those opportunities.
Aside from working on such highly acclaimed productions as Wicked and Mamma Mia, have you enjoyed your other performances like Carols in the Domain and singing at the State of Origin in front of thousands of people? Is that something you’d like to do more of?
Performing at Channel 7’s Carols in the Domain and singing the Anthem for the State of Origin are in a complete world of their own. I get a thrill out of those big stadium type gigs. It’s almost as if the crowds are there to have an amazing time and there’s little to no judgement. I’d love to do more of these type of gigs. It’s generally hard to be available to do them when you are doing eight shows a week.
Are you finding time to work on your own solo singing career?
My main focus is playing Sandy in Grease at the moment. Being on your ‘A’ game eight shows a week takes a lot of discipline and trying to juggle other things can be difficult. My album has been completed though; I’m just finalising the artwork and the licensing side of things. There’s a lot involved! However, every now and then, I get out a piano and bash out some songs. I’d love to go down that path and get some stuff happening in the future!
What does downtime mean for you? Do you have a corner of the world you can go and switch off from the stage?
Downtime means vocal resting, going out for brunch, having a great latte, lounging on the couch, hanging with my family, heading to the beach in summer, hitting the roads, watching a TV series etc. There’s a lot I can do for downtime. Turning off my phone is a place to start. My little corner of the world is anywhere out of the city. I’ve got my go-to places, but ideally a summer by the beach and a winter by the fire.
I have never been a ‘musicals’ person myself but having said that even I know Grease well (my wife will choke when she reads that!) and so does the greater population of the world, I would imagine. It was the longest running musical in the history of theatre until A Chorus Line took that record. Does taking on a character like Sandy come with a degree of expectation and responsibility from fans?
Absolutely – Sandy is one of the most iconic female characters in the world. Everyone knows Sandy. Although she was originally written as a stronger American girl, Olivia Newton-John put Australia on the map when the movie was made. The pressure is huge! However, when I get out on stage, I have to forget about that. I cannot let that affect me. If people come to the show expecting Olivia, then they will be disappointed, because I play Sandy, not Olivia. I do my best with the writing and at the end of the day, that’s what matters.
Follow Gretel on Twitter & Instagram @gretelscarlett or visit www.gretelscarlett.com.
Interview by Damon Collum.