Rachael Beck has weaved her way through the tapestry of the Performing Arts industry since she was 15 years old, when she left home to join the 1985 touring production of the musical Cats. Since then she’s had a major role in the TV sitcom Hey Dad…! and countless leading roles in musicals, including Belle in Beauty And The Beast, Fantine in Les Miserables and Cathy in Singin’ In The Rain.
Heading to Adelaide this week to perform her new New York style cabaret show, This Girl, I caught up with Rachael to discuss the show, her work with the younger generation of performing artists and if she ever gets the chance to step back and look at all the achievements she’s had in her career.
“That’s a really interesting question. I think in this industry you don’t do that often because you’re always looking for the next job. You’re always focusing on the next thing you need to do. I’m also a single mother, and that makes it even more so to need to do the next thing. I was recently catching up with my dear friend Rhonda Burchmore, and she’s got beautiful big posters of all the shows she’s done and I sort of don’t have that in my house. I was just thinking that I should start to put some pictures up and really celebrate more of what I’ve done. We get very busy these days and don’t stop and smell the roses enough. I’ve got 2 girls and they keep me on my toes. I’ve had so many experiences, not only in my career but in my life. Going through the whole TV world in the 80s and 90s was a blast. I left home when I was 15 to do the musical Cats which was wild. I grew up in the country, I’ve also been divorced, which was really hard. I’ve had love, I’ve lost love, I’ve had a lot of different experiences in my life and the times I do look back I just think, “My goodness, that’s one hell of a ride!” It’s not just work, but my life has been full of good and bad experiences that really help make up who I am.”
Rachael’s father was the Head of Drama at the local school where Rachael grew up, and he directed countless musical productions. Therefore, it is no surprise performing has always been part of Rachael’s life.
“I grew up in the country near Byron, and my family were the ‘Crazy Creative Beck Family’ in the country Bible belt area. My Dad was always listening to musicals, and he wrote me a Judy Garland show when I was in my 20s. He grew up in the amateur theatre scene, because in those days he didn’t have parents who supported or believed you could make a career in the Arts. My appreciation and exposure to musical theatre came from his side. He was the head of drama and economics at the high school, so he used to direct the school musicals. So, I would be there with my little yellow chair at 4 years old watching Fiddler On The Roof or Man Of Steel. Funnily enough, he came out when he was 60. It was interesting really because it was a wonderful circle for him, I think. He’s really come into himself, after being able to truly be himself, which is fantastic. I’m really, really proud of him and it’s a wonderful example we need to keep.”
TV, theatre and solo concerts each require a very different discipline and mindset. I was interested to hear if there was one creative outlet that Rachael preferred over the other.
“I think it’s a combination of being an actor and the fact you need to go down all the avenues – I’ve done Shakespeare, plays, I’ve voiced animated series, created my own corporate shows. I think once you are creative it’s just that you’re creative, and for me there’s not one specific love over the other because it all starts in the same place. There is something though about live theatre, walking that tightrope and adrenaline that is really fantastic. It’s exhausting, as I’m finding out as I get older, but there is nothing quite like live theatre. TV and film have a different discipline and it’s wonderful, but there’s something really enigmatic about the disappearance of the performance at the end (of a live show).”
Rachael focuses a lot of her time mentoring the next generation of theatre performers. She spoke to me about the importance of nurturing this next generation and giving them a full understanding of what it takes to pursue theatre as a career, or even just for fun.
“It is everything. As I get older, I think it’s the bee’s knees to pass on your knowledge. It’s not only teaching them the craft, but how to connect, how to channel your emotions, how to write your life in poetry. The Arts has a lot to offer and I think that’s why I’m so adamant about it and supporting Arts Departments in High Schools, because we really need to educate our kids and give the gift of the creative arts to our kids. There are no other subjects that require a student to reach inside and find out what’s there. It teaches them the real stuff that’s happening in our hearts and our minds and how to just be human and cope with life. It just boggles me that there aren’t more classes about emotions and philosophy and how to cope with things.”
This Friday and Saturday, June 4 and 5, Rachael will be performing her new show, This Girl, at the stunning Regal Theatre on Kensington Road.
“This show I’m doing is a combination of my one woman show that I do, but it includes songs, dances and performances that I have done in the past five or so years. It’s got classics, and songs from shows that haven’t been out to Australia yet, like Waitress. There are also some stories about myself and other people in the industry. It’s going to be an intimate, New York style cabaret show.
“I have the wonderful Daniel Edmonds accompanying me. He was recently the MD on the professional production of Beautiful – The Carole King Story and has done lots of other shows. He is just a wiz in our industry. I will also be joined by Rainey Mayo, who is a wonderful friend of mine. She was with me in Me and My Girl, my first real lead role which I opened in Adelaide. She stayed in Adelaide and did TV. I’m getting her up to do some songs from Wicked and Chess with me. So, there’s a bit of local stuff happening there.
“I just can’t wait. I’ve been working with a few schools in Adelaide and surrounding areas. I just love that Adelaide supports the Arts. I adore the Cabaret Festival and all the other festivals.
“I’m loving hearing about the different styles of shows that Roulette is bringing into the theatre. I’m friends with both Marina Prior and Rhonda Burchmore and they have told me about how magical the venue is to perform in, so I’m looking forward to that.”
Rachael Beck will be appearing at The Regal Theatre for two shows only, Friday June 4 at 8pm and Saturday June 5 at 2.30pm. Tickets to Rachael Beck – This Girl can be purchased directly through Trybooking https://www.trybooking.com/BQPLB , or through Roulette Shows’ website https://rouletteshows.com.au/
Interview by Ben Stefanoff