Queenie van de Zandt

In the Haus: Queenie van de Zandt

Known for her captivating presence and vocal prowess, Queenie van de Zandt is set to redefine the cabaret scene with a performance that blends music, technology, and activism into an unforgettable experience. Performing for two nights only, ‘CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE’ is her latest show where audiences are encouraged to have smartphones in one hand, and champagne in the other, and curate a unique journey of music via the touch of a button to celebrate female icons across generations.

Ahead of this groundbreaking performance at Melbourne’s Gasworks Theatre in March, Theatre Haus had the opportunity to chat with Queenie about her artistic inspirations that fuel her creative fire. In this exclusive interview, Queenie shares the pivotal moments that carved her path in the entertainment industry and laid the groundwork for a career that defies the traditional boundaries of musical theatre and cabaret.

As she prepares to captivate audiences with “CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE”, Queenie also gives us a glimpse into her next project, ‘Middle Raged’, a show that promises to bring the experiences of middle-aged Australian women to the forefront. Join us as we explore the mind and heart of one of Australia’s most inspiring performers.

We’d love to know more about the beginning of your career – where and how did you get your start? 

I started as a performer in a typical way, doing Eisteddfods and Speech and Drama exams when I was young, then moving into school productions and amateur theatre. In my last year of school, I began to perform at a cabaret venue in the small town of Queanbeyan, which was next door to my hometown of Canberra. It was my first paying job. And I fell in love with cabaret as an art form. Acting has always been my first love. But because of the high school that I went to, and the fact that they did musicals and not plays and I found out that I had a good singing voice, I actually naturally just began to work in cabaret and musicals rather than in plays.

In my 20s, I spent nearly a decade performing in musical theatre, which I loved, but I always came back to wanting to tell my own stories and develop my own ideas. Also, because my body shape and height were not what they were looking for in the ‘thin’ casting they did in musicals in those days, (and actually still do, mostly, fatism and agism are still very present in musical theatre), I found myself often out of work. And so, I was forced to create my own work.

What or who were some of your early influences or inspirations that shaped your career?

I never had any formal singing lessons, but I learned to sing by listening to ABBA, Barbra Streisand and Olivia Newton-John (not a bad training ground really!). Then, in my early 20s, I discovered Joni Mitchell, and that really changed the way I sang, and the kind of music I was attracted to and wrote.

I was lucky to work with so many wonderful performers in my 20’s including Todd McKenney, Nancye Hayes, Chrissie Amphlett, Tim Minchin, Magda Szubanski and many more inspiringly talented people, who all shaped my choices as a performer, human and theatremaker.

What are some of the most defining moments or milestones in your career so far?
  • Playing my first lead role in ‘The Full Monty’ musical at Arts Centre, Melbourne.
  • Having my first play, ‘I GET THE MUSIC IN YOU’, an evening with Jan van de Stool, programmed as part of the Ensemble Theatre’s subscription season.
  • Playing Wayne Hope’s wife in the TV Comedy series, ‘Very Small Business’.
  • Releasing my first album, ‘Amazon Woman’.
What is a quirky fact about you? 

I was born with six fingers on my left hand, but the doctor removed the sixth one, which had no bone in it and left me with a small mound of extra skin next to my left pinky finger.

Queenie van de Zandt
Don’t miss Queenie van de Zandt onstage in her latest show, ‘CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE’, performing 8-9 March at Gasworks Theatre in Melbourne.
What are you currently working on and how has that creative process been?

I’m writing a show called ‘Middle Raged’, all about the experience of what middle-aged women in Australia go through. The creative process has been extraordinary, as the material for the piece has been crowd-sourced, through a survey, Facebook group, Zoom meetings, morning teas etc, etc.

What’s in your rehearsal bag that you can’t go without? 

For my cabaret shows I don’t usually pack a bag as I rehearse at home in my home studio. But I would never be without a water bottle or my (shameless plug) Singing & Vocal Warm Up Exercises Album (which I released this year – you can buy it here.

Do you have a reading, teaching/advice, institution or resource that changed your life/perspective, which you’d recommend to others?

Yes – get involved, give back to your community and give your time to people and places you want to be involved with or get to know. So much of the arts is still not about what you know, but who you know. One of the best ways to start to open doors for yourself, which worked amazingly for me, was to get involved with the MEAA (Actors Equity – the union that looks after people working in the entertainment and arts industry). They need people to be on committees and help with organising. I did that – and sat on a committee with some of Australia’s best theatre actors and got to know them. After about six months, one of them asked me if I was auditioning for a certain show, and I told them I couldn’t get an audition, and they then went and called the director and got me an audition – and I got the job – and as they say – the rest is herstory…

What are your future aspirations or projects that you’re excited about? Do you have a dream role?

I can’t wait to see what we create with ‘Middle Raged’, that’s my main focus at the moment. Once that’s up and running, I am going to refocus my attention on TV and pitch my TV ideas for my comedy alter-ego Jan van de Stool.

Theatre Haus is the ‘home of theatre’, where, what or who do you call home?

I’ve lived in many houses, in many suburbs, in many states around Australia. For me, home is wherever I am with people I love, but most of these days home is an especially lovely place near the beach where I live with my partner and our daughter, our dog and our cat.

Catch the talented Queenie van de Zandt on stage in her next production ‘CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE’, performing at Gasworks Theatre from 8-9 March 2024 – book tickets here!

Alternatively, you can follow her @QueenievdZandt or find out more about the Queen herself via her official website. If you’re after an extra dash of comedy, follow Queenie’s comedy alter-ego @JanvandeStool on YouTube or Instagram.  To learn about performing in musical theatre or creating cabaret, follow Queenie’s arts education company @AMTAcademy or visit their official website.

Want to feature in our In The Haus series? Email [email protected].

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