Tuesday 21 May 2019

Annalene returning to her Irish roots

Annalene remembers falling in love with music and acting while growing up in Wexford

Annalene Beechey
Annalene Beechey

Cathy Lee

Singer and Actress Annalene Beechey, who plays the lead role of Anna Leonowens in the popular musical production of Rodgers and Hammerstein's 'The King and I' which is due to hit the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre in May, is a native of Gorey and still holds on to those roots, balancing a career where she is always in demand, with motherhood and family commitments.

Annalene Beechey from a young age growing up just outside of Gorey, always dreamed of becoming a musical actress.

She took the first step to doing this when she ran off to audition for 'Les Miserables' in the West End at the age of 16.

But it was closer to Gorey where she first performed and fell in love with acting.

'Gorey was absolutely a big part of my story, particularly when I was brought to the wonderful Nuala Smith, for singing lessons. The fundamentals she taught me are with me still and I will be forever grateful for that,' said Annalene.

Annalene explained that she always had a vivid imagination, and she loved moving from England at the age of seven back to her mother's hometown of Annagh, near Gorey.

'When we moved back to my mum's hometown, she was eager to reconnect with people and make new friends so she joined Gorey Musical Society for their production of 'Fiddler on the Roof',' said Annalene who took inspiration from her mother Rina Beechey.

'It was a family affair. My parents both stepped on stage here and there but my dad, Brian Beechey, was a brilliant stage manager of the shows too, my mum made extraordinary costumes and hats that won awards, and my brother was painting the backdrops and sets,' she said.

'I became entranced by everything about the process. Rehearsals, the music, costumes and the performances, so I jumped at the chance to get up there myself when Carnew Musical Society were looking for children for 'Annie Get Your Gun',' she added.

'Having come from Coventry, the sense of space, the fresh air and freedom of Wexford is something I strive for today with my children,' she said.

'I try to be as good a parent as mine were. My husband and I want them to have every opportunity to follow their hearts in their careers and in life but I really encourage family time,' said Annalene.

Annalene said that it is a tough balancing act being away from her home and family life during rehearsals, but explained that her family will follow her to Ireland for the Dublin run of the musical.

Speaking about the industry that she works in, Annalene said that she is aware of the sexism.

'Now people are opening their eyes to it and that can only be a good thing. I want my children to grow up in a world where men and women are equal without question. It'll take time as the roots grow deep but things will change,' she said.

Annalene is currently in rehearsals ahead of the UK and Ireland tour of this Tony Award winning production, which has had a record-breaking sold-out season at The London Palladium up to now.

'The show has a full orchestra, Olivier and Tony award winning costumes, Tony award winning choreography, adorable little royal children, classic songs, a beautiful story about friendship and understanding and the most magnificent King in Jose Llana,' said Annalene speaking about 'The King and I'.

Set in 1860s Bangkok, 'The King and I' tells the story of the unconventional relationship that develops between the King of Siam (now Thailand), and Anna Leonowens, a British schoolteacher, who was a real person, and the show is based on her experience there.

'This version is direct from Broadway's Lincoln Center in New York and very much addresses equality, sexism and doesn't shy away from the political issues of the time,' Annalene explained, describing the musical as 'wise'.

Annalene has played this role in the West End in London and she recently performed with her co star, Jose Llana, at the Olivier Awards where the show was nominated for six awards.

Tickets are from €31 and shows run on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday from May 21 to June 1.

Gorey Guardian