Earlier this year it was announced that New Zealand’s loveliest of legends, Annie Crummer, would be reprising her role as the Killer Queen for the Auckland season of smash-hit comedy musical, We Will Rock You. The Ben Elton-penned play, with original music overseen by Queen’s Brian May and Roger Taylor, has enthralled more than 16 million souls around the world since its 2002 inception, belting out some of rock’s most iconic numbers such as ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’, and ‘Killer Queen’.
As for the play’s “evil” Killer Queen character, Annie chuckles that she hasn’t mellowed over the years, still every bit the “tyrant” and the “bitch”, traits that could not possibly be any further from those of the warm-hearted woman who plays her. It’s a part that Annie pretty much made her own—at least in the southern hemisphere productions—first time around when touring New Zealand, Australia, Asia and South Africa between 2003-2008, but she admits to still being nervous about revisiting the role.
“I didn’t expect to get the call, but I was thrilled, if a little bit scared,” beams the soulful songstress, “My heart was racing. You have to commit to every show, as soon as you step on stage because she’s just such a fiery character. But I do love it, testing out that side of my abilities.”
Recalling her original audition, Annie humbly jokes that there were plenty of women that could play the role but she was the only one willing to get up at 9am on a Sunday morning, channelling everyone from Tina Turner to Shirley Bassey to her drag queen friends (“I chucked them all into to mix and sort of carried them with me!”).
The “endless comedy show” of working with Ben Elton are among many of Annie’s standout moments, but few experiences match flying to London to record ‘Another One Bites the Dust’ at Roger Taylor’s studio for the We Will Rock You soundtrack, with the ghost of Freddie Mercury singing into her ear.
“I got to sing with the original multi-track, and Freddie’s voice was right there. I just had to keep breathing, keep my cool, but inside there were all these excited little volcanoes!”
Not that Annie’s a stranger to rubbing shoulders with superstars, having toured with and opened for the likes of Michael Jackson, Sir Paul McCartney and Sting. On the scene since the tender age of 16, Annie’s pop career now spans four decades, her awards including Best Female Artist at the 1993 New Zealand Music awards along with a nomination for the same title at Australia’s ARIAs three year later. Her greatest hits album, Shine, was released in 2002, featuring favourites like ‘Language’ and ‘State of Grace’.
“Musicals aren’t really what I do,” says Annie. “You know, I’m just a solo artist, and have been for a very long time. But every once in a while, I like to find new challenges, to freak myself out! How else are you going to learn?”
Such challenges are compounded by the fact that Annie also has dyslexia, a condition that remained undiagnosed throughout her early life.
“I learnt the script phonetically, like I learn a song,” says Annie. “It took a really long time to really understand the words, and, most importantly how to get the inflections right so that I could fool people into believing that I knew what I was doing! I now know how to use it to my advantage, it really makes me focus, so I embrace it. Without it, I don’t think I’d be the performer that I am.”
It’s become your superpower?
Annie sees the upcoming shows as a chance to “prove myself again, to myself”.
“There are a lot of expectations. It’s a different production, with different people, in different times. I’m different, you know.I’m a different version of myself.”