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Isabella Roberts – Class of ’20

by | Jul 11, 2024 | Uncategorized

Isabella has trained in all areas of the performing arts from a young age, completing her schooling with Brent Street Academy and then going on to attain her Diploma in Musical Theatre from Brent Street. In 2021, 6 months out of her full time training at Brent Street – Isabella made her professional musical theatre debut as featured ensemble/Bella understudy in Alanis Morrisette’s Jagged Little Pill the Musical, alongside Natalie Bassingthwaighte. In her breaks between touring, Isabella spent 10 weeks in New York city training across all disciplines with some of the most acclaimed choreographers, teachers and vocal coaches in the industry. While in NYC, Isabella had the opportunity to assist associate choreographer Marc Kimelman on the audition panel for Jagged Little Pill’s North American tour. Isabella has also appeared as the Cyd Charisse ‘dream ballet’ lead dancer in Prospero arts’ debut production of ‘Singin’ in the rain’ directed and choreographed by Cameron Mitchell. Most recently Isabella has returned from her 10 month run as Victoria the White Cat in CATS, touring around South Korea and Taiwan.

Robbo! Thank you for sitting down with me today. Can you start us off with a little introduction about yourself, your graduating year and course at Brent Street?

Thank you for having me! I feel so honoured!

I’m Isabella Roberts, but around Brent Street I’m known as Robbo! I started in the Academy as a little 15 year old bun head. I had come from a ballet school where I was doing 6 hours of classical training a day, 6 days a week! We had been living in the country for a few years and when my parents told me we were moving back to Sydney, it was a no-brainer where I was going to train. Going from fulltime ballet to Brent Street was quite the switch up!! Some would say I was crazy but looking back, I would say my unique journey is the reason I am the dancer I am today. I moved through the Academy from Years 10 to 12, while also being in the Performance Training Program where we danced in the afternoon and competed in competitions. For Full Time I completed my Diploma of Musical Theatre and graduated in 2020!

Quite the journey you’ve had! I know you mention both the Academy and the Full Time Musical Theatre Course – so this might be a little hard to answer. But – what’s your best memory from your time here?

Ooooff. That is hard! I honestly have to say performing ‘There’s Gotta Be Something Better Than This’ from Sweet Charity at Grad with Mariah and Micaela. We had the most amazing time working on ‘Sweet Charity’ with Lisa Callingham, Mark Hill & Lucy Bermingham. It was my first taste of what it was like to put a whole musical together and the fact we had the opportunity to perform a trio at graduation, felt so symbolic of our journeys with one another. We had travelled through the last four years together and had grown so much as performers and people. It felt so right to close that chapter alongside them. I’m a huge nerd and get teary eyed on stage quite often… it was such an emotional and euphoric moment. I still think about it all the time.

Isabella alongside peers Mariah and Micaela performing ‘There’s Gotta Be Something Better Than This’ at their 2020 Full Time Graduation Showcase

It was a very special and profound performance indeed! You’ve been busy since graduating the Musical Theatre course – touring the country with Jagged Little Pill, touring Asia with CATS, plus plenty of other endeavours in between! What’s been your highlight so far, and why?

I feel so lucky to have so many incredibly surreal moments in my career so far. A highlight would be covering the supporting role of ‘Bella Fox’ in Jagged Little Pill. If you had told me (even 6 months before) that I would be on stage singing those huge songs, delivering that dialogue all while not dancing a single step, I would have probably laughed. For someone who grew up primarily as a dancer, debuting that track was beyond surreal. I always loved that in my regular track during ‘Uninvited’, I do the Pas De Deux with Nat on the couch, and then when I would go on for Bella, I’d be behind the couch singing uninvited and watching the Pas De Deux!

It really gave me a lot of confidence and my Jagged family were there for me every step of the way. I still remember the first time I went on, our resident director Leah Howard was side stage with my water and script the whole show. I always felt so supported which was one of the best parts about our Jagged family. I learnt so much from that experience and I can’t wait to cover more in the future.

That’s incredible – Jagged Little Pill was certainly a very special show. It was a huge professional debut for you, working alongside some serious powerhouses. Can you remember getting the call that you’d booked it?

It was the most surreal, euphoric, magical experience from top to bottom. Everyone dreams of that moment where they get the call that changes their life forever. I had imagined what that moment would be like for so long and I couldn’t believe it actually happened. Getting a huge break as early on as I did was insane in itself, but the track that I got to perform every night… quite honestly, I still can’t wrap my head around it. I got to perform some incredible works of choreography by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui. Working with him was a life altering moment in my career and I’m not even being dramatic when I say, I was truly changed after the couple of weeks he spent with us…

Isabella alongside Natalie Bassingthwaighte in the Australian Tour of Jagged Little Pill (image supplied)

And performing alongside Natalie Bassingthwaighte every night – particularly the couch scene you mention – pinch me moments, right?

Yes – of course – the couch scene. Telling that story every night alongside icon and friend Nat Bass was utterly surreal. It was only 2 years prior that my mum and I were sitting in the audience of the Capitol theatre watching her in Chicago, and here I was at 19 years old, onstage with her… Wild. Through the process of learning the show, especially ‘Uninvited’, I learnt how to delve into those uncomfortable places. We touched on a lot of heavy content and it taught me how to really empathise with characters. That experience will continue to serve me throughout my career. Honestly, it was an incredibly magical and surreal time for me. It was beyond everything I’ve ever wanted and I was so lucky to have that kind of experience on a first job. Every single person that worked on that production (on and off stage) was a power house at their job while also being an amazing human. A group of us even have matching tattoos! It was one in a million.

Magical!! Now, let’s take things back a little. What’s something you learnt during Full Time that you thought back to or drew from whilst working on Jagged? Who said it and why did it resonate?

It is so difficult to pinpoint one thing. We were blessed with so many incredible teachers throughout our year and i was lucky to have some very significant mentors. My time spent in the musical theatre course with Lisa Callingham stands out to me for so many reasons. She always taught us the importance of not taking yourself too seriously. The passion that races through her when she is choreographing and directing is palpable and inspired me everyday. A couple of years after Full Time I was lucky enough to work with Lisa professionally on Singin’ in the rain at the QPAC. I think above everything, she taught us that passion for the craft is #1. If it is not running through your veins – then why are you doing it? We all started this because we love it and that is what I always try to lead with. If I start to feel like I’m burning out or losing my spark, I know it’s time to take a little break, which I do often! Look after yourself when you need to, balance is key.

Isabella in the Asian Tour of CATS (Image supplied)

Lisa is seriously the best! So, after Jagged you hopped on a plane to South Korea for CATS – a hugely demanding show, even for someone with a strong technical dance background. Was this a challenge? How did you keep your body (and mind!) in check throughout the season?

CATS is the hardest show I will ever do in my career. I know that sounds crazy to say so early on, but I stand by it. Nothing in my life has challenged me physically and mentally the way CATS did. The role of Victoria is extremely demanding for the body and the mind. It requires a silly amount of strength, control, precision, stamina, I could go on for hours… and doing that 8 times a week is not easy!! For me, my top priority was my mind. Being in such a high pressure role, if I didn’t set my mind up for success… I wasn’t going to give my best show. I did this through meditation, affirmations and brain dumps, trying to clear my head of as many thoughts as possible so I can focus on the task at hand. Of course physio.. multiple times a week, epsom salt baths, and my amazing support network that I had in Asia.

I learnt an insane amount during CATS. I learnt more about myself, about the industry, about how to navigate a high pressure role, living in a foreign country, all of the above!! But I cannot even begin to explain how much stronger I am because of it. Before CATS, I had a lot of lingering self doubt. Now that voice is a lot quieter and I actually know that I am capable of doing hard things. That has been a gift.

Thanks for your time today, Robbo! Your journey is a unique one and I love how deeply you’ve devoted yourself to Musical Theatre after being raised as a dancer. What’s your advice to someone who might be in the same position as 17 year old Robbo, unsure about the direction they want to take in their training and career?

I know it sounds super cheesy, but listen to your gut instinct and follow your heart. There came a point during Year 12 in the Academy where I lost all my inhibitions and finally did things because I wanted to – not what other people thought I should do. I thought to myself, “What do I really want? What truly lights me up?” And it has led me here.

If you’re not sure, research! All the information you could ever need is at your fingertips. Full length musicals, documentaries, world tours, even company ballet classes are on YouTube! Watch everything and figure out what makes you giddy.

Finally, train, train, train! Go to everyone’s classes – all across the world, if you can – to figure out what you really like! If you can, get over seas and take class there too! In particular, New York is my favourite place to train. In fact, guess where I’m writing this from? These guys don’t mess around and it’s the ultimate form of inspiration for me!

Follow Isabella and keep up-to-date with her journey:
  @isabella.robertss

Auditions are currently open for Brent Street’s 2025 Musical Theatre Course intake.

Register your interest and get a copy of the Prospectus at www.brentstreet.com.au/audition

 

Author: Jake Percey  // Marketing & CRM Manager