If you've been in Taupo a while, you may remember the name Angela Steele.
She was the Waipahihi School student who seemed dead-set on stardom and had the talent to pursue it. At 6, she was busking outside Whitcoulls in Horomatangi St.
Over the next five years she went on to feature in five Coca-Cola Christmas in the Parks including singing her own original Alphabet Rock at age 10, numerous What Now shows, a Disney movie (Bridge to Terabithia), received an APRA nomination for Best Children's song, (Girl in the Mirror), had a self published CD at age 10, starred in a TV reality show (Top Of The Class) alongside Caroline Taylor, Matthew Ridge, Mike King, and others and was runner-up in a UK songwriting competition at age 9.
Realising there was no stopping Angela, her family moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota, when Angela was in her first year of high school to allow her to pursue her dream of a career in the performing arts.
This year the now 21-year-old has taken on her biggest project yet, the lead role of Elle Woods in the production of Legally Blonde: The Musical, which has been playing onstage in Bloomington, Minnesota, for the month of August. It's been Angela's biggest and most challenging role so far, but she nailed it, with reviewer Arthur Dorman saying she "commands attention with a full-throated triple threat performance".
"Steele sings with heart and can raise her voice to a belt when called for, moves with grace, and portrays the roller coaster of emotions Elle Woods rides over the course of the show. She soars above a euphoric chorus of sorority sisters in the giddy opening Omigod You Guys, makes a power statement in the first act closer So Much Better, and delivers a touching introspective moment with the title song. I anticipate seeing more of Ms Steele in leading roles on our stages," Dorman said.
Angela was 14 when she and her family moved to Minnesota, and having some family already in the state made things a little easier for them. Coincidentally, Minneapolis is one of the most thriving cities for live theatre in the country. She initially started at a traditional high school, and then transferred to a high school conservatory training programme, St Paul Conservatory for Performing Artists.
"It took a while to assimilate to living here, as with any major move. I've always been pretty outgoing so starting high school here was exciting for me and I made friends easily, but the first few months were difficult trying to bridge my two worlds together," Angela says. "We moved during a pretty formative age for a teenage girl but ultimately I think it shaped me into the person I am today."
Angela's first professional theatre production in Minnesota was in 2013 when she was 16, a part in the musical Gypsy.
"Prior to that I'd done a few commercials and film work around town," Angela says. "I've been lucky to have stayed pretty consistently booked with work since I graduated."
Angela says playing Elle Woods in Legally Blonde: The Musical has been her biggest and most challenging role thus far. Other highlights have included Janet Van De Graaff in The Drowsy Chaperone and Amber in Hairspray.
She says while it's hard to separate between singing and acting or to choose a preference because they both relate so closely to each other, she much prefers performing in scenes and songs where she is with another actor and reacting to them than singing or speaking alone. "My favourite thing about theatre is the camaraderie."
Angela is currently preparing to perform in a cabaret project that she's excited about and says her next move will be to start submitting to some out of state theatres and possibly book a tour.
"Most of the regional and touring work is booked out of New York, I'd love to make a trip out there before the year is through."
Angela still has a lot of family in New Zealand and has returned occasionally in the seven years she's been living in the US. She also keeps in contact with some of her childhood friends.
You can see a clip of Angela performing in Legally Blonde: The Musical on her YouTube channel - a4Angela.