While television knows her as Chelsea Daniels, the ditzy best friend on Disney’s “Raven’s Home,” it’s the stage where Dutch-American actress Anneliese van der Pol said she truly thrives.
Valley audiences will see van der Pol in her element this January as Lily St. Regis in Scottsdale Musical Theater Company’s production of “Annie.”
Hungry for money and self-absorbed, Lily St. Regis is a bit of a departure from the friendly, goofy character people are used to seeing van der Pol play.
“I can’t wait to talk like this and do a New York accent,” she said, squeaking her voice. “But I’m most excited to dance, to be honest, and get to do all that fun dancing with Rooster.”
Van der Pol is no stranger to Arizona stages. In 2012 and 2013, she was in Arizona Theatre Company’s “Emma” and “The Importance of Being Earnest.”
“I love Arizona,” she said. “I love driving around the city and I really appreciate how much Arizona appreciates theater. They have a big, wide appreciation for theatergoers and I think they’re interested in real talent.”
The theater has always been van der Pol’s favorite performance space. Her long list of stage credits, including Eva Peron in “Evita” and Esther in “Meet Me in St. Louis,” dates back long before she appeared on Disney Channel.
“Nothing is like the live audience aspect,” she said. “I always feel a bit more challenged, if I’m being perfectly honest, in the theater than I ever do in television.”
Between her acting, dancing and singing, van der Pol is a triple threat, and she even graced the Broadway stage as Belle in “Beauty and the Beast.”
Recently, however, she has been busy at work on “Raven’s Home,” a spin-off of the 2003 hit Disney Channel show “That’s So Raven.”
The show brings together van der Pol’s Chelsea and Raven, played Raven Symoné, as single mothers raising their children. One of Raven’s kids even has psychic visions, like the original show.
The 33-year-old van der Pol said it’s been a little odd returning to the same character, set and parking spot she had at 19, but the cast and crew is truly her family.
“I happen to come in this age where they happen to be rebooting everything,” van der Pol said with a laugh. “I mean who does this happen to? I feel nothing but lucky.”
As the new show focuses more on the kids, van der Pol said she’s found herself taking more of a teaching role on set, helping the younger actors develop their sense of scene, comedic timing and improv skills.
In her spare time, she teaches an acting class on the weekends in Glendale, California. She admits it’s something she never thought she would do.
“But I’ve learned, holy smokes, I’m actually really good at this,” she said.
With plenty on her plate, van der Pol said her free time is rather limited. She laughs when she describes the struggle in writing her bio for the “Annie” program and coming up with an off-stage hobby.
“I think I said juggling or something like that,” she said.
Van der Pol said it’s refreshing to be at a point in her career where she’s not auditioning but still getting offers and working. She points to a lack of strong comedic roles for women on network TV shows and said she’s thankful for her current role.
“When they told me I’d be doing (the show) with Raven and that we’d be raising children on our own together, I just thought that was the coolest freaking thing in the world,” she said.
“How lucky that we get to be strong individual women and fabulous together.”