Esther Hannaford (born Melbourne) is an Australian singer and actor who has performed major roles in musical theatre in Australia. Her roles include Penny Pingleton in the original Australian cast of Hairspray, for which she received a Helpmann Award, and Ann Darrow in King Kong.
Hannaford grew up in Camberwell in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne. Her parents were a stay-at-home mother who later had her own clothing label and an electrician father who was a former SAS officer. She is the third of five children.
She took dance lessons from the age of five. As a child, she performed in the 1993 Melbourne season of Scrooge, and also appeared on television talent show New Faces dancing with three of her siblings to a medley of "Glory of Love" and "Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now)".
Growing up, Hannaford interest was in contemporary dance, and she did not pursue singing seriously until after high school. She deferred a place in a contemporary dance course to study musical theatre.
Hannaford's early roles include And the World Goes 'Round at Chapel Off Chapel, Hair and Mame for The Production Company, Lisa in the Australasian tour of Mamma Mia!, multiple roles in Dean Bryant and Mathew Frank's Virgins in Melbourne and for the New York Musical Theatre Festival, Eurobeat - Almost Eurovision, and as a vocalist for Australian and international tours of Burn the Floor.
In 2009, she performed as Polly Brown in The Boyfriend for The Production Company, and in new Australian musicals Metro Street for the State Theatre Company of South Australia and Once We Live Here at fortyfivedownstairs. She also performed with independent theatre company Four Larks in Orpheus and The Plague Dances (with Malthouse Theatre).
Hannaford received wide recognition as Penny Pingleton in the original Australian production of Hairspray in 2011. She then originated the role of Ann Darrow in Global Creatures' big-budget musical King Kong at the Regent Theatre, Melbourne in 2013.
In 2014 and 2015, she performed in a revival of Nick Enright and Max Lambert's musical Miracle City at the Hayes Theatre in Sydney, The 3 Mikados with Colin Lane and David Collins for the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, Billie Bendix in Nice Work If You Can Get It for The Production Company, and Skurry in Last Man Standing for the Melbourne Theatre Company.
In 2016, Hannaford is playing the leading role of Audrey in an Australian national tour of Little Shop of Horrors.
Hannaford released an indie folk EP The Great Egret in February 2015. She also appears on the cast recordings of Virgins, Once We Lived Here and Miracle City.
It was recently announced that she would appear in the Australian production of Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, as Carole King.
Her brothers Calvin Hannaford dances with The Australian Ballet and Ross Hannaford is a musical theatre performer.
Hannaford has received one national Helpmann Award and three Melbourne Green Room Awards for her performances in musical theatre.2015 Green Room Award nomination for Female Artist in a Leading Role (Music Theatre), Nice Work If You Can Get It
2014 Sydney Theatre Award nomination for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Musical, Miracle City
2013 Helpmann Award nomination for Best Female Actor in a Musical, King Kong
2013 Green Room Award for Female Artist in a Leading Role (Music Theatre), King Kong
2011 Helpmann Award for Best Female Actor in a Supporting Role in a Musical, Hairspray
2010 Green Room Award for Female Artist in a Featured Role (Music Theatre), Hairspray
2009 Green Room Award for Female Artist in a Leading Role (Music Theatre), Once We Lived Here