She was, in fact, a Tony nominee at age 12, for the musical High Society--making her “the third-youngest nominee ever after 10-year-old Frankie Michaels and 11-year-old Daisy Eagan, who both went on to win” [Wikipedia].
If you're a Broadway-musical junkie like me and you've seen the concert My Favorite Broadway: The Leading Ladies on DVD, then the name Anna Kendrick would have rung a bell. In this 1998 extravaganza, ranged against the likes of Liza Minnelli, Jennifer Holliday, Marin Mazzie, Audra McDonald, Bebe Neuwirth, Elaine Stritch and other musical-theater giants, Kendrick, all of 13 years old, held her own with a winning number called Life Upon the Wicked Stage.
The conceit was, this song from the landmark musical Showboat, sung by a dreamy ingenue, was juxtaposed with a gaggle of cynical, foul-mouthed, rum-addled bar women--the Kit Kat Girls from Cabaret--whose job it was to mock the naivete of the girl and her song. Throughout, Kendrick, already a lovely presence, was poised, charming--blissfully “in the zone,” so to speak. After watching her in this number, you knew she was a bright young talent bound for bigger things.
The next time the name Anna Kendrick came up, it was in the 2003 movie musical Camp, which had a more radical conceit: a summer retreat for kids who ate and breathed theater, especially musical theater of the Sondheim kind (there IS a camp like it in the US). Naturally, these were often the school outcasts--the young artistes, the sensitive ones, the gay and fey (or suspected to be), the unconventional kids who marched to a different beat. So you get a scene where, on the bus, instead of the teens horsing around to--oh, I don't know, Lady GaGa or Miley Cyrus--they're collectively warbling Losing My Mind instead.
Kendrick plays Fritzi, a mousy, needy girl always bossed around by her friend Jill, a girl of imperious self-assurance who throws her weight around and schemes to grab the best roles. In a climactic scene, as Jill is about to launch into her showcase performance--The Ladies Who Lunch, from Sondheim's Company--Fritzi, fed up at her shabby treatment, sabotages the young diva's moment by marching up the stage, dragging her into the wings and finishing the number with a fierceness and sophistication never seen before. Kendrick is hilarious and dazzling in the part.
Have you seen Up In the Air? Go buy the DVD if you have to. Kendrick's breakdown scene in the airport alone is worth it. If she wants to, she'd make a great comic actress. But here's hoping she finds time to return to the stage and sing again soon.