MARINA Prior is irretrievably associated in the minds of the public with the role of Christine in “The Phantom of The Opera”.
Plucked from a bachelor of music course in Melbourne State College in 1983 to play Mabel in the “The Pirates of Penzance”, she’s played in “Camelot” with Richard Harris, opposite the late Paul Eddington in “H.M.S. Pinafore”, in the Australian premiere of “Les Mis” and she’s toured Australasia with José Carreras.
Prior still keeps up a cracking pace, doing eight shows a week for “Mary Poppins” and fitting in other musicals, such as the recent “Promises Promises”, as well as concert and TV appearances. “But I’ve never done a Rodgers and Hammerstein musical,” she tells me as we talk about her coming visit to Canberra as part of an all-over Australia regional tour that she says has been “well received”.
On tour she’ll be entertaining fans with an intimate selection from her two newest albums, “Both Sides Now” and “Encore”.
“The first one includes my favourite songs from non-musical theatre by famous singer-songwriters such as Joni Mitchell, Don McLean, Kate Bush and Simon and Garfunkel, the songs I grew up singing,” the former teenage busker tells “CityNews”, but in “Encore,” she reprises musical theatre songs done “unplugged with guitar, piano and maybe string and percussion”.
“I love recording,” she enthuses, “I haven’t recorded prior to these CDs for 17 years; it’s fantastic to get back into the studio”.
Now that her children are getting bigger – her eldest is 17 and her youngest 9 – she has found time to do just that. It’s not just the recording, she says, but “once you’ve put down the recording, you really have to tour and sell, you can’t have one without the other, and you’ve got to have the physical time and the creative space to do it.”
Looking back, Prior has noticed big changes in the Australian showbiz scene.
“In the old days, producers weren’t prepared to create a name, so they hired stars from overseas,” she says.
But with the advent of the mega-musicals such as “Phantom” and “Les Mis”, the show is the star.
“That means that if the show is big enough, it also enables the principals to use it as a vehicle – you have to work that potential to your advantage,” she says.
In the production of “Guys and Dolls” starring Garry McDonald and Lisa McCune, for instance, “it was the players who were the big thing. It’s an indication of us growing up culturally.”
Marina Prior, at The Playhouse, Friday, September 13, bookings to canberratheatrecentre.com.au or 6275 2700.