Marina Prior is one of the most elegant divas in the music theatre industry with her luxurious brown hair and a voice rivalling Julie Andrews for sweetness. Yet rumour has it she started her career as a busker.
“Yes it’s true,” Prior confesses over the phone from her home in Melbourne. “Busking was my part-time job while I was studying music at Melbourne Uni. I would sing everything from Elizabethan love songs to Joni Mitchell and Puccini. It was very eclectic, a bit like this concert tour.”
Prior’s first national solo tour showcases the soprano up close and personal. She will be singing hits from her three decades in music theatre including her career-making role as Christine in the first Australian production of Phantom of the Opera. The 24-venue tour includes performances in Perth, Bunbury and Albany this weekend.
Prior snared her first lead role when she was just 18 as Mabel in the Victorian State Opera’s The Pirates of Penzance. The dream run continued with roles in productions like Cats, Les Miserables, West Side Story and Showboat. It was the eighties, the golden era of musicals in Australia.
“In the theatre I found my tribe, where I belong. I have a light coloratura soprano so it suits me more. And I love the depth of dramatic theatre; I can be a cat, a Bronx stripper (in Guys and Dolls), and a daffy English lady in Mary Poppins.”
Prior has recorded five albums and ventured into stage plays and operas including an Australasian tour with tenor Jose Carreras. She stars regularly in Melbourne’s Carols By Candlelight and worked as a judge on Channel Seven’s It Takes Two. Most of her career has been spent working under a director so Prior is relishing the creative freedom of a solo show.
“I have the chops to do it now,” says the 49 year old. “I love being able to construct the evening, tell anecdotes and make people laugh. It is liberating.”
The intimacy of a solo show is also appealing. Prior will be accompanied by pianist David Cameron and will occasionally strum a guitar, the instrument she first began singing with as a nine year old.
“You have to expose the real you on stage, that vulnerability is crucial. If you are real then people warm to you.”
The program spans Prior’s creative life and there is no shortage of material to choose from.
“The program is made from the songs we couldn’t leave out! There are music theatre songs and some Celtic music, plus songs I grew up singing by people like Kate Bush and Joni Mitchell.”
Another bonus is the performing schedule which allows Prior to return home to her five children during the week.
“Being a mother is the defining factor of my life and I love being able to be home for canteen duty and making lunches. And then I run away to the circus on the weekends!”
Marina Prior ‘Encore’ tour Friday 18th Astor Theatre, Saturday 19th Bunbury Entertainment Centre, Sunday 20th Albany Entertainment Centre.
This article copyright The West Australian newspaper 2013.