Australia’s queen of musicals, Marina Prior, plans to still be working when she is 85 years old.
About to turn 60 in October, Marina, who will be in Western Australia with The 2 Of Us tour, says even if she couldn’t sing, she will pursue her acting career as long as there were roles for her to play.
The 2 Of Us tour, travelling around Australia with Marina and operatic tenor David Hobson, hits WA at the Broome Civic Centre on Saturday, October 14, and then three days later will be at the other end of the state, at the Esperance Civic Centre on Tuesday, October 17, followed by the Albany Entertainment Centre on Thursday, October 19, Mandurah Performing Arts Centre on Friday, October 20, Bunbury Entertainment Centre on October 21, and Astor Theatre in Perth on Sunday, October 22.
The WA stint is her longest time away from home during the tour.
Marina says she is particularly looking forward to seeing Broome for the first time, but several of the other places the tour is visiting will be new to her.
“I’m desperate to ride a camel on the beach,” she says.
“I’ve never been to Broome so I’m excited about that and never been to Esperance, but I have played in Perth and we’ve also played Albany and Bunbury which both have terrific theatres and I think we might have done Mandurah.”
While the touring group will fly from Broome to Esperance, the rest of the trip will be on the group’s tour bus which Marina says gives them a chance to see something of the countryside.
“That’s the beauty of what we do. I’m with some of my oldest friends doing what we love to do and what we feel like we’re born to do and we get to see the whole country, going from Darwin to Broome, we’ve just been to Queensland, we’re going through NSW, I feel like we’re very privileged to do this.
“It’s a beautiful way to earn a living.”
She doesn’t get particularly nervous before a show.
“I get more excited than nervous – and certainly with this show,” Marina says.
“We’re up to about 190 shows under our belt. If you were terrified every time there’d be something wrong. It would be exhausting if you were really nervous every time.”
Her three children are now grown up, her youngest is 19, so Marina doesn’t have to worry about leaving them at home and she’s pretty comfortable with touring.
“I haven’t got little kids and school pick-up and that sort of thing and the good thing with touring like this is we tend to work Thursday, Friday, Saturday and come home Sunday or Monday, so we get time on the ground at home every week.
“We also have factored in little breaks here and there which is really lovely.
Marina used to be heavily involved in the Christian church but not so much these days.
“I’m certainly a spiritual person, I have faith, but I’m not really involved.”
Marina laughs when asked if other people got nervous when she was singing in church.
“I think when I’m singing in public places, I tend to keep a lid on it, but I remember being in school assembly with my kids and singing the national anthem and my kids glaring at me: ‘turn it down Mum, turn it down’.”
The 2 Of Us features some new songs, back-stage and life stories, and the classics from Marina and David’s vast repertoire accompanied by renowned pianist David Cameron.
In the intimate two-hour performance, Marina and David will perform classics from productions such as The Phantom of The Opera, Cats, 9
to 5 The Musical, Evita, Les Miserables, West Side Story, Guys and Dolls, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and La Boheme, as well as favourites from their award-winning albums.
Marina says this concert is an opportunity for people to see herself and David in a much less formal environment than they usually do in musicals, plays or operas, where everything is scripted and planned.
“The beauty of this show, and part of what has made it work for so long is the fact that we are completely informal and relaxed, so there are a lot of anecdotes about mishaps and things going wrong backstage and there is a huge amount of banter.
“I think what the audiences don’t expect is the humour. There’s a lot of humour and a lot of laughs and a lot of audience interaction.
“We still do the big hits that you would expect from classic music theatre and opera and various different types of music and that’s always taken really seriously, but around that it’s very, very chatty and informal.
“It’s almost like you are in our lounge room; it’s that sort of feel.”
When it comes to musicals, Marina is best known for her lead role in The Phantom of the Opera and Cats and has performed with international stars including Richard Harris and José Carreras.
Both she and David are well known for their Carols by Candlelight performances each year, and Marina was recently seen on the ABC TV series The Divorce.
In 2006, Marina was inducted into Australia’s 100 Entertainers of the Century and was made a Member of the Order of Australia this year.
She doesn’t have a favourite musical.
“It depends on the day. One day it’s singing from Phantom, the next day it’s Les Mis and I’ve just finished doing Mary Poppins in Melbourne for the last six months, and I sing the song Feed The Birds in that.
“In the Melbourne season, I played the old, ancient bird woman, the beggar woman, who sings that song as well as playing the evil witch Miss Andrew, fantastic character roles, and every night I got to sing the Feed The Birds song, so at the moment right after having just done it I think Feed The Birds is probably my favourite this week.”
In terms of audience favourites Marina performs a big Andrew Lloyd Webber medley which the audience loves, but when David Hobson sings The Holy City (Jerusalem), which he sings every year at Carols By Candlelight, it’s a big hit.
“It’s like we’re in a rock concert, they go off, they absolutely love it, they sing along, they clap along – and that’s the big hit every night.”
Marina’s first big performance was in 1983, cast as Mabel in The Pirates of Penzance, starring the late Jon English.
It was also David Hobson’s first show, who was one of the pirates and English’s understudy.
Marina and David have maintained their friendship ever since.
Marina says after 40 years on stage her confidence has grown.
“It just feels like on-stage in concert like this it feels like my safe place, my happy place.
“Both of us feel extremely at home after 40 years.”
The challenge is to be better than she was yesterday.
“I’m constantly learning, trying to refine how I sing this, how I tell that story, it’s a never-ending pursuit in trying to perfect what you do and I guess that’s why you keep doing it.
“If you think you’ve got it all together and you can’t improve, then I think you should probably give up. As an artist, you want to be constantly evolving, learning, maturing.”
Marina says that while there will come a time when her voice will start to deteriorate.
“Touch wood, it’s not yet.”
“I think it’s also because I’m not a rock singer, so I’ve always sung with a classical technique which is very protective of my voice, so I don’t get vocal strain. I think it’s different if you are a pop singer or a rock singer.
“I’ll keep going until they pull me off the stage.
“Because I’m an actor as well, I do theatre, I’m not just a singer, I’d like to think I’m still playing character roles when I’m 85.”