An Interview with Patrice Tipoki.
Pressing on in the beautifully restored Capitol Theatre, the tweaked version of Victor Hugo’s epic story Les Miserables has constantly brought the audience to standing ovations. Reigniting interest in the show was a recent Bastille Day celebration performance, tickets are selling fast before winding up on October 18 2015 then heading to the next leg in Brisbane. Passionate and motivated with obvious immaculate talent, this production has impact. In the pivotal role of Fantine that includes iconic solo ‘I Dreamed a Dream’, speaking to the lovely Patrice Tiposki, it’s impossible not to be inspired by her charm and obvious affection to life.
Shane A. Bassett – This production is spellbinding, I very much enjoyed it.
Patrice Tipoki – That’s wonderful I am so glad you did.
SAB – How often do you get bouquet’s sent to the dressing room?
PT – (laughs) I don’t get them often except I did get flowers this week due to my anniversary, although it’s not a normal occurrence.
SAB – It’s noted this was the first musical you ever saw, what kind of an influence did it have?
PT – It set me up for life. It’s huge in so many people’s lives but for me, it’s a part of my education, set me on the road to perform for the rest of my life. I sang and danced for my family but seeing the show opened my eyes that you could do them together to tell a story. It’s stayed with me and now an absolute pleasure to do it for a living.
SAB – Do you have a preference for playing period roles or more contemporary characters?
PT – I guess I’ve been lucky to have done contemporary shows that have come out to Australia, however I do appreciate this period piece and would love to do more. When studying, I felt I could be typecast doing so much Gilbert & Sullivan productions but then I was able to come out and do contemporary stuff.
SAB – How amazing are your detailed costumes to wear for Les Miserables each night?
PT – It really helps set the scene for us, those gowns and wigs, very minimal make-up making this very realistic for the time other than when we are getting bashed or bruised make-up is on.
SAB. How do audience reactions differentiate from state to state (Perth, Melboure, now Sydney)?
PT – I always find it hard to put my finger on why but we do get varied reactions. The energy is always different, I know school holiday time often changes the demographic or time of show.
SAB. During your astounding solo numbers, if an audience is really enthralled does it pick up your vocals or is it the same, your best effort every time?
PT – I try to make each performance my best or always try and top the last one I did making sure the audience get the large scale piece they paid for.
SAB. What about mishaps, ever heard a mobile phone, or have you fallen and kept going?
PT – Can’t say I’ve heard phones, I guess the announcement works, we do hear many loud coughs on stage especially in the death or smokey scenes, it could be subconscious. Normally everything runs quite smoothly, although I choked on my blood capsule during a scene but just kept coughing until it was out. It makes things more dramatic (laughs).
SAB. I always thought, what would it sound like if you sang The Wizard and I (Wicked) as Fantine or even I dreamed a Dream as The Green Witch.
PT – On some days we are in silly moods and we actually put different showtunes into the show.
SAB. What about the brilliant Capitol Theatre itself, an inspiration?
PT – Only the other day speaking to someone about the grand atmosphere both on stage and in the audience, really a lovely space, I love it here knowing it so well working on past shows. It’s warm, so close to the audience but big enough to house big crowds.
SAB – Did (Creator) Cameron Mackintosh handpick you for the role or an audition process?
PT – Everyone auditioned. I went through a few rounds, one time in front of Cameron, so even if I failed for the part at least he saw me. But then I was asked to return. Just talking to us as a group, taking photos I was like OK maybe they are just snapping people in the final round of auditions then he casually asked, would you be Fantine. It was a thrill to accept.
SAB – Would Fantine be your ultimate role?
PT – I’m so grateful to play her at this stage in my life. I may not have been so successful to approach at a younger age with less experience as an actor and a mother. That gives me perspective of putting others first in any circumstance. I have two daughters.
SAB – That’s lovely, will they be pursuing the arts?
PT – (laughs) At this stage we sing at home but it’s usually ‘If your Happy and you Know It’, they do know it’s what mummy does and join in sometimes. No pressure.
SAB – What’s up next, more theatre, more Bollywood?
PT – At this stage I’m seeing out Les Miserables in Sydney then heading to Brisbane for the show, beyond that nothing locked in although it’s announced this production is going to Asia. Maybe something else locally in between, not sure, but a month ago I released an album (Musical Heart) which has been doing really well.
SAB – Having heard a few tracks it’s beautiful, it must be a different world for you on top of the pops?
PT – (laughs) Thank you, I’ve done a bit of recording in the past (with Girlband) but would really like to do more of that in the future. It’s all the same part of creating music no matter, having enjoyed all the multiple experiences I have had that brought me here to Les Miserables.
Shane A. Bassett