Marina Prior

Subscribe to Forte Magazine

Marina Prior

Marina Prior may be described as Australia’s leading lady – a titled she earned early in her career – but she is so much more than that. The popular soprano has a sparkling wit, grace and the ability not to take herself too seriously. As well as being refreshingly down to earth, she can belt out ‘Danny Boy’ with the best of them – and now it’s your chance to spend an evening getting to know our national treasure at her new show, an intimate concert at Her Majesty’s Theatre in Ballarat.
“I have a family connection to the area, and I’ve performed there many times – in fact the last time I performed there I got my great aunt up to sing with me,” Prior smiled. “She’s passed away now – she was in her 80s and it was really special.
“A lot of my family are from Ballarat,” she continued, “and Her Majesty’s is such a beautiful theatre – I absolutely love performing there.”
Most people would be aware of Prior’s impressive resume which includes so many of our country’s premier theatre productions, but Prior is planning a more personal set list for this show. “I was brought up singing Irish and Scottish music. I have a very musical family, particularly my aunt and my grandma who were born in Buninyong, which is just out of Ballarat. I really enjoy showing a different side of myself that people may not know about.
“Of course I’ll still sing all the big hits from Les Miserable, Phantom of the Opera, Cats, West Side Story and Sound of Music – they’ll all be included. I think I would probably be shot if I didn’t sing ‘Music of the Night’” she jokes.
“But I really love getting the chance to sing ‘Danny Boy’, an old favourite of mine, and it’s fun to do unexpected things like Celtic folk music, a bit of pop and opera. I love the freedom of this show – I can stop and chat to the audience whenever I want, which is a nice change from doing theatre where you do the same thing eight times a week for months, if not years on end!”
Having spent years treading the boards with some of the theatre world’s finest, Prior has seen her fair share of backstage antics and isn’t afraid to drop a name or two.
“I’ll be telling a lot of stories – lots of things go wrong behind the curtain in theatre. There are always costume mishaps and malfunctions and people coming on at the wrong time!” Prior laughed. “I’ll talk a lot about what’s gone on over the last 30 years and I also like to tell stories about growing up and discovering that I wanted to sing.”
Marina Prior has always been surrounded by music – she started singing lesson at 12 and also learnt to play the piano, flute and guitar. In the early ’80s she began studying for a Bachelor of Music degree at Melbourne State College (which later became the University of Melbourne). “I would be busking around Melbourne and singing lots of Celtic folk songs.”
Her big break came a couple of years later when she scored the role of ‘Guinevere’ in the Australian production of Camelot, opposite Richard Harris. From there she went on to appear in Cats, Les Miserable, as the original ‘Christine é’ in the Australian premier of Phantom of the Opera, West Side Story, The Secret Garden, and Showboat among others. She’s been a long time favourite at Melbourne’s Carols By Candlelight and even spent a couple of seasons as a judge on Channel Seven’s reality show It Takes Two.
Lately though, Prior has been trying her hand at comedy – she just finished a run of shows for the Melbourne Theatre Company with a supporting role in Jumpy. “This play is really very funny. Jane Turner is hilarious in it and I play her best friend who is a bit of a cougar!” she grinned. “It’s the antithesis of the Phantom of the Opera. I play this crazy man-eater who is studying burlesque dancing and she has fantastically funny lines. It’s been very successful and so much fun.
“Now I’ve got this show coming up and it’s very exciting because it’s actually the first venture for my husband’s production company [Castaway Productions]. He’s producing this concert so it’s rather dear to my heart. 2015 is shaping up to be very full.”
Prior believes keeping busy and looking towards the future is the key to a happy and healthy life, though it’s hard to deny her contribution to the arts which was recognised by her induction into Australia’s 100 Entertainers of the Century in 2006 – alumni include Dame Nellie Melba, Graham Kennedy and Dame Edna Everage. “These people are great Australian talents so it’s definitely an honour. There’s actually a huge mosaic portrait of the 100 performers in Docklands in Melbourne – it’s absolutely huge. I walked past it for the first time only a few months ago and it’s really disturbing because my face is completely cracked – I actually look like I’m about four thousand years old! – it looks like something that belongs in Egypt among the pyramids. It’s really awful!” Come and see the real thing – ‘Live In Ballarat’ at Her Majesty’s Theatre Saturday July 25th.
When & Where: Her Majesty’s Theatre, Ballarat – July 25 (2pm & 8pm)
Written by Natalie Rogers