Marina Prior strips songs back for intimate show

ASK Marina Prior to nominate her favourite song, and you might be surprised by the answer.

But it doesn't matter - you can ask her again later and you'll possibly get the answer you were counting on.

"At the moment, my favourite is probably a beautiful song from Toy Story 2, by Randy Newman, called When Somebody Loved Me," Prior said.

"It's just the most poignant song about a little cowgirl doll whose owner, a child, doesn't want to play with her any more."

Wait for it . . .

"But certain songs like Music of the Night from Phantom of the Opera, and I Dreamed a Dream from Les Miserables, I can honestly say that after singing them for so many years I never get tired of performing them," Prior said.

There we go.

"But ask me in half an hour and I'll have another favourite . . ."

Prior is Australia's leading lady of musical theatre, having performed more than 20 leading roles in her career.

But in recent years she's worked on her solo career, releasing a couple of albums.

In her new show, The Encore Tour, audiences get to see Prior in a different mode.

Gone are the big orchestra, costumes and elaborate sets that have adorned Prior's workplace for much of her 30 years in the business.

Instead, this is Prior stripped back to basics.

"I've worked with big orchestras and bands and that's always wonderful, but this is a very intimate and informal show," she said.

"I'm working with David Cameron [on piano], who has been my musical director for the last 25 years or so. It's almost like a duet.

"With just piano and voice you have a great intimacy and a great artistic freedom.

"We have a great sympatico together, and it's a very flexible way to work."

Prior covers a diverse range of material in the new show.

She revisits songs she performed as a young busker while studying music in Melbourne.

"I was a terrible waitress, but I did really well as a busker," she said.

"I used to sing Joni Mitchell songs, Kate Bush songs, Elizabethan love songs, Celtic folk songs and operatic arias."

Audiences can expect to hear songs such as Joni Mitchell's Both Sides Now, a Celtic Scarborough Fair, and even the Billy Fields hit You Weren't In Love With Me.

The songs from her musical theatre days are also featured, and if that means jumping genres, so be it - it's Prior's show.

"Basically it's just all of my favourite music.

"I don't care so much about what genre the song is, just so long as it tells a great story and it's beautiful to listen to.

"That's the joy of it for me - the joy of the characters you can play within one night in this concert.

"You're not stuck with one character and one script."

One of the unexpected highlights for audiences at the new concerts has been Prior's storytelling.

"I do tell a few stories and let the audiences into the secret back-stage theatre world," she said.

■ Marina Prior will take her Encore Tour to Laycock Street Theatre, Gosford, on Thursday, October 3. Tickets for the event cost $70 for adults. To make a booking, phone 4323 3233.

LEADING LADY: Marina Prior will perform at Laycock Street Theatre on Thursday, October 3.

LEADING LADY: Marina Prior will perform at Laycock Street Theatre on Thursday, October 3.