Review: Marina Prior- A Prior Engagement

Marina Prior has been a big name in Australian musical theatre for 30 years. Growing up she thought she would be a pop singer, but at the age of 19 she auditioned for Simon Gallaher’s Pirates of Penzance (the first show in QPAC’s Lyric Theatre) and landed the role of Mabel.

Marina Prior - A Prior Engagement. Photo supplied.
Marina Prior – A Prior Engagement. Photo supplied.

Since then, she has played many leading ladies, including Christine Daae in The Phantom of the Opera, Maria in West Side Story and the titilar role in The Merry Widow.

Even in an intimate, cabaret-like setting, Prior is high gloss – from her extraordinary, clear soprano, to her glittery gowns and choice of repertoire. She sang some expected songs, which showed off her power, like ‘Memory’ from Cats, ‘Music of the Night’ from The Phantom of the Opera, and ‘I Dreamed a Dream’ from Les Miserables, along with some surprise numbers like ‘Adelaide’s Lament’ from Guys and Dolls.

The trouble with high gloss is that though it’s pretty and shiny, it doesn’t go very deep. While Prior’s voice is beautiful, there were times where she lacked emotional connection to the material she was singing. This may also be a product of the songs themselves- I find Lloyd Webber’s shows (Cats, Phantom) are often too ‘epic’ to pack a believable, emotional punch. Prior was in her element going back to her ancestry and playing Scottish folk songs, like ‘Bonnie Banks O’ Loch Lommond’.

A Prior Engagement was a quality performance of (mainly) musical theatre repertoire, interspersed with anecdotes from a long career in the performing arts, which gave Marina Prior fans the opportunity to learn a little more about Marina, the person and not just Marina, the star.

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