10/7/01
Talkin' BroadwayV.J.



All of My Life Has Led to This
An Interview with Louise Pitre

by Nancy Rosati


Louise Pitre is a newcomer to Broadway but not to performing. One of Canada's most popular musical performers, she played the role of Fantine in Les Misérables in Montreal, Toronto and Paris. She has portrayed legendary French singer Edith Piaf in three different productions of Piaf and has been honored with three of Toronto's Dora Mavor Moore Awards for her performances in Mamma Mia!, Piaf, and Blood Brothers.

Louise has also had a successful concert career in Canada and is now releasing her debut U.S. CD, "All of My Life Has Led to This", a re-release of her earlier Canadian recording, "Love Letters," with two added Mamma Mia! songs, "Slipping Through My Fingers" and two versions of "Winner Takes it All," in English and French. She is just beginning previews in Mamma Mia!, making her Broadway debut in the role of lead Donna Sheridan. In addition, she is collaborating with her husband, actor Joe Matheson, and Diane Leah on a new musical.

Louise managed to take some time away from Mamma Mia! rehearsals to speak with me just before previews started.

Nancy Rosati:  Louise, I'd like to say "Welcome to New York" but I have a feeling the last couple of weeks have been a little different from what you expected.

Louise Pitre:  Yes, but in a way it's almost more important to be here right now than I ever expected it would be, because of the attack. I think this show will be more welcome because of it, if that's possible.

NR:  You're trying to release a CD and open a show at the same time. That would have been challenging at any time.

LP:  (laughs) Yeah ...

NR:  How are you handling all of this?

LP:  Well, I'm a little tired and I have a lot of knots in my shoulders and little things creeping up, like my body trying to give out. I think going through what everybody went through here on the 11th is a very, very difficult thing on your heart and your body. You have to keep going and do whatever you have to do. I believe the toll is difficult to assess. It's hard to be afraid and disappointed and hurt and horrified, and all of those things take an amazing toll. When you're using your body as much as we are right now ... (laughs) My knee's giving me trouble. I'm going to physiotherapy for the first time in my life which is really bizarre. But, all things considered, it's just fine. It's ... OK.

NR:  I'm glad. How's the company handling all of this?

LP:  Terrific. I have to say the creative team from England was pretty damn sensitive to all of this. Let's face it, everybody had the same reactions to what happened. Obviously we had about three days where not much happened but at least we had each other to go to. We all met the next day and didn't work, but we sat in a circle and we were together. We were able to talk about it a bit and then we slowly got back to it. It's a very strong group of people. This is a terrific cast. It's a very, very strong acting company. We took our time and got through it together, which was really great. As I started to go see some shows (and I made myself go that week) I realized that a lot of people might not have a group of others to go to every day, to talk about it with, and cry if you wanted to, and just share and get through it together. We were lucky to have that, as opposed to someone who just goes to work by themselves. That would be very difficult.

I made myself go see a show that Friday night. I went to see 42nd Street. I didn't want to go and I felt ridiculous even being there, but I thought about these poor guys having to do a show right now, and you know what? That was the best thing I could have done. I couldn't stop crying. To watch them doing this and tap dancing their hearts out, it was just the most moving thing. The audience went insane at the end and it was just an incredible experience. I guess it gave me the feeling of, "See? That's what you can do, so get the hell back there and sing." I don't think I've ever felt it to such a heightened degree - what it is that we do for a living, and just how good it can be, how needed it is.

NR:  Let's talk about your CD. When is it being released?

LP:  October 9th.

NR:  You named it All of My Life Has Led to This. I'm sure there's a story behind that.

LP:  (laughs) Oh, there is. All of my life has led to this! People are saying, "It's your Broadway debut." I'm 44 years old. I've been doing this for over 20 years. The song entitled "All of My Life Has Led to This" was written by a Canadian composer Leslie Arden and she brought it to me saying, "I think you would sound great singing this song." Could it be a more apt title? At the time I didn't even know I was going to do Broadway so it's pretty incredible!

NR:  Broadway was a recent surprise for you? It wasn't one of your goals?

LP:  Well, come on, let's face it - anybody who's in this business dreams of opening a show on Broadway, but it wasn't "I have to do it or I'm going to die." It was a quiet little "wish up to the stars" sort of thing. I make a fine living in Canada. I didn't want to come here just having to try and find a job. This is the way I've always dreamed of coming to Broadway, except it's even better than anything I could have come up with. To star in a show, to play the leading role in a show that we already know has sold millions of tickets already, and to be in the newly restored Winter Garden Theatre! Could it get any better than that?

NR:  It's pretty amazing. And to have Karen Mason and Judy Kaye with you ...

LP:  I know! (laughs) Oh man, we're having a good time! My husband is here visiting me for three days and then he'll be back for the opening. He said, "Anyone who knows the three of you, could they have found three more different, three stronger women to head this little trio? This is incredible." We are wildly different, which I love. There are three very distinct personalities, but we are three very strong women.

NR:  In interviews last year both Karen and Judy said they would love to get back to Broadway, but after a certain age you just don't know if it's going to happen. This is so incredible for the three of you.

LP:  Can you believe this show? The leading role is an over-forty woman, and her two best buddies, the secondary female roles, are again in that age group, which is so rare. Most shows are about twenty year olds, and nothing against that but gee whiz, somebody with some life experience and some weight up there ... And the three men, too. They are not in their twenties. It's great. There's the young couple and the six ... "older" ones. I don't feel 44 but I've lived a lot of stuff by now and that goes into your work and that goes into your singing. I think we're coming out of that overly youth-oriented time we were living in when everybody had to be 17 without a wrinkle in order to be interesting. Maybe we're getting past that a bit. That would be nice.

NR:  The pre-Broadway response to the show has just been amazing.

LP:  Oh my God ... . Obviously the buzz is incredible and I feel it wherever I go. There's no reason to expect that they will react any differently here than they have in other places. I think they will like the show, no doubt about it. I think it's going to be even more special because of what's happened. And you know what? It's not just the show. The show is so positive and so light and so bright and so happy, damnit, that the restored theater is again life-affirming to me. Especially at this time. Somebody bothered to put millions and millions into this beautiful building and bring it right back to what it was. It is so gorgeous! The whole thing is so beautiful that it might just be overwhelmingly positive. I don't know. I can't wait to see and hear!

NR:  How exhausted are all of you?

LP:  Not too bad, amazingly enough. They're being so good to us because we've had the luxury of a nice rehearsal period and we've had many days in the theater before. They're not making us do all these big 12 hour days. It's the first time in my 20 years in this business that I don't have 10 out of 12s [actors are called for 12 hours and rehearse for 10 of those] three days in a row before the first preview.

NR:  I've heard those are killers, and you go into previews so exhausted that you can't even focus.

LP:  Yeah, and by the time you get to opening, you're running on adrenalin and that's it.

NR:  Is there any plan to record the Broadway cast?

LP:  There's no big talk of it now but I certainly hope so. I was just out with Judy Craymer, the producer, and Benny Andersson the other night and we ended up having quite a fantastic night out. I got into a big talk about that with Benny Andersson and he said, "Yes, yes, perhaps we should have that." I said, "Could you say that out loud right now for everyone to hear?" I think we should, because this is a totally different sound from that existing soundtrack. It's got nothing to do with the London production. It's wildly different. I hope they will.

NR:  Is your CD getting totally eclipsed by all of this? Are you trying to squeeze it in there?

LP:  No, I don't feel that way.

NR:  How did you go about choosing the songs for it?

LP:  I went through about 500 songs. I sat at the piano and put on a tape recorder and just played every song that I really liked and gave that tape to the producer. We just sat there and tried to go through it. It took a long time to narrow it down. I wanted it to be a real mix. This is my intro. Nobody knows me. They don't know what I do and it's important to me that they know I do a whole lot of stuff. A lot of us in this business do. I didn't want it to be just one style, and it certainly isn't.

NR:  How about the songs you wrote? Can you tell me about those?

LP:  First of all, two of them are in French. I write in English as well. I don't know why a song comes out in French or in English, it just does. Those two are my happiest love song and my saddest love song. I wanted to put one extreme and the other. "A Notre Tour" is the happy one and it was written when I was doing Les Miz in Montreal, so that was quite some time ago. The other one was written much more recently and it's my tribute to Michel Legrand, "Le Ciel Est Bleu." I'm proud of those two songs. I've written a lot of stuff since then. I'm thinking the next CD might be all my songs, and most of them are in English.

NR:  Where is it going to be available? Will it be in all stores?

LP:  Yes, and certainly at Colony, right across the street from the theater, because I figure that whoever buys my CD will probably be someone who's just seen the show. People don't know me here. They'll know me only because they've just seen the show.

NR:  And you have a website now.

LP:  Yes I do and the CD is available on the website.

NR:  Tell me about the benefit you're doing at The Bottom Line.

LP:  I think they're doing two shows and everybody's singing. There's nothing that the three of us can sing together. Judy and Karen are doing it as well and I thought it would be great if we could do something together, but there's nothing that was going to work for this. I don't think "Dancing Queen" would be appropriate! We're each going to do one song.

NR:  It's on Monday, October 8th. Do you have a performance also that night?

LP:  No, we don't have a performance. That's the only Monday we'll be dark. As soon as we start the actual run we'll be dark on Sunday. We'll be doing Monday night shows. I'm also going to be performing at the Mabel Mercer Convention on October 24th. I think that's it I guess.

NR:  You sound so wide awake and so terrific for someone who's going to start a show in a few days.

LP:  Thank you. You know what? I think what happened a few weeks ago should be a big wake up call for everyone. It happens again and again when someone you love passes away or someone gets hit with some horrible disease. It's like saying, "OK, I'm tired, but big deal. Get on with it and don't bitch about your knee being sore. What matters here, folks? There is bigger stuff to worry about and to complain about." Of course I'm tired and I'll be more tired by the time I get to opening, but if I can just stay healthy and get through it, I'm thrilled. I'm thrilled to be this tired. I'm keenly aware that many people would be thrilled to be in my position.

NR:  Thank you so much. I hope it all goes well for you.

LP:  Thank you.


-- Nancy Rosati



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