You've heard of the Von Traps, right? We'll we caught up with the incredibly talented musical family – the Tipoki's about their debut production (as a family) Songs For A New World.
TP: SFANW – Has been performed by a number of companies recently – What made you want to stage this particular production?
PA: For us, this was about timing. We feel like we've all been working our whole lives in this industry to bring us to this moment- where we can not only be doing what we love (performing music) but also do it with people we love. We felt it was about time we did a show together, this was literally the only time we had before we're all off on tours again. And everything fell into place from there. SFANW is a piece we've listened to and loved since it came out. We always sing it when we get together- (normally once a year at Christmas!). We're excited we can finally share our love for this piece and each other with everyone!
LT: Well this is a really exciting venture for us. Myself and my sister Patrice and my brother Kuki have performed together publicly maybe once or twice in the last 10 years. Which is a mean feat considering we all perform for a living. So firstly the opportunity to come together was really the incentive for this project. SFANW is one of those contemporary milestone shows that has appealed to so many music theatre lovers. With it's universal themes and popular style it was on repeat on my iTunes for many years. So it made sense to pick this as our first show!
TP: For those who don't know the show, what's it about and what's the appeal for audiences?
PA: SFANW is a collection of songs by Jason Robert Brown which all have a common theme- it's about one moment, the turning points in different people's lives. The composer writes so well for both actors and audiences to enjoy glimpses into these various characters lives and let's us reflect on our own journeys and choices in the process.
LT: Basically this show is a collection of different characters singing songs all connected by a common theme. All at a breaking point in their lives you could say that we meet each character at an important fork in the road, where a decision needs to be made, where their life could change for better or for worse. Each song tells a vivd and colourful story whilst still allowing you to make your own interpretations. Most shows have one 11 o'clock number. This show has about 15 of them. There really is something in this show for everyone. We have Just finished doing a season on the Sunshine Coast, QLD and performed to audiences who largely had never heard of the show. It was astounding how many of them left the theatre feeling moved, or with tears in their eyes.
TP: What are the themes of SFANW?
PA: There's the obvious theme that each song focusses in on a point of decision. Along with that, I observe the character's and indeed our own personal compass' which guide our individual decision making process. At times in this show, and for alot of people, God plays a big part in that. Whether it's crying out for help, or frustration or wonder or simply acknowledging there is a power beyond our own. And in the end, that our choices can guide and even inspire others.
TP: What character do you play and can you tell us a little about your portrayal?
PA: I feel that my character has quite a narrator like quality as she sings the opening and closing lines of the show and transitions. Then again she also has her own moments in the show where it becomes evident her life is not as together as she may think.
LT: I play the character of the Musical Director! And I have to tell you it is a very special thing to musically direct family. There is nothing to compare to the feeling! The highs are high and the things you worry about are so intense because nothing is more important than family. But then the music happens and it is all so easy. I am also producing for the first time and I tell you what I have a new found respect for the fulltime producer! What a gig! So much to think about!
TP: What has the rehearsal process been like?
PA: Given that we were all spread out up until 2 wks before we performed, we learnt all our music separately then came together to put it on it's feet. It was lovely to be able to find our place in the cast energetically and vocally and realise what a great fit we are together.
LT: The rehearsal process has been like none other I have experienced. Firstly we had only one week so everything had to happen quite swiftly. Everyone had done their homework and learnt their parts before we met. Quite possibly the most awesome thing about rehearsals was that my sister (who was performing Elphaba at 5 and a half months pregnant) would be belting out these excellent notes all the while breastfeeding her youngest lil girl Adelaide without so much as a blink of an eye. She is a pretty special mum. Then again our own mum was the same. The day after she had me she was back hula dancing on stage. Or my brother who would be one minute blocking the show and then quickly jump into his own position and singing such close harmonies. We have been surrounded by complete professionals in every aspect here. Wait til you hear the band!!
TP: What's your theatrical background?
PA: I come from a musical family, so is was raised performing and training in all facets of dance, with voice and instruments too. Studied Music Theatre at WAAPA, then onto musicals like We Will Rock You, The Lion King- Nala, Wicked- Alternate Elphaba.
LT: Good question! We have all sung and danced since forever. We have parents and grandparents who are performers so it was probably inevitable. In fact we would sometimes perform all together, 3 generations in our family polynesian show. We all picked up instruments pretty young too all of us piano, me flute, Patrice violin and tenor sax, Kuki cello and later guitars. Then we all went on to study tertiary music and performance. And have since all had careers in music/music theatre. We have always had very supportive parents which helps! Our mum used to drive us to Brisbane from the Sunshine Coast 5 times a week for dancing during high school. It is in the blood you could say. My first professional show was Wicked in Melbourne at the Regent Theatre as Keys 1 with my sister in the ensemble and covering Elphaba. Now I am about to go back to Wicked as Associate Musical Director in Auckland, Manilla and back around Australia. So very exciting times!
TP: What's your favourite song in the show and why?
PA: I enjoy different songs every time we perform so don't have a favourite. There are powerful moments in numbers like "On the Deck of a Sailing Ship" and "Flagmaker" then there are hilariously funny moments in songs like "Just One Step". So depends on your mood.
LT: My favourite song in the show is 'Hear My Song'. I think it's a beautiful song and I really enjoy its function in the show. It summarises really well and gives us the feeling that no matter what happens in life, it's important to sing. That your song is worth hearing and that can be what makes it all worth while.
TP: When performing, what are your "golden rules"?
PA: I'm conscious of not warming up too much, some people I see "warm-up" so much that you're fatigued by show time. I also enjoy a calm backstage environment, not too much hype. Then again having been an understudy and been thrown on at the last second I appreciate that you've gotta be flexible under any circumstances.
LT: Well you should have done all the hard work before you get to the performing. Know your work, research it and explore it and be informed before you get to the stage. Then once you're performing, let it all go and trust your decisions and those around you in the moment. There is no harm in making mistakes, that's what makes us humans so fascinating.
Songs for a new world plays for one show only on August 5.