Taking on the role of Eponine at the age of just 18 could be a daunting task, but for Silvie Paladino is was actually quite easy. You see, she had never been to the theatre before. Her family were not theatre goers, she had no theatrical background and she was intending to become a professional contemporary singer. So she really had no idea just what she was getting into!
Paladino started singing as a child, taking up vocal lessons at the age of nine and winning a season of Young Talent Time. Her musical inspiration came from powerhouse singers such as Barbara Streisand, Whitney Houston and Shirley Bassey. Paladino would enter singing competitions only to be told that while she had the vocal ability she was too young to be singing such powerful songs.
Performing on Channel Seven's Midday Show with Bert Newton, Paladino was spotted by John Diedrich, who was performing in Les Miserables. Diedrich was so impressed with the young Paladino that he contacted his producers and suggested Paladino audition for the role of Eponine in the upcoming Melbourne season. Paladino was asked to audition a song from a musical and the only one she knew was "Memory" from a Barbara Streisand recording.
Stepping into the role of Eponine in her professional theatre debut, Paladino had no idea what to expect. She thought it would only involve about three shows per week and was surprised when she was told there would be eight performances. Only when she had completed the first act of Les Miserables did Paladino realise just how significant this role was and what she had really taken on … and so her musical theatre career was born. It was six months into the season of Les Miserables before Paladino finally went to her very first live musical theatre performance: Anything Goes.
Paladino continued performing the role of Eponine for a further twelve months, touring Australia and New Zealand to critical acclaim. She was then invited to perform the role in the West End production of Les Miserables. Performing on the West End was an exciting opportunity for the 20 year old Paladino. She returned several years later to perform the role of Fantine. However, she was surprised and a little disappointed to discover the standard of the West End productions was not as high as she had experienced in Australia. Paladino explains the difference being Australian production cast have to work so hard to keep a show running and don't have the luxury of the incredibly long seasons experienced in the West End and Broadway. She feels Australian performers work harder, take the show more seriously and are far more dedicated. Having said that, she still found it an incredible experience and would be keen to return to the West End in the future.
Paladino's biography reads as the ultimate leading lady list. Apart from Eponine and Fantine, she has played the roles of Jeannie in Hair, Grizabella in Cats, Ellen in Miss Saigon, Donna in Mamma Mia, Rita in Sideshow Alley and most recently Florence in Chess. While there are a number of roles she would still love to perform, the one she would most love to do is Eva Peron in Evita.
These days, Paladino feels very blessed to have achieved so much in her career as she balances the juggling act of motherhood and professional work. Her biggest inspiration in life now is her own mother as she now realises and appreciates just what it takes to raise a child. Motherhood has changed Paladino. She feels less selfish. Paladino explains that prior to having a family her career defined her and it meant everything. While she still loves her singing job she has realised it is simply that: a job. Her life is now balanced and she has discovered there is so much more to life than simply her career. She has also realised just how challenging the theatre industry can be – and the risk of putting all her eggs into this one basket in life.
Paladino is busy being mum to 13 year old Christian and 10 year old Isabella, taking her turn to do tuck shop duty whilst still maintaining her singing profile with corporate gigs. Family life has meant Paladino has learnt to be selective in the roles she accepts. Short run seasons, such as The Production Company's Chess are perfect to combine work and family. Paladino won her first Green Room Award for her role as Florence in Chess, which only went ahead when Caroline O'Connor was unavailable to take the lead role in the planned production of Gypsy, which will now be staged this year. Although Chairman Jeannie Pratt was not keen to stage Chess I am sure she has now changed her mind – Chess went on to win an astounding seven Green Room Awards.
Paladino finds incredible support from her husband Greg, who was a crew member during Miss Saigon. She said being married to someone from the industry is wonderful because he understands what it is all about. Additional support comes in the form of baby sitting from her parents and mother-in-law. Although the short season runs and corporate gigs suit her current lifestyle, Paladino would certainly consider a role in a longer touring season, but it would have to be the right role to make it worthwhile. It would need to be a role she has not performed before and something significant … and again our conversation returns to Evita.
A committed Christian, Paladino finds strength and comfort in her faith. When she misses out on a role she feels a sense of peace that God is in control and it was not meant to be. Her Christmas Eve performances at Carols by Candlelight each year provide an opportunity for Paladino to share her faith through her singing. Her favourite song to perform is "His Grace Still Amazes Me" – a song that has the ability to cross over into a mainstream audience and convey a message of hope and faith. Interestingly, it's in the church “gigs” when Paladino gets nervous. She feels the responsibility of leading a church congregation in worship and it is more than simply another singing job. Paladino hopes to release an album of Christian inspirational songs in the future.
But Paladino's next immediate project is her upcoming concert on Monday 27th May. Accompanied by pianist David Cameron and a string ensemble, this will be an up close and intimate evening with Paladino as she performs songs from her most recent album On My Own and a variety of music genres. It promises to be a night not to be missed.
Meanwhile, does anyone know a producer who would like to mount a new production of Evita? I know the perfect leading lady!
Tickets are available from http://www.artscentremelbourne.com.au/whats-on/event.aspx?id=3674