I think everyone has heard of Peter Cousens, the enigmatic (among other things Peter has studied at the same school in Scotland as Prince Charles!), and polished stage performer. I was delighted for the opportunity to have a chat with him prior to his upcoming performing and teaching at this year‘s ‘Festival of Voices’.

Peter has the distinction of being the only Australian to play the Phantom of the Opera on London‘s West End. Peter has also played Raoul, the Phantom’s rival for Christine’s love in the Australian production of Phantom. In fact Peter has an impressive background in musical theatre. Peter started his career as a NIDA graduate and although he is most known for his career in musical theatre he is an accomplished actor and is open to doing more film and television if the opportunity presents itself.

At the same time Peter is more than happy with musical theatre and sees it’s skills as no different to acting in a play or working on film or television. Musical theatre with its emphasis on strong lyrics and expressive, expansive movement to deliver a story across to the audience.

Peter isn’t only a performer he is renaissance man in that he is also a director and producer, indeed he came up with a very clever scenario for an Ovation television production. He created a series of 10 programs for Ovation called by the familiar theatre axiom of ‘Break a Leg’. The programs showcase the careers of Peter’s musical theatre peers but with a twist. The performers are observed away from the lights, glitz and intoxicating pull of the stage and instead are filmed in their homes doing mundane household tasks. What makes this different to your average doco/autobiography is the participants sing one of their showtunes while doing their domestic duties, showing us that the enjoyment and celebration of music is not just for the theatre but is integral to our everyday life. It can make the mundane magical.

For example, Todd McKenney sang ‘I go to Rio’ while hanging out his washing, Toni Lamond sang ‘Don’t Fence me in’ while enjoying being fenced cosily in the quiet of her own home enjoying a cup of tea and the late and great Rob Guest sings ‘The Music of the Night’ in the Capital Theatre foyer.

These gems Peter agrees are due for a dust off from the shelves and a re-screening.

Peter also regularly tours a show called ‘Life on Earth’ which details his own career and is interspersed with songs that connect his life story. Tasmanian audiences will be privy to a little glimpse of this show when they see Peter perform for the Festival of Voices.

Peter is no stranger to Tasmania having worked with Guy Noble and the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra previously and is looking forward to spending a little more time in Tassie this time round.

As well as performances at Friends School, Peter will also be taking part in a master class to help give advice and encouragement to aspiring Tasmanian musical theatre performers. This course will run over a weekend at the Peacock Theatre and Peter is eager to encourage people to take part. Around 40 participants are desired for the program.

Away from performing Peter is keenly involved in his role as ambassador for White Ribbon Day. Peter, something of a trailblazer became involved in the cause at the time men were just beginning to join in support for the feminist course and Peter regularly attended demonstrations against violence.

Peter believes we need to stir people to awareness and also address attitudes that men and boys have towards girls and women. He believes that learning how to conduct a relationship early on in the formative years is the key to a development of a healthy respect of boys and later men to women.

And finally what was Peter’s song of choice for the Ovation special? Well he was singing ‘Love Changes Everything’ and he was sweeping; perhaps a suitable metaphor for a man who as well as being a wonderful singer and actor with a range that demonstrates the great sweeping lyrics, gestures and actions required in musical theatre; Peter is also a man of conscience and a tireless campaigner for sweeping away the stigma in our attitude to violence against women and attempting to find an antidote. Bravo Peter! We look forward to future encores at the Festival of Voices.

You can catch Peter performing in “Musical Theatre Misbehaving” at 8pm on Thursday 7th of July at the Farrall Centre at The Friends School.  Then on the 8th of July between 6 and 9 pm Peter will be giving advice and guidance in the musical theatre soloists at the Farrall centre, The Friends School.

On the 9th and 10th of July between 10 am to 5pm interested parties get a chance to participate in a weekend workshop on Broadway musicals with Peter and musical director of
‘Wicked’,  Kellie Dickerson.