Singer and actor Josh Piterman has a CV that would be impressive in someone twice his age: The Ten Tenors, Hairspray, Cats, West Side Story, and Phantom of the Opera. Adelaide will be lucky enough to see him perform in concert this Saturday before he heads off to Sydney to reprise his eponymous role in Phantom. He managed to kindly squeeze in some time to chat to Glam.
Piterman was heading more for the sports field than the stage until a certain teacher changed his mind for him.
“It’s quite a random story. I got into Michael Jackson in 2001 so I had to learn how to moonwalk. One day I was doing it in the school café and I got a tap on the shoulder from the guy who directs the school musicals (actually Adelaide born and bred). He said, ‘have you ever done a musical? You could be very useful’. I hadn’t but I saw Miss Saigon and Les Mis when my parents took me as a kid, so I knew what they were. I was just more interested in football and cricket and jock things like that. So I thought I’d give it a crack and then it was like ‘What have I been missing? This is unbelievable. It’s the best thing ever!” I just got hooked. I changed a lot of my subjects in year 12 to make sure they were more musically and theatrically inspired. And then I was on my way to Ballarat. [Federation University]”
Since then Piterman has run the gamut of musical theatre, both popular and classical, and hopes to continue to do so.
“I never wanted to just do the one thing. I’ve always prided myself on being a versatile vocalist and actor. I’ve always played around with vocal sounds and love impersonating different sounds and people so I’ve always felt quite vocally dexterous. Being operatic is one colour that my voice is able to make, but it’s not the only colour.”
Musical theatre has certainly changed over the last couple of decades, with much more cross-over between the classical and the popular, and perhaps more emphasis on strong acting, rather than just strong vocal skills.
“I think there is certainly more onus on truth being at the core of things. That comes from our exposure to content. We have cameras in our faces all the time and we can see and read what truth is. I think all of that world has translated onto the stage in some way and that has made all acting better, especially stage acting.”
With his concert in Adelaide, Piterman will present a vast array of work from his expansive career.
“The show is curated to ensure that the greatest songs that I enjoy singing across almost 100 years of music theatre are included. I get to pay tribute to some of the composers that I have loved, admired, and been inspired by. And it’s about ensuring audiences get what they love and deserve; that they get to have those ‘ahhh’ moments and those teary moments and the laughing moments and the ‘ah yes that one’ moments. So going through the ages, there’s got to be Gershwin and Cole Porter, and Rogers and Hammerstein, and then Frank Loesser, a bit of Guys and Dolls and then Kander and Ebb, who did Chicago and Cabaret. But then Stephen Sondheim is the greatest composer ever, so I have to get some of his in, then Lloyd Webber needs to be in because I’ve done Phantom and Cats and then Boublil and Schonberg [ Miss Saigon, Les Miserables] then I have a moment from Once in there for more contemporary people. There’s even something from Moulin Rouge! So it’s a, not totally linear, journey through musical theatre along with a lot of stories of my life and my career. For example, there are not many aussie guys who’ve ’had to go on stage in London to do Phantom and do it half naked because they had a costume malfunction!”
Appearing on stage with Piterman will be two special guests.
“Other than Trevor Jones who is my pianist I have a special guest, Philippa Lynas. Pip is a Barossa-born living legend, but I went to Uni with her and we lived together for a year. She’s been working in New York for however long and just got back during covid so I said come and sing a couple of numbers with me.”
After wowing Adelaide audiences, Piterman has a massive schedule for the rest of the year, reprising his role in Phantom of the Opera.
“Rehearsals start for the Opera Australia production at Opera House in July. We are there till mid-October and then down to the Arts Centre in Melbourne. It’s been over two years since I’ve done [the role] it will be fresh as it’s a new production. After it was cancelled last year I’m just itching to get my teeth into it. Phantom [ is my favourite role] by a mile. I don’t think anything can top the heights of playing Phantom both musically and dramatically. He is the most interesting and the most challenging to front up and be eight times a week. It always feels fresh and very alive. And a little bit dangerous at times which is good too!”
So has this extraordinary performer done everything he wants to do? Or is there a dream project he is dying to take on?
“I feel like I’m getting into Jean Valjean territory now [Les Miserables]. I’d love to go back to London and make that happen. But I’ve also had a hunger to do stuff that hasn’t been written yet. I’d love to be a part of a project from the embryo stage.”
We’ve no doubt both these dreams will eventuate for this talented and astonishingly hard-working performer.
Interviewed by Tracey Korsten
Josh Piterman: Back Onstage with special guest Phillipa Lynas. Saturday May 21st 7.30 pm at Regal Theatre Kensington.
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Josh Piterman’s new EP is released on June 24th.