Interview with Louise Pitre, Leading Lady in the New Yorker Theatre production of I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change"
Imagine if you will this poignant dramatic singer, reveling in angst as Fantine (Les Miserables) and chanson torch singer Edith Piaf, is now taking trapeze lessons! It must have something to do with her new show I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change currently playing at the New Yorker Theatre. Nothing should surprise you about Louise Pitre who definitely can now 'fly through the air with the greatest of ease'.
"Oh. . . yeah, I'm scared of heights. The trapeze lessons came about because I work out all the time. I just bought rollerblades which I will try soon, because I am sick of Stairmaster and the usual gym stuff. It was a big thing to jump off that platform into mid-air, but I did it. I am competitive with myself. My trapeze instructors know I am a keener."
"I have learned a lot of scripts on Stairmaster. I need to work out because I love to eat. My favourite passions are cooking, playing piano and eating out. Gourmet Magazine is my life. One of the things I have always wanted to do was to open a little perfect restaurant, down south, maybe the Grenadine Islands. We would have delicious food."
Born of French Canadian parents in Smooth Rock Falls, Ontario, Louise and her family moved to Montreal when she was four. Back to Ontario in 1968, Louise went to French/English high school in Welland, and went on to study music at the University of Western Ontario. Loving to sing and play Carol King and Elton John tunes, her goal was to teach music to high school students. In her senior year at Western, just for fun, Louise Pitre auditioned for a show, a spoof of old Hollywood movies, full of skits and songs called Flicks. "After doing the Marlene Dietrich bit, I didn't look back. I never went to teacher's college." Pitre hasn't stopped steadily working in theatre since. "Yes, living in Canada has affected my career. There is no star system here like there is on Broadway. Things may have been different if I had moved to NYC. But I'm happier living here. I did audition for Sunset Boulevard in New York. I could be tempted to go to Broadway, but it would have to be for a big part."
"The role I most identified with was that of Edith Piaf. I understand her music really well, and where she came from. She sang about love and looking for love all of her life. I didn't get into the drugs and the many affairs like she did, but there is a wild side to me and I know how to let loose."
"My mother has had a great influence on my life, always wanting me to sing at least one song in my current show in French. I can see me now, telling the directorO" She laughs. "My mother always reminds me to stay the way I am, down to earth, and not to change. She's great."
Pitre is known best for her dramatic singing and characterizations of her roles. She brings out not just the obvious, but the layering of the character in such a way that you experience the whole persona. This must be difficult. "It comes from the person you are. I am very sensitive. Sometimes I come across being somewhat hard. I am aware of that." Discipline is an important part of her life, and it shows.
"Judy Garland is the person I would most like to meet. Can you imagine? We would have gone out together and had the best damn time -- imagine the duets! I wish I had been at her Carnegie Hall Concert. She is similar to Piaf n but probably the most selfless performer. You can hear it in that live recording. Every time I listen to it, I cry. She lived enough to be able to give."
"It's not just the notes I sing, I have to touch the audience. Its more difficult to be this way, it makes my life tougher, but at least I know you're alive. I hope the audience thinks I am at ease, direct, and that I mean what I am doing."
"People who imitate me tell me I am a little loud, I talk a lot. My laugh gets the most comments. All the cast had fun at the beginning of rehearsals of I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change trying to imitate my laugh. Friends who have come to see me in I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change were surprised I could be so funny. It is very different from the other roles I am known for."
"People who know me well say I either love something or I hate it, there's no in-between."
"A part of laughter is laughing until you cry. When you see great comedians, or clowns, there is always something tragic or sad about their humour. A real hearty laugh often turns to tears deep down."
"I have always surrounded myself with people who are deep. I get involved in people's lives."
"When I sing in French, there is a little extra something there, a little deeper part of me that comes out in the music. When you change languages, different flavours come out. Maybe I can be more angry or sadder in French, I'm not sure. You really have to be French to sing the songs of Piaf."
"Several years ago, I purchased a house with twelve acres of land and a marvelous view by Georgian Bay. I redecorated the house. But I put it up for sale. It was not enough to keep me there. Now I am back in Toronto."
"Acting is such hard work. It is a grind to get it to where you want it to be and to pull it out everytime. What is most important is the energy. There are days when you are tired or sad, it feels like you have a mountain in front of you. In the moment when the stage manager calls 'Places!' and you are ready to begin the show, all of that falls aside, the show starts and you are okay."
"For a performer, keeping self confidence intact is tough. Unfavourable reviews or rejections are hard to deal with. Sometimes I don't deal with it very well. If you believe you are good, you have to keep on believing in yourself."
"This lifestyle is fulfilling, there are not many things missing in my life. I have a wonderful family. Something I don't have is a steady person in my life. Pots of money would be great. I guess I am still looking for a really big, fat, juicy role that would shoot me to the top. I understand Andrew Lloyd Webber is doing a remake of A Star Is Born. That's me. I would love a new thing that can use all of what I do."
"We'll see what happens with the run of I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change if it makes 82 cities like Forever Plaid did, I'm ready." "I believe I am one of those lucky people who has found my true calling. In this career, when it's good, the highs are so much higher. In those moments I am exactly where I should be. When I got to that last song of Piaf's, "Je ne regret rein" (I regret nothing), I wanted it to go on forever."
-- By Andrea Hodges
Theatre News Canada