Louise Pitre talks Kristina in great new interview

Thanks to Jim S for the notification:

On Sept. 23 and 24 at Carnegie Hall U.S. audiences will be treated to a concert version of Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus’ international hit Kristina, which will include Helen Sjöholm — who starred in the musical’s Swedish production — in the title role with renowned tenor Russell Watson in the part of Karl Oskar.

The evenings, which will feature Tony winner Paul Gemignani conducting the 50-piece American Theatre Orchestra, will also boast Canadian actress Louise Pitre in the role of the prostitute Ulrika. The smoky-voiced Pitre, who will be making her Carnegie Hall debut, is best known to Broadway audiences for creating the role of Donna Sheridan in the New York production of Andersson and Ulvaeus’ long-running Mamma Mia!

Pitre, who also played the role of Donna in the Canadian production of Mamma Mia!, received a Tony nomination for her Broadway outing, and her plethora of Canadian stage credits also include Fantine in Les Misérables, Edith Piaf in Piaf and Annie Oakley in Annie Get Your Gun, among many others.

Earlier this week I had the pleasure of chatting with the three-time Dora Mavor Moore Award winner, who spoke about her roles in Kristina, which concerns Swedish immigrants coming to American in the mid-nineteenth century, and the upcoming Toronto premiere of The Toxic Avenger; that interview follows:

Question: How did you get involved with the Kristina concerts?

Louise Pitre: Well, I was on my way out the door here in my apartment in Toronto and I thought, "Oh I’ll just check e-mails quickly before I leave." And, there popped up Benny Andersson. I see his e-mail pop up, and the subject of the e-mail was "Work?" [Laughs.] And that’s how I got involved. He said, "Call me, I need to talk to you."

I called him at his country house in Sweden, and there we were talking about the project. He was going over to the piano playing me some of the songs she sings to make sure the keys were good. And I said, "You know, I actually have the recording of Kristina."

Back when we first rehearsed Mamma Mia! in Toronto in 2000, Benny had come to hear the sitzprobe, and he was so happy that he gave us all that triple-CD recording of Kristina. So I had it here, and whether it’s in Swedish or not doesn’t matter.

I could check the keys with that. So that’s what I did. I listened to it all and then called him back and said, "You bet! I’d love to do it." So it’s very exciting.

Question: You’re playing two roles in the concerts?

Pitre: I’m playing Ulrika, but I’m also doing some narration.

Question: Tell me about the character of Ulrika because I’m not that familiar with the story.

Pitre: You know what? I was not that familiar with the story, seeing as the whole pamphlet was in Swedish. [Laughs.] . . . Ulrika is one of the Swedish immigrants who comes to America. They are the first Swedish immigrants to come to America. She is the ex-town whore. How about that? [Laughs.] So she’s a bit rough and ready, and she and Kristina have a rather strong dislike for one another until later on in the story.

Question: What are the songs you get to perform?

Pitre: I get to sing a wonderful song off the top called "Never," where Ulrika states a bit of her story and what she is hoping will never happen for her daughter. She wants her daughter to have a better life than her. That’s basically what that song’s about; it’s a really nice song. Some of the music has a real Swedish folk tinge to it, which is really wonderful. A lot of it is very reminiscent of Chess. It’s that kind of a score, which is why it’s so fantastic because Chess is the best score ever!

Question: It is a great score.

Pitre: Oh, my God, yes. I sing a wonderful duet with Kristina, which is great, once we have stopped hating each other. It’s called "A Miracle of God," and that’s a beautiful sweet duet for the two women. And quite a few other things. I sing a song called "Lice." [Laughs.]

Question: Do you find Benny and Bjorn’s music is a good fit for your voice? Do you find that they happen to write well for your particular range?

Pitre: Yeah, absolutely. I know everybody thinks of me as Mamma Mia! and, to be honest with you, pop stuff is not what I sing as a rule. It’s so funny that everybody in New York knows me because of "Dancing Queen." It’s so odd because, as a rule, I sing much more stuff like Kristina. I’m at home with pop, but that’s not usually what I do onstage. It’s funny. This is certainly more along the lines of Chess, which is my kind of thing.

Question: What’s the rehearsal schedule like for the concerts?

Pitre: We start on the 11th, and the concerts are the 23rd and 24th. . . . It’s fast, but I said, "Send me the music right away," so I’ve been looking at it a lot. I just want to be totally familiar with it before I get there. I don’t think we’re all going to be off-book. It is a concert version, and it’s a huge piece. Nonetheless, as off-book as I can be — I figure you can sing better if you’re not looking at it. So I’m here in Toronto singing my guts out, learning this score as well as Toxic Avenger. Isn’t that ridiculous?!

Question: Have you ever played Carnegie Hall before?

Pitre: No.

Question: What does that mean to you to play that venue?

Pitre: That’s like, hello! That’s the mecca. Right under Broadway… and I’m not even sure if it’s not above, to be honest with you. I think my sort of flagship dream — I always think of "Judy Garland Live at Carnegie Hall." It’s the ultimate thing to me. So, yes, it means a lot to me to be performing there. And, frankly, to be able to sing this kind of music of Benny and Björn’s. The non-pop stuff is thrilling at Carnegie Hall and with Gemignani at the podium. I mean, holy jeez. This is fantastic!

Question: It doesn’t get much better than that.

Pitre: No, it doesn’t!

15 Replies to “Louise Pitre talks Kristina in great new interview”

  1. Maybe this should have a spoiler alert as it gives some plot details away! Glad to see Kristina getting a bit more coverage – but big surprise rehearsals only start on 11th. With so much riding on the sucess of these shows for future performances of Kristina it seems a short time to pull everything together even at concert level but I presume the Orchestra have been practicing for some time. After all the reports of the Chess sound being pretty bad in the Albert hall hopefully they will check that out as well. Anyone going to New York to see the shows must be pretty excited by now. Anyone heard if the shows are anywhere near being sell outs yet? –

  2. Thank you for finding and posting this Ice. As you and several others know, I adore Louise Pitre. This interview really shows what a wonderfully accessible performer she is. The interview feels like a conversation between friends and really shows what great personality she has.

    It’s very true to the interviews she gave around the time of her appearance in Mamma Mia! where she stated she was more familiar with Björn and Benny’s music through Chess than she was familiar with the ABBA songs.

    I’m thrilled for Louise because I sense she’s really excited about the opportunity to perform at Carnegie Hall, plus it’s B&B – music more suited to what she usually likes to perform, and it’s getting recorded with the intent of being released for sale. She was so wonderful in Mamma Mia! that I’m really sad there never was a proper cast album featuring Louise as Donna.

    Kristina is just going to be amazing with both Helen Sjöholm and Louise Pitre there.

  3. I’m getting more excited than I already was.
    This interview is wonderful, thanks Ice.
    Glad to hear that Ett Herens Underwerk still is in it. It’s such a beautiful song.

    And yes Ryan I agree with you there should have been a castalbum with her. She is one of my favourite Donna’s.

    See you in NY

  4. I received an email yesterday with a discount offer for dress circle and center balcony seats for both nights.

    The code is KRIS8550 and reduces the dress circle tickets from $65 to 50 and center balcony from $52 to $40. The code works on the Carnegie Hall website.

    It also mentions that prime locations are still available.

    I can forward the email if that’s easier for anyone.

  5. Well, according to his management, Russell is travelling to New York as I type.

    He’s singing on Friday at the 9/11 Memorial service at the English Garden in Hanover Square, New York in momory of the 67 British people who died and then onto the rehearsals.

    Only 13 sleeps to go!! Not that I’m counting you know!

  6. Stephen:

    I mentioned some weeks ago that "Kristina" was well under the radar. A check of the Broadwaytheater.com forums indicate the last post was on the 18th of August and it was a token reference to Lapitre.

    It should be known that tickets for Parquet seating NOT premier parquet seating are going for about $285 a pop. Those of us fortunate enough to be at Carnegie early or who got through to the box office likely possess tickets that now are inflated by close to 300%.

    The "tell"was that in the first few days of ticket out-of-town sales brokers were already pricing premier Parquet seats at about the same price similar seats were going for "Billy Elliot"–and this was AFTER "Billy Ellliot" swept the Tony’s.

    Unless a concert is to showcase a living legend like Elaine Stritch or Stevemn Sondheim, this kind of pricing is almost unprecedented.

    I’m not certain the show will sell out. Impassioned ABBA fans have their tickets already–most the best in the house, and by the time the marketing campaign kicks in the only seats left will require supplemental oxygen.

    Now, this is not the behemoth that Albert Hall is but since 1986 when it went it was renovated acoustically (and in a few other ways) to regain its
    100-year-old architectual and acoustical magnificence. Tchaikovsky, himself, in 1881, marvelled at the beauty of the natural sound.

    Time changes, of course, and to bring Carnegie into the 21st century where Bono would take the stage a night after Yo yo Ma, Carnegie’s benefactors brought in world-class acoustical engineers to meet the demands of each. It is unseen, but the hall is a technological masterpiece featuring the most sophisticated sound system the mega dollars of New York’s billionaire’s could buy.

    Check out this (the second movement from "The New World Symphony at Carnegie" and you ‘ll get an idea of the purity of the sound.

    ttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ENf4VEhI40&feature=related.

    Note well: Being there is infinitely more sublime.

    "Kristina" at Carnegie will make the angels weep.

  7. To say I’m beside myself at the moment is probably understating it. I’ll probably be a puddle the second the orchestra starts.

    If it proves to be as good as I hope, I’m definitely thinking of changing my plans to go home Thursday and stay for the second night, especially given the discounts. Sitting in the nosebleeds won’t matter as much since I’ll be in the first tier first night.

    Should we all get those little "hello" badges and write "icethesite" on them so we can find each other?

  8. I’ve made the decision to go both nights…great seat Wednesday, nosebleeds for Thursday that I’ll buy when I hit the city next Wednesday. This is too precious an opportunity to let pass by.

  9. I’m traveling from Illinois and my daughter is traveling from Arizona – both of us are big Kristina fans and would love to meet up with folks from the USA and other parts of the world. Just say when & where.

    We have tickets for the concert and a special cast reception Thursday night. The cast reception was arranged thru the American Swedish Institute in Minneapolis.

    We look forward to meeting & sharing with as many IceSite folks as possible. Exciting night ahead!!!!

  10. The best place in the city to have an unfettered good time with "show people" is Chez Josephine’s between 9th and 10th on 42nd street. Jean Claude is the patron saint of struggling artists and icons such as Jackie Kennedy dined there.

    The atmosphere is always jubilant. It’a about a 15-walk or a five-minute cab ride from Carnegie.

    Jean Claude is a living New York legend and he treats everyone like an uncle or aunt who has left him $25,000,000.

  11. Wish I’d known earlier, but nevertheless a bit out of my price range.

    I’m just really grateful to be going both nights….my tickets combined for both nights ($115/$50) are still less than one of the performance/reception ones.

Please leave a comment...