When we pursue our dreams, we tend to make that move in our lives all for love. Someone who has done that for love and music is Josh Piterman, a well-established Australian musical theatre performer and classical crossover artist. In this episode, he joins host, Tara Joseph, to share with us his story—from starting his career and making his mark as Tony in the 2010 Australian production of West Side Story to now, where he is playing the lead role of The Phantom in The Phantom of the Opera on London’s West End. Josh also tells us about how he is coping with the current COVID-19 pandemic and how he is keeping himself well vocally and physically. Plus, he talks about his other experiences performing in front of Prince Charles, working with Steve Anderson, and more.
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Moving For Love And Musical Theater From Australia To The UK
With Special Guest, Josh Piterman
Our guest is a real treat. There is no joke when I say this, but he literally brightens up my every day. He’s so talented with a heart of gold. Let’s welcome to the show, the magnificent tenor and musical theater star, the fabulous, Josh Piterman. Josh, how are you?
I’m well. That was the best intro I’ve ever had in my life.
It’s all true, people.
You’re so sweet. Thank you. It’s lovely to be on the show and thank you for having me and including me.
I’ve been looking forward to this. What I like to ask everyone first is, where are you and how are you?
I am in South London and I am good. The sun is shining which is obviously novel for London at the best of times. Although we’re in the midst of this pandemic, when the sun shines in London, it’s a simple thing that brings you a bit of joy.
I’m pleased to hear that. You’re absolutely right. When the sun shines, it does lift everyone’s spirits, doesn’t it?
You’ve been in London which you spent lots of your life in. You know that any day that’s sunny is some gift or when it gets above 25 Celsius, it’s the apocalypse.
When it’s sunny, you feel like you need to be doing something. In the old days here, when it’s not sunny, I don’t mean to sound spoiled but, “Thank God, I can stay, vegetate, and I do not have to do anything.” Do you know what I mean?
That’s when your Londoner spirit comes back.When the sun shines in London, it's a simple thing that brings you a bit of joy. Click To Tweet
Everyone can hear that you’re not a Brit because you’ve got a wonderful Australian accent. Tell us about your journey from Australia to UK. Why did that all happen and when did that happen?
That happened in July 2019. I’m from Melbourne, Australia. I spent the best part of my life there other than when I’ve been touring with various shows and whatever. I do have a little stint doing a UK Tour of Hairspray in 2013, which is a short stint. Generally, I’ve lived my life in Melbourne until I came here. It’s twofold. I came here on a European holiday at the backend of 2018 after I finished doing Beautiful: The Carole King Musical in Australia. I fell in love with it and then I met this woman called Charlotte Black, who’s a singer-songwriter. We had a few fabulous days at stage together and started Facetiming when I got back and we worked. It came to a point relentlessly over a couple of months where it’s like, “You need to come to Australia.”
She came and then when she came over, I had this wonderful gig singing Nessun Dorma at the Sydney Opera House. It had been my dream for a very long time to audition for The Phantom of the Opera on the West End. In this beautiful sequence of events, the tape of me singing that landed into the hands of the casting directors at The Phantom and they invited me over for an audition, which was great because I only had ten days away from Charlotte when she had to go back to the UK. We did this thing of back and forth in Australia to London. Every time I came to London for a few months period, I got to see her and audition and re-audition for Phantom. It so happened that I landed the role. We got to move in together, live together, and I got to do my dream role. It was this beautiful sequence of events that has somewhat ended well. Half of the dream has ended since COVID happened. We’re still living together.
You’ve played this incredible role on the West End and you’ve played other incredible roles before you landed the role of The Phantom, but what did it feel like when you first stepped on to the stage to play that iconic role?
It’s funny. I’ve been asked this a few times.
It must’ve been overwhelming, wasn’t it?
It wasn’t. It was just whelming. It was one of those things where I’ve wanted this for my whole career. Part of the reason why I got into musical theater in the first place was The Phantom of the Opera and then Les Mis when I was about seventeen. I watched highlights from both on a Cameron Mackintosh DVD and I was like, “This is what I want to do with my life.” I remember so distinctly that opening night, September the 9th, 2019, obviously, there are some nervous moments through an opening night but when I got to my bows, I saw my family would come over from Australia and some of my UK families were all standing up. It was like the plane had landed. That’s how I felt. My own journey, I didn’t feel in cloud nine and I felt down to earth and I’m like, “I’m here.” That was more wonderful than any opening night experience I’ve ever had for that reason that it wasn’t ethereal. It was very grounded.
Your parents must’ve been so proud of you.
There’s a Yiddish word, nachas is the only word I can describe it. It was great. I’m thrilled that they came. I had to coax them into coming because they’d already booked to come to the UK in June and July 2020 so they were going to see the show then. I had to coax them to come for an opening night as well. Thank God because they got to see it at this time otherwise. They were super proud. They saw it twice in the first week.
The fact that you and Lotte were able to be together. Often later on in the conversation, I get into the fact of why For Love and Music is called For Love and Music. It’s because I moved to LA for love and for music. You have a similar story so you’re a perfect guest for this show. You perfectly cover both bases.
Except I moved from a great weather to the hideousness.
You’ve got a lot of history. Beautiful architecture now and you’ve got the Royal family.
I got to meet Prince Charles, so that was good.
Tell us about that. How exciting.
It connects back to Australia. People remember the hideous bush fires in late 2019, early 2020. In mid-March 2020 before lockdown, there was an event at the Mayor of London’s mansion for raising money for the bush fires. There was a lot of London elites there and the guest of honor was Prince Charles. I got to sing The Prayer and Music of the Night to Prince Charles and then sitting on a table with him. He said, “It was marvelous.” He was so lovely, sweet, generous with his time and so inquisitive. He’s curious about my life. I want to know about his life but he wants to know about Lotte and my life.
I’ve always thought that he comes across as a special human being. He’s done such a great job and he’s sometimes was given a bit of a hard time, but he’s so lovely. That must have been a special moment for you.
You’ve seen The Crown, haven’t you?
Do you know that episode with Charles?Sometimes, there are people that you meet and click with. Click To Tweet
It’s the third season where it’s a whole episode around Charles.
Where he can’t be with Camilla or he’s sent to Gordonstoun?
He was sent to a university in Wales.
That one where he was sent to learn Welsh.
It’s not identical to how things went. He’s had a rough time in the public and the media. Honestly, he’s so lovely and his values for the things I connect with. He’s so strong on climate change, gay marriage, and all sorts of things that I too am very strong on. He has such a deep love for Australia. I feel like what’s not to love about that guy and then meeting him. They say don’t meet your heroes, but he was one that was like, “It’s definitely worth it for me.”
You’re very lucky and I’m sure that memory will last with you forever and ever.
That happened before COVID and then we all went into crazy lockdown and life changed somewhat. How’s your lockdown experience been? The West End is shut. What have you been up to?
The West End shut is sappy, awful, and terrible. I miss live theater, not just as a singer-actor but as a patron too. I missed that being an outlet of somebody to go do, what that art form, what plays and musicals offer me personally, the escapism, the inspiration just watching great art and great people deliver great art. Society misses that too. It’s tragic what happened with the arts, the live performance space during COVID globally. I miss performing for a crowd. I’ve done a lot of online stuff. We worked together to come up with a great concept, which was the Self-Isolation Instagram Live World Tour. That was super cool. A little 15 to 20-minute shows traveling to countries that I love, Italy, France, Spain, States. I went back home to Australia. Where else did I go? Scotland, Ireland, England. I went to Paris and France so those were global thirteen dates. It was an extensive tour.
What I loved in particular is that every time you move city, Lotte had found you another Airbnb that looked so alike the one before.
It was a running gag. It was a dad joke. Why does it look alike? We’ve come back to London and it looks identical to the one that we’re in now.
A little bit of secret information for those of you reading who aren’t aware, but I’m fortunate enough to be Josh’s manager, which is why I’m already privy to a lot of this information that we’re now sharing with the world. I thought I’d explain that in case you wonder how I know certain things.
The best manager going around. We had words about that to the effect. You don’t even manage Lotte and we both love you. Every time I get off the phone from you, she goes, “She’s amazing.” That was a fun thing to do. It was a time when people needed it. It was when the first wave of the pandemic hit the States, Australia, UK, and close mates were suffering because of the immediate close down in the arts. It was great to lift people’s spirits and everyone got on board. Everyone who I asked to join it, bar like one person, said, “Yes, I want to be a part of this.” It was lots of fun. I did a few other little things for charity and whatnot. All of this via Instagram, Zoom, or something to that effect. What else happened, Tara?
You’ve got some very exciting things going on that we can’t tell everyone about now but that doesn’t mean that we can’t talk about the fact that you were in the studio working with a fabulous producer called Steve Anderson. You weren’t in a studio, you’re doing it remotely, but tell us about your experience of working with Steve, having never met him, and creating amazing music for your top-secret project that the world will know soon.
Sometimes, there are people that you meet and click with. I feel like you’re one of those people. We met via Skype online for 30 minutes or so. The next minute, you’re in London. Your mom and yourself came to see Phantom and we connected immediately backstage. It evolved from there. I feel like Steve is similar. Having never met him, I feel such a strong connection to him. Steve is a genius. He’s worked with lots of great artists like Kylie and Westlife, to name a couple of megastars. I feel privileged that he’s working with me. I feel like our brains work very similar musically in the style of classical crossover. We want to achieve a similar thing and have a similar way of getting there.
How have you’ve been doing it then if you’ve been in your house and he’s been in his? How’s the creative process been working?
We discussed what the arrangement is going to sound like. We go back and forth on that so that’s more his side of the work. Once we get to a point where we think it’s worth putting vocals down, he sends a final mix of that across, and then I’m in my home studio. It’s Lotte’s home studio. She’s the singer-songwriter. She’s got all the setup. I’ve learned to use it all, logic and all of that stuff. I do my parts and then I send it back to him and he goes, “How about we re-record this bit and this bit?” I take it back and I do some re-recording and we go back and forth.
Once I’ve recorded something, something in the arrangement needs to be changed, but basically, we go back and forth until we find a product that we like. We then send it across to you and you determine whether it’s worth sending across to the powers that be. That’s how it went for these four tracks we spent 4 or 5 weeks on. It was a very unique way of coming up with products. Being in the studio is one of my favorite things in the world. Given the fact that that wasn’t possible, it was cool because I’ve never done any of that tech side of it before. It’s a great skill to have up one’s sleeve as a singer to learn all of that. I’m very grateful for how it all worked. The next step will be to get in the studio so I’ll still get that.In the musical arts business, you never stop learning and perfecting your craft. Click To Tweet
How do you find the process of recording? What do you have to do to look after your voice, whether you’re recording with Steve, so to speak, or you’re going on to the stage in the West End? What do you do to preserve and nurture your vocal cords?
I’m a big advocate of athleticism. That’s how Celine Dion describes it herself as a vocal athlete. I’m not likening myself to Celine Dion, but what playing a role like The Phantom requires when you’re doing it eight times a week or getting into the studio day-after-day is it’s a form of athleticism. There’s a time of the day I’m not going to eat before I go to bed because I’ll get some reflux.
Are there certain things you don’t eat to look after your vocal cords?
Generally, if I have a lot of sugar, that doesn’t serve me well. I try and keep off that as much as possible. Also, alcohol and stuff but I’m not a drinker so that has never concerned me. Being physical and active. Some fitness training, yoga, and stuff is something I always do. Some mind training. I’m a big advocate for meditation. I have been for a long time, and then having a very structured vocal warm-up. Knowing exactly what I’m doing, getting my voices agile and a spree, and going through my entire range and warming it up so that it’s ready to go. Practicing any bits of what I’m about to record that is a little bit tricky or challenging so that when I go to record it, that is in my brain and body. Making sure I have continued to have lessons and see my coach Amanda Culver in Melbourne. There are a lot of components to it. That’s why I say it’s an athlete. Athletes still have a coach. The athlete is dedicated and detailed in how they get from A to B. You can’t luck a great recording, or luck a show in Phantom or luck doing it eight times a week. It requires a lot of diligence and hard work.
In this business and the majority of businesses, you never stop learning and perfecting your craft.
That’s the exciting thing that you can end the game as much as you want but the journey is more exciting than the result always because that’s where you learn all this stuff. All the excitement and great experiences come from there. They’re all inside the journey. I never want to stop learning. Pavarotti said that he never stopped having singing lessons almost to the day he died. If it’s good enough for the Pavs, it’s good enough for all of us.
You mentioned Celine Dion earlier. We were talking about the David Foster documentary. I thought it was such a lovely moment when David asked Josh Groban, who was an unknown seventeen-year-old or whatever, to replace Bocelli who couldn’t fly in and Celine took him under her wing, so to speak, and was adorable to him. That launched his global career.
I’ve heard that recording and he sung The Prayer beautifully. He’s got a beautiful voice. This would have been 2003 or something, maybe a bit earlier like in 2000. Anyway, she would have My Heart Will Go On by then. She’s a global megastar and here you are as a seventeen-year-old, never having done the big break and this superstar is holding your hand and saying, whether with words, spirit, and physicality, “You’re with me. Everything is going to be okay.”
I loved her for that.
She is lovable. I saw her in Brisbane. I fell in love with her onstage. I fell in love with her more on stage than I ever had in any recording setting that I’ve experienced with her or any video clip. There was something about her on stage that she is very real, honest, and lovable. She’s the most magnificent singer ever, but something about her is magnificent.
Leading on from you mentioning Australia again, how do you find the entertainment business there compared to being in the UK? How do you find it different?
This might be a brutal thing to say, but I feel like for what I love to do, my opportunities there are limited and my opportunities here are limitless. That’s probably it. The Phantom is a great example. It lives here and has lived here since ‘86. The Phantom hasn’t been in Australia since 2007, 2008, and 2009.
You are so good in that. Honestly, he’s so amazing. I’m sure a lot of you reading will have seen him in it, but for those of you who didn’t have the opportunity, and I’m sure you will, again, at some point, Josh was so good in that role. You blew my mind.
It is the best role I’ve ever got to do. Something about it sits with me at all the levels as a vocalist and actor but beyond that, in my heart and my spirit, it all radiates very heavily with me. I love doing it. That show was great. Doing it in Australia, how would I do it? It’s not on. At my age, I’m in my prime to give a role like that a crack but when that show isn’t on, how do I give it a crack? That’s how I feel. As a crossover singer, it’s not as loved as a concept there. We don’t have it as a strong part about musical environment there whereas in the UK, Europe, and the States, this is a very normal part of the musical landscape. It’s not that we don’t have it in Australia, it’s not as lived and loved.
How has your family been doing whilst all of these pandemics been going on?
It was fine in Australia. The numbers were nothing like what they’re being in the UK, States, and various other parts of the world, and you’ve seen that. It’s been cool and then suddenly Melbourne got hit with all these cases. They’ve gone back to lockdown and that’s been awful. Both my family and friends, they’re struggling with it emotionally. That’s going to be the biggest thing with this pandemic and for however long it goes on for. We’ve learned and we’ll learn how to cope financially and economically. There are systems in place, hopefully, to get us through it at a humanitarian level. As a personal level between you, your family, friends, and into a community, how are you all coping between your ears is huge. That’s going to be the biggest thing for people. The mental health pandemic that is a part of this pandemic is massive. It’s a time where we need to be gracious and care for one another, check-in with our friends, have conversations about how you’re feeling, share that stuff and hug each other even though we can’t hug each other.
Leading on from that, tell us about these fabulous Masterclasses that you’ve been running.
If there’s one thing about the pandemic that’s been awesome, it’s this for me. I’ve been running Musical Theater Masterclasses, vocal and acting workshops for people who want to pursue a career in musical theater generally. The one I’m running at the moment, they go for three weeks. Each week is about 3.5 hours. We go through audition technique and performance life coaching, the skills that you need to obtain in order to get through the ups and downs of this career. I work with everyone each week solo on their songs and we worked through techniques to make that song better. What is so cool getting to it is I’ve got someone from the States, Malaysia, Australia, South Africa, and UK. I’ve got the Arctic. Every continent is covered.
This is something that wouldn’t happen without Zoom. I’d never heard of Zoom until COVID hit. This is cool. People are willing to give up ridiculous night times and ridiculous morning times to make this happen and be a part of it. It’s been rewarding. The students are awesome. There’s some talent out there that the world needs to see. Some of the people in this course literally blow my mind and vocally, some of these are insane. I have to challenge them and challenge myself to get more out of them because they’re already coming in such a high standard. They’re young like twenty and off tap good. I could barely sing even half of what they’re doing at that age. It’s freakish what young performers can do now.You've got to look at the silver linings, or else, you dig yourself in a hole that's hard to get out. Click To Tweet
It’s exciting when you find a young talent like that.
It’s so inspiring and such a great reminder of why one got into it. They’re so free and so willing.
I love that you’re doing this because of all the experience that you’ve had. I love that you’re able to do something where you’re sharing what you’ve experienced and giving something back. At the same time, you must be absorbing so much and clearly loving every second. Had COVID not happened, things would be operating in a slightly different way.
There are so many silver linings. The Phantom is not happening but these recordings and Masterclass that I saw 2 or 3 things straight up that I would never have done if it wasn’t for this. You’ve got to look at the silver linings or else you dig yourself in a hole that’s hard to get out. You know that shit.
What does the future hold for you? What would you like in five years’ time? Where would Josh Piterman like to be?
I’m not one to settle for the top of the tin shed. My dream is to play sell-out concerts around the world. Broadway is somewhere I’d like to be. New York is a very special place for me. Let’s call it a sell-out concert in Carnegie Hall. There we go. We’ve got to dream big.
That’s a great way to end this conversation. Think big and things will happen. Think and dream big, right?
Yes, dare to fail.
It’s been an absolute joy to speak to you. Thank you so much. If you guys are reading this, if you have any questions for Josh, you can send them through ForLoveAndMusic.com/podcast. What’s your website address, Josh?
Thank you again for being a fabulous guest and thank you for all our wonderful audience. You will be hearing from me and For Love And Music again very soon. Stay safe and healthy. Bye for now.
- Josh Piterman
- @JoshPiterman – Instagram
About Josh Piterman
Josh is a well established Australian musical theatre performer and classical crossover artist who has worked prolifically since he graduated from Federation University with a Bachelor of Arts (Music Theatre) in 2006. Josh kicked off his career performing with the International pop-opera group The Ten Tenors and he then made his mark as Tony in the 2010 Australian production of West Side Story.
His other musical theatre credits include Bustopher Jones/Gus/Growltiger in the 2016 season of Cats, a role that won him the Green Room Award for Best Supporting Actor in A Musical; Edward in Willy Russell’s Blood Brothers; Corny Collins in the UK tour of Hairspray; The Caliph in Kismet; Giuseppe in The Light in the Piazza; Jamie in The Last Five Years and most recently Gerry Goffin in the Australian tour of Beautiful: The Carole King Musical. In 2018 his debut self titled album went to number 1 on both the Aria and ITunes Charts (Classical Crossover) in Australia. Most recently, Josh was seen playing the lead role of The Phantom, in The Phantom of the Opera on London’s West End.