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Mum's the word as Moulin Rouge star feels love from the audience


Taking on the role of Satine alternate in the production of Moulin Rouge! The Musical is the culmination of three generations of performance for Patrice Tipoki and her extended family.

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The powerhouse working mum of four and Sunshine Coast resident has performed in Les Miserables in Australia, Dubai, Singapore and London, as well as The Lion King, Beauty and the Beast, Wicked and The King and I.

She has travelled Australia with this production of Moulin Rouge! The Musical, which is about to transform QPAC’s Lyric Theatre into a Parisian nightclub, with a handcrafted windmill centre stage that took 20 people more than two months to create.

Tipoki is looking forward to being closer to home during the Brisbane season, and also looking out into the audience on her performance nights to see the family and friends who supported her to make it to the top echelon of Australian musical theatre.

“I grew up touring with my family because they were all entertainers. So I’ve actually seen how it can work and experienced that life as a child. We do school by distance ed for the kids and we make it work for us and our livelihood,” Tipoki said.

“We love Queensland and the Sunshine Coast, but there isn’t an industry like they have on Broadway where they have the facilities to accommodate for 2000 people every night coming to see shows.

“So we find ourselves having to travel, which we make work and we enjoy, and then we always love to come home too.

“I always make sure I can have my family with me. My husband will normally commute for work back on the Sunny Coast actually. And my kids will always be with me.”

Emerging from the red velvet drapery to embody the role of Satine alternate has captured Tipoki’s imagination.

“Moulin Rouge I think has a very special place in a lot of our hearts, especially here in Australia because it was a Baz Luhrmann creation,” she said.

“I remember when it came out in the cinemas, I was a student and went to see Moulin Rouge at the movies and just loved that musicals were back, and it was making it accessible to all the general public with the well known songs in there that we hadn’t really had a Jukebox box musical since really the Days of Gershwin.

“It’s so special for us Australians, and so then to be able to be a part of this, his creation brought to the stage and performed in a theatre, we are able to share that experience with people live has been quite phenomenal.

“There are definite points of difference. The score, people will notice that there are some extra songs in there, quite a few actually, which make it relevant and funny and amazing.

“I find the character Satine is quite a bit grittier in the stage production that we do than Nicole Kidman’s character was written. And so that really gives us a lot to play with as actors.”

Tipoki’s parents were performers for the Queensland Arts Council, and she was on the road with them until high school when they settled at the Sunshine Coast. It’s a long established tradition in her family, with her children already putting on performances backstage.

“They will actually be the fourth generation of performers because my grandparents were entertainers as well. Robbie and Pat Larkins, they were big on the club circuit in Sydney. Back before we all moved to Queensland, or way before I was born.

“And actually my sister-in-law’s in this show as well, she’s our co-dance captain and swing. And so people will see we have the same last name in the program. Because she married my brother and we’re all in it together. So it’s fun having cousins along for the ride on tour.

“It’s very much a family affair. I actually have a brother and sister who were involved with Hamilton.

“I just can’t wait to get home. My actual first professional musical was the King and I, which was in the Lyric Theatre in Brissie. And so it really is like coming home for me to be able to come back to that stage and that theatre and our beautiful city there. I really can’t wait to get back and share this experience with everybody.”

Tipoki shares the role of Satine with Alina Chidzey, with one confirmed show a week, as well as covering for unforeseen circumstances.

“It’s been a lot of fun. She is the sparkling diamond, and so there’s a lot of hype around what she has to perform in the show, but then there’s also obviously the character journey and the love story and the camaraderie that she has with her fellow, her friends and colleagues that work within the club of the Moulin Rouge,” she said.

“An alternate normally has at least one confirmed show a week, which I have, and that’s on a Tuesday night. It’s affectionately become known as to Tipoki Tuesday.”

Moulin Rouge! The Musical has taken a level of detail that few touring musical productions go to. The “Moulin Rouge!” sign on stage is a genuine neon sign in one large piece, weighing 370 kilograms, that will take 15 people to unpack when it arrives at QPAC.

It will take 30 semi-trailers to move the show from its last season in Perth to Brisbane, including all the costume, wigs, set, musical instruments and props such as the 200 speakers spread throughout the set, including within the lamps on the exclusive Can Can tables.

Audiences are invited to arrive early for an immersive experience, where they will be asked to put away their phones as performers appear on-stage adding to the feel of a Parisian nightclub by mixing and mingling with patrons.

Moulin Rouge! The Musical Brisbane performances start from May 16 at the QPAC Lyric Theatre, with a strictly limited season until mid July.

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