Louise Pitre, BMus’79, DMus’06, Canada’s first lady of musical theatre, has owned stages across North America and Europe. From the lights of Broadway and Paris to the halls of Carnegie and the Royal Albert, her performances have won praise from critics and audiences alike. And she took her first bow at Western.
In 1979, during Louise Pitre’s final year at Western, one audition changed her plan of becoming a music teacher.
She auditioned and then landed a role in a musical revue that she and fellow student actors performed at Talbot Theatre (now Paul Davenport Theatre). That was the first foray into an on-stage career for Pitre, who’s now considered Canada’s first lady of musical theatre.
“[This opportunity at Western] changed my life forever. It gave me my passion and allowed me to see the dream – and then go get it,” says Pitre, BMus’79, DMus’06.
The change of plan from classroom teaching to on-stage performing brought its own set of concerns. “I worried about what my parents would say,” she says. “My mother was disappointed because she knew what I was heading into and that it was not steady work.
“But my parents never held it against me and supported me never-the-less and for that I'm forever grateful.”
Since then, Pitre has performed on numerous theatrical stages, including playing Fantine in the Toronto production of Les Misérables. On opening night, her parents sat in third row centre to take in their daughter’s performance.
“I took my bow directly at them,” she says. “That was such a big moment for me, to look at them and say, ‘Look, they’re liking me. I’m doing OK. It’s going to be fine.’”
Described as a fabulous singer, talented comic and dramatic actress, Pitre has won acclaim for her work in theatre, television and concert stages in New York, London, Toronto, Paris and Montreal. She has been honoured with a National Broadway Touring Award, a New York Theatre World Award, a San Francisco Theatre Critics’ Award and four Dora Mavor Moore awards (all for best performance by a leading actress in a musical).
In 2002, Pitre earned a Tony Award nomination for her Broadway debut in the smash hit Mamma Mia! She has also portrayed French singer Edith Piaf in three productions of Piaf, as well as roles in numerous theatrical and musical shows.
With all her success, Pitre credits Western with providing her more than a degree.
“Western gave me lifelong friends, a small group of very good friends who I met the first week I came to Western,” she says. “[They] are in different walks of life which I also love, and they have been huge supporters of my work over the years.”
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