If there is one thing Toni Lamond is never short of, it’s a good showbiz story. Which is a good thing considering her latest show, The Times Of My Life, is a time-travel adventure through the past seven decades of her career, back to when she began performing as a singer at the age of three.
Opening at the Ensemble Theatre on 3 January, The Times Of My Life explores her journey through songs and her own unique tales. Co-written and directed by her son, Priscilla: The Musical star Tony Sheldon, Lamond says they have condensed her life into a show that’s two hours long. To do anything more would have been a bit self-indulgent, she quips.
We also know how to edit, and we had to -“ there is a lot of ground to cover. I have written two books about my life, so this is not the first time I have relived these things, but it is the first time I have revisited the dark days on stage.
At first I was not sure if I could go through all that stuff again, but Tony helped me work out a way to approach the material.
And it’s not crappy stuff, she insists. It’s been quite a life. I have been so lucky, so I have a lot to talk about, and it is interesting.
Lamond, born to vaudeville performer parents and sister of Helen Reddy, broke theatrical ground in The Pajama Game as the first Australian to play a lead role in a big-budget musical, and then became the first woman in the world to host a night-time TV show as a replacement for Graham Kennedy on In Melbourne Tonight.
As her star continued to climb on TV and on stage in shows like Oliver! and Gypsy, there were troubles behind the scenes with her marriage to TV producer Frank Sheldon, who later killed himself, as well as her own battles with prescription drugs and suicide attempts.
She eventually left Australia, appearing in the US in such shows as Mame and Annie, as well as on TV in The Love Boat and Murder, She Wrote.
Since returning home she has been as busy as ever on stage, and admits one of the constants of her career has been her gay audience.
Actually, they found me at the very beginning of my career and never left me -“ and this was before I discovered my own son was gay, she says. I think it also helped that I played the iconic roles of stage ladies, so it all came together very naturally.
Working in theatre and TV, most of my friends were gay anyway, and those friends are also the same friends who stood by me when I suffered through the bad times. Gay men know what that is about, and were there for me.
The Times Of My Life opens 3 January at the Ensemble Theatre. Bookings on 9929 0644 or www.ensemble.com.au.