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All about Pandora

Todd Robson March 1, 2008 Arts No Comments on All about Pandora

UPDATE JAN. 31, 2011

Pandora Topp in appearing in the Magnus Theatre production and world premiere of this new musical work by world renowned playwright, novelist, and composer Tomson Highway. The (Post) Mistress recounts the adventures of a small-town postmistress who divines the contents of sealed letters that pass through her hands.  After having worked at the same post office for many years the postmistress has come to know the emotional lives of her clients.  Through song (the letters), she shares with us details and episodes of their lives.The preview performance of THE (POST) MISTRESS is Thursday, Jan. 27, with the Gala Opening on Friday, Jan. 28. The play runs until Feb. 12.

From the Spring 2008 edition
Pandora Topp is putting the finishing touches on the playlist for the evening’s show at Sudbury’s S.R.O. It’s New Year’s Eve, and it is the debut of the singer’s newest band, the Giselles.

The trendy downtown bar is packed with revellers, the lights go on, and the seven-piece band rocks the crowd through the night.

When I spoke to Topp a few weeks later, she was feeling over-the-top, not because of the enormous cappuccino she was courting, but because she had just found out she’d be joining Michael Bublé on stage as a back-up singer when his tour made a stop in Sudbury.

The busy mother of two was excited but humble about this unexpected gig, a major achievement and honour for any performer and another notable milestone for this rising artist.

For two decades, Topp has been working in show business. A gifted actress and singer, she is fully bilingual, and comes armed with a marketing and business background, giving her the added advantage of being able to promote and sell her many different brands. She has a bachelor of arts (in French) from Laurentian University.

Topp has performed with several bands including The Usuals, and the Co-operative, and she has appeared in numerous Theatre Cambrian productions. She is best known locally for her roles as the lead singer in the Rex Holmes and the Cheetahs, and for her pitch-perfect performances of songs made famous by Édith Piaf.

Topp’s latest role with the Giselles is taking her down a different path.

“Rex Holmes has always been a fun role,” explains Topp. “We have such a blast performing and really making a point of getting the crowd into every event we play. There is no stopping, just singing, dancing and a party atmosphere for the entire performance.”

The Giselles on the other hand, offer audiences a more expressive performance. There is no lead singer and the focus is on the entire band that covers tunes from the 1960s to current pop and dance songs.

She’s hopeful Sudbury audiences will be as accepting to the Giselles as they are to Rex Holmes and the Cheetahs (musicians John Newlands, Kevin Closs, Sean Perras, Pat Therrien and Chris Peplinski.)

The Rex Holmes’ show set the bar high, and Topp attributes its ongoing success to its pace.
“Audiences at parties or events don’t like down time,” said Topp. “The party doesn’t stop and neither should the music. It is just a little trick we noticed, and it has really paid some serious dividends.”

Topp knows she is lucky to make a living as a working artist. She is constantly playing corporate events, even more-so than on the entertainment circuit.

“We treat our corporate clients and audiences the exact same,” explained Topp. “We guarantee something new every time and the highest level of entertainment and, to be honest, we haven’t let anyone down to date.”

Sean Perras has worked with Topp for more than a dozen years. As a musician and technical director, Perras is a key contributor to most of her live performances. Her ability to find new a new approach keeps her performances fresh and appealing, he said.

“She is always coming up with a concept or angle that will prove attractive to people. Her endurance and creative presentation keeps audiences and clients coming back, and each time there’s something just a little bit different. Simply put, Pandora and her act just don’t get old.”

And the results obviously speak for themselves, between the Giselles and the Cheetahs, this local singer and performer is booked solid.

Giselles members are band leader and Topp’s brother-in-law Benoît Clément on trumpet and vocals; Paul Lefebvre, a lawyer who plays alto sax, Robin Desmeules on tenor sax; Michael Macarthur, tenor sax alternate; Musicworks co-owner Kevin Whyte on drums; Scott Aultman on bass; and Patrick Rhéal Therrien on guitar, keyboard and vocals.

The role Topp enjoys playing the most is that of  legendary French singer, Édith Piaf. It is a role that has taken her across the country. Performing in front of live audiences, Café Piaf is described as a contemporary interpretation of the famous chanteuse. Topp brilliantly takes the audience deep into the human experience of this tortured woman.Considered as one of the greatest French singer in history, Piaf died in 1963 when she was only 47.

Topp and musicians Iona Reed-Pukara, Ron Kelly and Brian Quebec performed Café Piaf most recently on Valentine’s Day at the Caruso Club. The show was produced by GDM Group, which is headed by Topp’s husband Yves Doyon.

(Topp until recently could not read music. She is currently studying piano with Reed-Pukara, another of the city’s top talents.)

“From early childhood, we could see Pandora was industrious, a natural performer and entrepreneur,” said Heather Topp, an established visual artist and Pandora’s mother.

“Her father (Robert) is an accountant, and with a mother as an artist, I guess she was able to learn enough from both of us on how to succeed in this industry. As well, it’s definitely her positive attitude and perseverance that makes her who she is, someone whom the audiences warm up to.”

So whether she is fronting one of Northern Ontario’s most popular bands, travelling the country to bring fans a glimpse of the life of Édith Piaf, or taking the stage with internationally acclaimed singer, Michael Bublé, Topp is the ultimate example of a modern working artist.

Diversified, dedicated and talented, she truly is at the top of her game.

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