• Miranda Tapsell will co-host Australia's Biggest Singalong on Saturday. (Supplied)Source: Supplied
The beloved actor will host the country's "biggest singalong" on Saturday, in a return to pre-pandemic tradition.
Dan Butler

2 Jun 2021 - 2:51 PM  UPDATED 6 Jul 2021 - 11:12 AM

Miranda Tapsell is belting Archie Roach classics down the phone line at me.

"'Down city streets, I would roam! '... I love that song!"

We're discussing our favourite tunes to sing en masse, and Tapsell is asking her brains trust for good suggestions.

"Help me out here mum, what's another good one? What about a love song, Archie does beautiful love songs!"

She's excited, and with good reason. In just a couple of days, she'll have a band, multiple choirs and a live crowd singing some Australian classics right in front of her.

Along with Julia Zemiro, Tapsell will co-host "Australia's Biggest Singalong", to be broadcast live on SBS from Sydney's Town Hall this Saturday. The crowd, as well as viewers at home, will be taught how to sing the Hunters and Collectors anthem Throw your arms around me.

"The show is about bringing everyone together again," enthuses Tapsell.

"I don't know about you, but I missed live shows. I remember my first time returning to theatre, I found it really emotional because I had forgotten how special it was to share that experience with the other people in the room.

"That experience is so magic."

Will Tapsell be loosening up the vocal chords and joining in the fun?

"Oh, look, if someone twisted my arm, I wouldn't say no," she laughs.

The irony in her voice is obvious, and stories of her childhood confirm that, when it comes to singing in public, Tapsell has more of a rubber arm than most.

"The spirit of the show is throwing off some of that shame, and just giving it a crack... I think the reason why I developed my voice is I just sang all the songs that I loved, that I grew up with."

A proud Larrakia and Tiwi woman, Tapsell was born in Darwin before the family relocated to Jabiru in Kakadu National Park when she was five. A flair for showmanship developed early. 

"I was constantly performing in the loungeroom, I remember for my pop's birthday I did this full choreography to 'Friend Like Me' (from Disney’s Aladdin).

"I taught myself all the steps, I learnt all the lyrics, and sung my heart out, and that was the constant thing that was happening in my house."

Tapsell took her talents to Sydney at 18, was accepted to the country's premiere dramatic institution (NIDA), and has since gone on the become one of the most recognisable stars in Australia, appearing in classics like 'The Sapphires' and 'Top End Wedding'.

"Darwin is the place I return to when I feel I need to rest, and recuperate and reset."

She now lives in Melbourne, where she spent one of the world's longest and strictest lockdowns with her husband of three years James Colley.

Being away from her family and her land for that time was a struggle. 

"I draw so much strength and certainty from being on Country, and being with my community.

"Darwin is the place I return to when I feel I need to rest, and recuperate and reset. It's one of those places that once I put my feet in the sand I know I just feel like everything's set in place. So I had to find that in Melbourne."

Here again, memories of music in the home were a tonic. Tapsell streamed First Nations Radio (still known by its old name Radio Larrakia) to remind her of Darwin. 

"Because my mum would play Radio Larrakia whenever I went back up home, while she was making breakfast. So I would play that in the car and (while I would) cook her recipes, to find those bits of home comfort."

It's the concept at the heart of Singalong, of connecting through music. Also appearing on the night will be Gamilaraay artist Mitch Tambo, singing an acoustic version of You're The Voice in language; the Gondwana Indigenous Children’s Choir will join live from Cairns with a performance of Birinyi; and of course, the main event, Throw your arms around me.

After nearly 18 months of varying physical restrictions, the subtext of the choice of song is clear, and as Melbourne suffers through its fourth COVID lockdown, it takes on even more poignancy. 

"I think it’s so lovely... It's about connection, and there's also something powerful about a man having sung it originally, because it's a song about being vulnerable as well.

"I think it's the perfect song for the moment. It has one of those beautiful melodies that becomes an earworm, you can't help but sing along."

Does she think there'll be the potential for some tears on the night?

"It’s also OK to cry, you know what I mean? It’s healthy, and it's OK to acknowledge when you are sad. If you're at home with your family (on Saturday) and the music invites something, then I think it's about accepting that feeling."

Singalong hopes to inspire a sense of community, of coming together in a way once so normal. Tapsell is encouraging everyone to get involved on the night. 

"Absolutely, I think this is a show for everyone. This is a show for mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, and everyone in between." 

Very recently, Tapsell announced she'd be falling into two of those categories: not only a daughter, but soon to be a mother as well.

For the next few months at least, her impromptu home performances and radio singalongs will have a captive family audience again.

Australia’s Biggest Singalong! is Now Streaming on SBS On Demand

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