Peta Toppano (born Peita Margaret Toppano on 8 April 1951) is an English-born Australian actress, singer and dancer who found success in Australian television. She is best known for her roles in popular television series such as The Young Doctors, Prisoner, and Home and Away and Heartbreak High as well as glamour series Return to Eden in which she played a "superbitch".
Toppano was born in Finsbury Park, London, England, and grew up in Cammeray, New South Wales, Australia. The daughter of classical musician and renowned accordionist Enzo Toppano and actress, violinist, lyricist and dancer Peggy Mortimer, she was an eldest child, having a younger brother Lorenzo, and a youngest brother Dean. She trained at the Ensemble Theatre under the guidance of American stage actor Hayes Gordon. As a teenager, Toppano won a scholarship to study ballet in the South of France, but an injury prevented progression in that field.
Peta is one of Australia's leading television, film and theatre actresses. Highlights of her television career include Piccolo Mondo for SBS (nominated for an AFI award) Prisoner, Prisoner Cell Block H, Paper Man, All the Rivers Run, Fields of Fire (for which she was nominated for a Logie award for best actress) and Return to Eden as well as appearances in A Country Practice, G.P., E Street and Flying Doctors.
Feature films include Seeing Red, Harbour Beat, Echoes of Paradise, Which Way Home ( with Cybill Shepherd) and Street Hero for which she was nominated for an AFI award.
Peta's stage appearances include her acclaimed performance in One Small Step , a one-woman show for the Theatre Company of Western Australia and also Away for the STC of WA. Blood Moon for Theatre West and the role of Ruth in Louis Nowra's Cosi for Black Swan Theatre Company.
Previous theatre appearances include the lead in Love and Magic in Mammas Kitchen at the Belvoir Theatre, Sydney and Danny and the Deep Blue Sea (for which she was nominated for a Sydney theatre Critics Award). She has also starred in productions of They're Playing Our Song, Godspell, Nine, A Chorus Line, and as Fantine in the Australian tour of Les Misérables.
Screen appearances include the telemovie Feds, Stella in Heartbreak High on the 10 Network and Bordertown for the ABC. Toppano won the acclaimed role of Diana Morales in A Chorus Line for two years in both Sydney and Melbourne productions, during the late 1970s. She was still active on the stage 15 years later, playing Fantine in Les Misérables for the Cameron Mackintosh organization in Melbourne, Perth and Brisbane.
In 1987 Toppano was nominated for a Logie Award for her performance as Gina Agostini in Palm Beach Pictures/Zenith UK.
During 1989 and 1990, she played the part of Kate in the ABC mini-series The Paper Man starring opposite Oliver Tobias, John Bach and Rebecca Gilling her co-star from Return To Eden. Paper Man was filmed both in Australia and England.
Later, Toppano starred opposite John Waters and Cybill Shepherd in the 1990 Turner made-for-television-movie Which Way Home, filmed in Thailand and New Zealand.
Other film roles include: Harbour Beat for Palm Beach Pictures, Echoes of Paradise directed by Phillip Noyce and starring opposite Wendy Hughes and John Lone. Toppano was nominated for an AFI Award for her work in Street Hero directed by Michael Pattinson starring opposite Vince Colosimo, later appearing with Alex Dimitriades in Ben Gannon's Heartbreak High.
Aside from Prisoner she is also best remembered from her roles in Return to Eden in which she played "superbitch" Jilly Stewart and subsequently Home and Away as Helen Poulos.
Toppano's stage credits include Claudia in the hit musical 'Nine', Eliza Doolittle opposite the late Stuart Wagstaff in My Fair Lady, and Monica in I Love My Wife with Tony Sheldon. She played Roberta in Danny and the Deep Blue Sea with Barry Quin, Leonarda in Love and Magic in Mama's Kitchen at Belvoir St Theatre.
Residing in Perth for 4 years she appeared in various productions. Michael Gow's Away as Coral and later as Gwen in the same play. For Black Swan Theatre Company she played Ruth in Louis Nowra's Cosi and then Heather Nimmo's play One Small Step to great critical acclaim. Returning to Sydney, Toppano played Beth in Merrily We Roll Along for the Sydney Theatre Company. She also appeared in Elegance at the Tilbury at Woolloomooloo written by friends Tony Taylor and Tony Sheldon.
Toppano sometimes hosted events for her Prisoner/ Cell Block H fans, such as a 2010 event at the Old Joint Stock Theatre in Birmingham, England.
Toppano resides in the Blue Mountains in Sydney, Australia.
- 1968 – Homicide – Marika Lucas – 7 Network/Crawford Productions
- 1970 – Bobby Limb's Sounds of the Seventies – Various – NLT Productions
- 1975 – Class of '75 – Gina Ferrari – The Grundy Organisation
- 1976 – Rush – Drusilla – Australian Broadcasting Corp./Portman Productions
- 1976 – King's Men – Policewoman – Grundy Television Productions
- 1976/77 – The Young Doctors – Dr. Gail Henderson – Grundy Television Productions
- 1977 – The Outsiders – Sally Gower – Australian Broadcasting Corporation
- 1978 – Skyways – Sister Theresa – Crawford Productions
- 1978/79 – Prisoner (Karen Travers) – Sustaining Role – Grundy Television Productions
- 1979/80 – Water under the Bridge – Uke – Shotton Productions
- 1981 – Sara Dane (Alison Barwell) – Major Role – S.A.F.C.
- 1981 – Bellamy – Meredith – Grundy Television Productions
- 1981/82 – M.P.S.I.B. (Lisa Hesse) – Lead – ABC TV
- 1982 – Parkinson – (Tribute to Cy Coleman) – Channel 10
- 1985 – Return to Eden (Jilly Stewart) – Leading Role – McElroy & McElroy
- 1987 – The Flying Doctors – Carol Brett – Crawford Productions/Nine Network Australia
- 1987 – Fields of Fire II (Gina) – Leading Role – Palm Beach Pictures/Zenith UK
- 1988 – Fields of Fire III (Gina) – Leading Role – Palm Beach Pictures/Zenith UK
- 1988 – E Street – Miki Fallon – Westside Film & Television
- 1989 – G.P. (Anna Carelli) – 10 Episode Mini Series – ABC/RCC
- 1989 – All the Rivers Run II – Eunice Pike – Crawford PDS. Director: John Power
- 1989/90 – Paper Man (Kate Cromwell) – Mini Series – ABC/RCC/GRANADA UK
- 1990 – Which Way Home (Annie) – With Cybill Shepherd – McElroy/Turner TV
- 1990 – Harbour Beat – Mrs. De Santos – AFFC/Palm Beach Pictures/Zenith Entertainment
- 1991 – Piccolo Mondo – Lena – Generation Films
- 1991 – A Country Practice (Colleen Nicholls) – 4 Episodes – JNP Films P/L
- 1994 – Heartbreak High (Stella Ioannou) – 20 Episodes – Gannon Television PTY Ltd
- 1995 – Bordertown (Diomira) – TV Mini Series – 10 Episodes – ABC TV. Director: Ian Gilmour
- 1998 – Never Tell Me Never (M.C.) – TV Movie – Golden Square Pictures/Palm Beach Pictures., Director: David Elfick
- 2000 – Above the Law (Mrs. Giovanelli) – TV Series – Columbia Tri Star TV PTY Ltd/McElroy Television
- 2002 – 3–4 Ever – Unnamed Character – Fandango/Vertigo Productions
- 2000/09 – Home and Away – Helen Poulos – 7 Network
- 1984 – Street Hero – AFI Nomination, Best Supporting Actress – Paul Dainty Production. Director: Michael Pattinson
- 1986 – Echoes of Paradise – Judy – Great Scott Productions. Director: Phillip Noyce
- 1991 – Seeing Red – Vivian – Goosey Ltd. Virginia Rouse
- 1993 – The Feds (Brandy) – TV Movie – Director: George Ogilvie
- 1972 – Godspell – Ken Brodziak Productions
- 1976 – Spats at the Speakeasy – Theatre Restaurant – Speakeasy PTY with Bruce Barry
- 1977 – A Chorus Line (14 months) – Diana Morales – Edgley International & JC Williamsons
- 1980 – My Fair Lady – Eliza Doolittle – Delicado Prods Tour
- 1982 – I Love My Wife – Monica – JC Williamsons
- 1983 – They're Playing Our Song (Sonia) – Throughout UK
- 1986 – Are You Lonesome Tonight (Priscilla) – Her Majesty's Sydney
- 1987 – Danny & the Deep Blue Sea (Roberta) – Globe Theatre Co. Sydney – (Nominated Best Actress – Sydney Theatre Critics)
- 1988 – Nine – 88 Tour (Claudia) – Adelaide, Brisbane, Sydney – Nove Productions
- 1990/91 – Les Misérables (Fantine) – Cameron Mackintosh – (May 1990 – March 1991)
- 1990 – Love Letters with Andrew McFarlane – Victoria Arts Centre – Directed by George Fairfax
- 1991 – Love Letters with Shane Porteous – TN Complex – Brisbane
- 1991 – Love and Magic in Mamma's Kitchen (Lead) – Belvoir St. Theatre
- 1996 – Merrily We Roll Along (Beth) – Sydney Theatre Company
- 1989 – Lux 100%
In 1990, Toppano earned a Logie nomination as Best Actress in a tele-movie or mini-series, for her portrayal of Gina Augostini in Fields of Fire III, produced by David Elfick in 1989.
Other award nominations have included an AFI nomination for Best Supporting Actress for the feature film Street Hero, and for playing Uke in Sumner Locke Elliot's Australian saga Water under the Bridge. Toppano was also nominated for a Sydney Theatre Critics Award for her role as Roberta in John Patrick Shanley’s Danny and the Deep Blue Sea.