Spectacle and Saigon [by James Wenley, Musical Geek]
An interesting development over the past few years has been the welcome take-over of the mighty Civic Theatre by ‘amateur’ theatre societies (Harlequin Theatre – Cats, Auckland Music Theatre – Rent, 42nd Street), whilst the big budget overseas touring musical spectaculars have all but dried up… blame the economic times. Indeed, excepting the recent Andrew Lloyd Webber concert, Auckland hasn’t had any spectacle on their stages at all this year.
Until now. North Shore Music Theatre, have brashly and confidently crossed the bridge (we are all one super city now of course) to present Schönberg & Boublil’s grand Miss Saigon.
Inspired by Puccini’s Opera Madame Butterfly, the show opens on the eve of the Fall of Saigon in April 1976 and tells the story of the doomed love affair between American GI Chris and Vietnamese bar girl Kim.
It’s from the same composer/lyricist partnership that created the smash hit Les Miserables. Miss Saigon debuted at the West End and ran on Broadway for 10years from 1991-2001, and is the 10th longest running Broadway show.
While a massive success, it’s not held with as much universal affection as Les Mis, possibly because the Vietnam war backdrop was a little too close to home for some American public. The show is perhaps most famous for a spectacular set piece involving a deafeningly noisy helicopter landing on the embassy roof to evacuate the American troops.
Jarod Rawiri sizes up latest role [by Sharu Delilkan]
Jarod Rawiri has taken to the ‘ghetto lingo’ of Boston like a duck to water.
He plays Ogun Size, one of the three main characters in Silo Theatre’s latest production The Brothers Size.
Rawiri says he has really enjoyed creating the movement for the vocabulary, which he says “has almost become second nature to me.
“Having worked in Red Leap Theatre’s The Arrival has really helped me with this part of my role.”
Another interesting part of being involved in The Silo production has been discovering the West African myths that form the backbone of his character Ogun’s ethnic history.
Tongan Tale Tatalises [by Sharu Delilkan]
My Tongan vocabulary is limited to their greeting ‘Malo e Lelei’; so when I arrived at the Mangere Arts Centre to see Kingdom of Lote, I was both excited and nervous about reviewing the show.
‘What if I don’t understand a word they say?’ I thought to myself.
But the atmosphere (including the excellent traditional music) as we walked into the theatre to find our seats, was both inviting and uplifting.
It was great to see so many ‘brown faces’, to quote one of the people I talked to after the show.
And the thing that was most interesting was the audience’s varied ages, from newborns to ‘olds’ sitting in their seats waiting with bated breath for this historic occasion to unfold.
Cosmically connected comedy [by Sharu Delilkan]
It was a stormy evening in Auckland as we crossed the bridge to check out The Umbilical Brothers.
It has been three years since we last saw them so we were really excited that they were back at the NZ International Comedy Festival.
We were pleasantly surprised to see the Bruce Mason Centre almost two-thirds full on such a dreary evening.
To be honest if I wasn’t reviewing the show I probably would have curled up on the couch and stayed at home.
But luckily I had an obligation and I couldn’t be happier that I had gone to see the show.
The New Zealand Musical will never be the same again [by James Wenley]
As Steve Wrigley observes, musicals aren’t considered very manly in New Zealand culture. It takes balls (suitably tightened to hit the high notes) then to trade in his tried and true stand-up comic routines for a camp, highly theatrical stage show called ‘Kevin: The Musical’*.
Kevin: The Musical, we learn, was New Zealand’s greatest musical; it came out in the 80s and unfortunately went straight to VHS.
There’s a morbid opening. A Herald Theatre usher makes the announcement that the entire cast and orchestra of Kevin the Musical, including its star Steve Wrigley, have been killed in a tragic bus crash outside the theatre.
We aren’t to go home disappointed however – the said usher and Kevin, the Herald Theatre’s janitor, (who, gosh, now that I think about, looks an awful lot like Steve Wrigley, may he rest in peace) have been watching rehearsals, and take it upon themselves to recreate the musical as it would have been staged.
Be afraid, be very very afraid! [by Sharu Delilkan]
I have to admit that when the usher led me to my seat, right in front of the stage, I immediately asked to swap for a seat further behind because I was not ready to be the butt of the jokes that night.
I could just see the comedian for the night Terry Alderton ripping the shit out of me if he spied me with my pen and pad – sitting in the dark, two tables back seemed like a wise decision.
And sure enough the people who ended up occupying the very table offered to me, were the centre of attention for most of the evening.
Phew! That was a narrow escape.
Now seated comfortably with a candle to illuminate the pages of my notepad I was ready to take in whatever was dished out. Or so I thought.
I immediately loved Alderton’s zany, intelligent and innovative show. The use of a schizophrenic Gollum-esque alter ego (spoken with his back to the audience in devlish, high pitched tones) was an extremely original comedic device, I thought, when I had seen him at the Comedy Gala televised on TV3 a couple of weekends ago.
Two Queens, two kingdoms [by Sharu Delilkan]
With the recent revelry to mark the British Royals tying their nuptials I wasn’t surprised that The Maidment Theatre’s foyer was packed to the gunnels when we arrived.
But I soon realised it was because there were two sets of audiences in the house – those gearing up for the NZ International Comedy Festival show at The Musgrove Theatre and the rest who were anticipating the historic journey with Mary Stuart.
As we filed into the theatre we heard people whispering with excitement about the Outrageous Fortune’s stars – Elizabeth Hawthorne & Robyn Malcolm — about to grace the stage.
All the elements – the costume, direction, lighting, music and set – combine seamlessly to set the mood, the era and complement the actors on stage.
The story is replete with contrasts, freedom vs confinement, wanton living against regal duty, displacement and homeland, privilege and struggle, beauty and ugliness, …the list goes on.
John Parker’s set is both simple and impressive and has the versatility to represent the diverse situations of the two queens with ease. The choreography of the wrought iron partitions’ movement is royally executed while their see-through quality enables characters to lurk in the background as persuasive, jealous, ever on the minds and influencing the scheming decisions of the two queens.
Edward Peni on playing French, and the trials of making it as an Actor [by Sharu Delilkan]
It was all about being at the right place at the right time for Edward Peni.
He admits that he hadn’t considered auditioning for Auckland Theatre Company’s production of Mary Stuart until he bumped into Artistic Director Colin McColl.
“I had actually called the company to see if I could borrow some boxes for a production I was doing. While I was in the office Colin happened to walk by and asked me whether I would be interested in being part of their new production of Friedrich Schiller's Mary Stuart. Naturally I jumped at the chance,” he says.
Mary Stuart is the thrilling account of the extraordinary relationship between England's Elizabeth I and her cousin, Mary Queen of Scots, Elizabeth's rival to the throne.
Despite having done a number of smaller roles in the professional arena for the past seven years, Peni considers himself a very young actor. More so in the company of what he terms “luminaries of New Zealand theatre” – acting on the same stage with the likes of Stuart Devenie, Elizabeth Hawthorne, George Henare and Robyn Malcolm.
Andrew Lloyd Webber, do you think you’re what they say you are? [by James Wenley]
Love him or hate him, there is no denying the massive impact that Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber has had on Musical Theatre over the last 4 decades. After all, the ‘British Invasion’ of Broadway in the 80s was almost single handedly driven by the composer.
The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber is a celebration and retrospective of all of the musical wizard’s key works. What is perhaps surprising is how many of them aren’t as instantly recognisable as the hit tunes of Joseph, Cats, Evita, Jesus Christ Superstar and arguably his master work: The Phantom of the Opera. Indeed, it seems Lloyd Webber had been chasing the illusive mega-success of 1986’s Phantom ever since, his post-Phantom output never reaching the same heights. Tellingly, his recent Phantom sequel Love Never Dies (opening in Melbourne this month) was his most panned yet, though based on the album alone, I’d say that his musical powers haven’t died. Have audiences lost their love affair for Lloyd Webber?
The man whose tunes once swept the world now presides over a series of reality shows to find new West End stars, though he is still possibly one of the few composers who could get away with adding *new* songs into a new production of the timeless Wizard of Oz which opened in London this year.
Judging by the opening night response to The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber, Auckland audiences love affair with his musicals is very much undimmed.
Clear eye for the straight guy [by Sharu Delilkan]
It’s not often that North Shore residents get the opportunity to see a play that offers an eccentric and a somewhat exaggerated reflection of themselves.
But being a Shoresider himself playwright Andy Saker provides the perfect perspective that at times makes the audience cringe due to the harsh reality of the situations he’s created in his skilfully scripted play Gavin Puts Things Straight.
The sequel to Pear Shaped, the play is centred around a typical North Shore family living what appears like a simple existence on the ‘sunny’ side of the bridge. They are handyman Gavin (Pete Coates), his mum Noelene (Louise Wallace), who's shacked up with young ‘stud’ Duane (Allan Roberts), his dad Keith (David Mackie), younger brother James (Daniel Bonner) and grandad (Michael Murphy).
The play is very much in keeping with the spirit of Pear Shaped. Domestic situations of the living room, workplace and an old people’s home provide familiar settings to the mostly North Shore audience.
Comic references to Milford, Takapuna, South Africans (loud arrogant and with no dress sense) also lend the play a local flavour – rare in Auckland theatre.