REVIEW: The Choice (Rotorua Blue Baths)

Review by Sharu Delilkan and Tim Booth

Road-trip to Rotorua!

[NZ’s Got Talent]

Road-trip to Rotorua!
Road-trip to Rotorua!

The show’s tagline ’50 characters, 5 actors’ doesn’t even begin to describe the sheer magnitude of skill, talent and hilarity that the ‘TV talent show’ The Choice dishes out for us.

Wickedly written, slickly performed and cleverly directed to parody the current talent show phenomenon that dominates our airwaves, The Choice is undoubtedly the funniest show I’ve seen for a long, long time.  In fact I can’t remember the last time we laughed so much until we wept.  And yes they were definitely tears of joy watching the brilliant cast on stage at The Choice at the Blue Baths in Rotorua.

Despite a personal dislike for the actual talent shows currently being aired, the concept of the entire show resonated with me in so many ways.  Playwrights Darlene Mohekey and Jess Sayer’s writing is truly inspired, showcasing a plethora of very well observed types of contestants, based cleverly on the quirky characters that these competitions tend to inevitably attract.

What could have been a straight up ‘variety show’ was instead a very meticulously put together production, which included a series of vignettes incorporating the contestants’ back-stories, thanks to Mohekey and Sayer’s astute and insightful writing.  This was very effectively achieved utilising the established format of video clips to introduce contestants as a prelude to each live performance.

Suitably sleazy emcee Randy Johnson (Aaron Ward) was the glue that held the entire show together with his cheesy one-liners, that often resulted in groans from the audience.  He epitomised the typical self-absorbed emcee, with cringe-worthiness delivered in spades.  His side-kick aka stage manager played by Liam Dixon was a great foil for Johnson’s wayward character, providing yet another layer of amusement throughout the show.

At times it was difficult to believe that there were only 5 core cast members — Jason Chasland, Tainui Kuru, Darlene Mohekey, Bronwyn Turei and Rutene Spooner — that represent the varied 17 contestants being showcased.  The collective skill, enthusiasm and wit displayed by the talented bunch on stage demonstrated sheer versatility and professionalism, making it an inspiration and joy to watch.  Director Jennifer Ward-Lealand’s detailed attention to character development, as well her uncanny ability to curate the show with nicely timed crescendos and de-crescendos, helped take us as audience members on an entertaining, as well as emotional journey, due to its subtle and intelligent execution.

Sera Devcich’s elaborate costumes were not only a visual feast but where a great vehicle to showcase head seamstress Julie Mohekey’s talent (Darlene’s mother, who proves that the apple definitely doesn’t fall far from the tree).  The phenomenal costumes were complemented by fabulous make-up and styling (not credited in the programme), giving each character his or her unique look, totally transforming the actors each time they took centre stage.

Renowned choreographer Taiaroa Royal’s intricate movement palette is an added bonus that provided the show’s shine and lustre, making The Choice a force to be reckoned with.

Highlights for the melting pot of showbiz hopefuls included Elise Bentley’s (Bronwyn) defiantly joyful and beautiful performance, Fiona Thompson’s (Darlene) ‘faultless’ diva-disastrous medley, the young ambitious contestant, Bunny Foo Foo (Jason), with the over zealous competition mum and the ‘totally original’ boy band West Street Direction Zone (ensemble cast), nailing all their moves and attitudes.  It is hard to single out one performer because every person and persona on stage was fantastically flawless.  And this included their vibrantly vivacious voices that provided the pitch-perfect backdrop to this spectacular spectacle.

I have to admit that there were absolutely no weak links in the chain, which is making this sound like a fan letter.  However in truth, a majority of the sentiments (and adjectives) above are verbatim quotes from earwigging on the audiences conversations after show.

The Choice is a winning combination of pithiness and pace and brilliant fun, and this was written all over the audience’s faces leaving The Blue Baths tonight.

Choice.

The Choice plays at The Blue Baths, Queens Drive, Rotorua until 26 February. More details see The Blue Baths

SEE ALSO: Theatreview.org.nz review by Jill Harrington and Kaye Graham

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