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A fairy tale Christmas: Isaac Theatre Royal


Grab your godmother and touch up your tiara – Cinderella is coming to town! Magical transformations, heaps of hilarity, sparkling song and spectacular scenery is set to fill the stage of the Isaac Theatre Royal for nine shows this festive season.

 

From December 15 to 20, the fairy godmother of all pantomimes, Cinderella, will deliver a new imagination of the enchanting rags-to-riches fairy tale – a timely gift for those who’ve missed out on live theatrical entertainment for much of the year.

GMG Productions, the team behind hit international productions of Disney’s The Lion King, CATS, Singin’ in the Rain and more, is assembling New Zealand’s top talent to stage this timeless tale.

New Zealand theatre royalty and star of the Hobbit trilogy, Mark Hadlow (The Hobbit series, Meet the Feebles) will play The Baron, father to Cinderella and her supercilious step-sisters.

Channelling their inner mean girl, Broadway and West End favourite Hayden Tee (Les Misérables, Matilda), will pair up with The Voice Australia finalist Caleb Jago Ward (We Will Rock You, Jesus Christ Superstar, The 10 Tenors) as the wickedly nasty Step Sisters.

TV personality and well known What Now? host Erin Wells is preparing to slide into her glass slippers and dazzle audiences as Cinderella. After a public search, her Prince Charming has been announced as London-based Kiwi performer, J. R. Ballantyne.

Musical direction will be under the baton of innovative maestro Andy Manning, while the cast will be under the spell of director and ingenious improviser Gregory Cooper whose writing and directing credits include That Bloody Woman, MAMIL and Rumpelstiltskin.

The Isaac Theatre Royal is working harder than Cinders herself to make sure the theatre is spick and span for audiences expected to fill the auditorium.

“After the year we’ve had, it will be wonderful to see so many smiling faces in the theatre experiencing pantomime on our stage for the first time,” says Bob Mangan, Isaac Theatre Royal CEO.

Buy tickets online.

isaactheatreroyal.co.nz/

 


 

Parenting Unfiltered


Book a babysitter, because a hilarious, unfiltered and acclaimed play about raising children is coming to town.

 

 

Based on the hugely popular book of the same name by blogger Emily Writes, Rants in the Dark is running at The Court Theatre this September.

The show takes aim at the pressures on modern mothers to be “Instagram perfect”, highlighting the challenges of parenting in a refreshingly honest and eloquent way.

Writes, a mum of two, is the editor of The Spinoff Parents and has written for New Zealand’s biggest media outlets, edits her own website and has written two bestselling books.

She rose to popularity overnight when she penned her first blog post, ‘F*** off, I’m grateful’, during a late-night baby-induced wakeup.

The next morning, she had nearly a million hits and more than 15,000 emails praising her honest and hilarious “rant”.

The Court Theatre’s Artistic Director Dan Pengelly says the play’s hilarity appeals to everyone.

“If you are a parent, or have ever had a parent, this play is for you. It shines a light on the often unspoken but universal experiences of parenting and takes audiences on that emotional journey.”

Adapted for the stage by writer and performer Mel Dodge, award-winning director Lyndee-Jane Rutherford and Good Times Company producer Bevin Linkhorn, Rants in the Dark stars well known Kiwi actors Renee Lyons (Funny Girls, 800 Words), Bronwyn Turei (Go Girls, Shortland Street – The Musical) and Amelia Reid-Meredith (Shortland Street).

Rants in the Dark runs at The Court Theatre from 29 August – 12 September 2020.


 

The musical of all musicals!


Showbiz Christchurch is set to raise the curtain on its first show for 2020, a stunning new production of the stage show described as the “musical of all musicals” My Fair Lady.

 

Kira Josephson as Eliza Doolittle. Photography: Danielle Colvin

Based on George Bernard Shaw’s play Pygmalion, My Fair Lady is that rare musical by which all others are measured.

Pompous linguistics professor Henry Higgins wagers he can transform Eliza Doolittle (played originally by Julie Andrews and Audrey Hepburn), a street-smart girl from the East End gutters, into a proper Edwardian society lady.

But as audiences get to meet the feisty, independent and entrepreneurial Eliza, the question becomes ‘who is really undergoing the transformation here?’

My Fair Lady is set in 1912, and as Marketing Manager Wendy Riley explains, it was a time of massive social and class upheaval in England.

“There was the first national coal mining strike that year, followed by strikes from the dockworkers and tailors. Scabs were taking work from families already impoverished by the strikes, while many of the upper and lower classes, keen to get away from it all, boarded the Titanic for her maiden voyage to New York.”

It was also a time of change for women.

The Suffragettes were throwing themselves before carriages and chaining themselves to railings, determined to cast off the shackles of post-Victorianism and its attitude towards women.

When thinking of a young woman such as Eliza Doolittle trying to forge a life for herself in those somewhat turbulent times, it’s easy to understand why she was determined to have her own flower shop and thereby move out of lower-class squalor.

It also explains why Eliza’s story has been retold so many times in films like Pretty Woman, Educating Rita, Weird Science, Mannequin, She’s All That, and even crossing into Science Fiction in the 2014 film Ex Machina. Eliza’s story is timeless.

Christchurch-based, international performer Kira Josephson (Wicked, Les Misérables) has always dreamed of playing Eliza, a show she knew as a child growing up in Laguna Beach, California.

Kira feels the show has strong relevance to today’s young people because of its emphasis on class distinctions and education.

Higgins gives Eliza the tools to improve herself and her situation.

Eliza uses education to find herself. “It’s really a story about carving your own way – not being judged, not being taken at face value, but figuring out the tools for you to get people to understand who you are. The show isn’t about Eliza changing – she’s the same person – but what’s beautiful about it is that, by the end, it’s Higgins we see change, but it’s too little, too late.”

Working with musical director Richard Marrett has been a brilliant experience for Kira.

“His ear is incredible – not like anybody else’s. The score is amazing – it’s lush and wonderful. They just don’t write harmonies like that anymore. We have a huge ensemble and, already, everyone sounds just fabulous.”

Roy Snow as Henry Higgins.

 

Directed by Stephen Robertson, the principal cast of My Fair Lady features Roy Snow (Shortland Street, Outrageous Fortune, Go Girls) as Henry Higgins, Peter Hind as Colonel Pickering, and James Foster and Ian Lester as Freddy Eynsford-Hill and Alfred Doolittle respectively.

Newly appointed General Manager of Showbiz Christchurch, Paul Christ, says it is an honour to revive a show of such notable and critical success.

“My Fair Lady has stood the test of time. Its original productions broke all previous sales records and set the standard by which future musicals are modelled.”

Catch My Fair Lady from 3 to 18 April at the Isaac Theatre Royal.
To find out how to go in the draw for a sumptuous high tea for two at Crowne Plaza Christchurch and tickets for My Fair Lady, turn to page 58.


 

Amazing Grace


It was always in his mind to cast an actress as young as possible in the role of Juliet because Shakespeare’s Juliet, of Romeo and Juliet, was a 13-year-old girl. Derek Doddington, Founder and Director of Top Dog Theatre, stands firmly by his ground-breaking decision. “With casting such a young cast, I’ll either fall on my sword or it will be the biggest triumph,” Derek says, with an irrepressible twinkle in his eye.

 


** Metropol has two double passes to give away. To enter, head to our Facebook page and follow the instructions. Competition will be drawn on Tuesday 11 February.**

 

Thirteen-year-old Grace Opie, who plays Juliet in Top Dog’s Summer Shakespeare Festival, confesses she’s a bit obsessed with Shakespeare and has loved Romeo and Juliet “for ages”.

Grace studied the play last year at her school, Ao Tawhiti Unlimited Discovery and feels she has come into the show with a pretty good understanding of the story.

“But speaking the lines is very different to reading them and studying the context of the play.”

Grace says the portraying of Romeo and Juliet as the Bard of Avon intended them to be, makes the show feel a lot more realistic, as many of the decisions they make are impulsive and don’t end well.

“It also explains how they fell in love almost immediately and how strong their emotions became that eventually led them to making decisions without much thought.”

Grace has attended Original Scripts Theatre School since the age of six and says she has had great experiences there and with other theatre companies.

Summer Shakespeare is her first experience of outdoor theatre and it’s been a positive one.

“I’ve really enjoyed rehearsing outside at Mona Vale. I’ve loved the process and people, seeing everything come together and working with such an experienced team as Top Dog. Everyone has been really nice and supportive.”

Grace says she loves to perform and would like to explore as many different genres as she can in the future. “But definitely more Shakespeare!”

Romeo is played by 17-year-old Rhys Murdoch and Mercutio by 18-year-old Felix Elliott, completing the teen cast of lead roles that Derek had long envisioned.

“I’ve seen performances where the actress playing Juliet’s obviously too old – I recall one where they gave her a doll to make her look 13!”

Derek has switched the gender of a few characters in the play in order to keep a good balance of male and female actors on stage – hence there’s now a Mother Superior and Benvolia instead of Friar Laurence and Benvolio.

The original music score is composed by Harry Lawrence, and the wardrobe department is under the expert hands of Caitlin Maclennan and Polly Mortimer.

“There’s rich comedy, beautiful live music, singing and dancing, and our costume people have done a brilliant job,” Derek says, “Romeo and Juliet is the ultimate love story. Pack a picnic, bring your deck-chairs, sit back and just enjoy being part of it all.”

Romeo and Juliet is showing from Wednesday 12 February to Saturday 22 February at The Mound Lawn, Mona Vale, 6pm nightly and 2pm Saturday matinees.

For tickets, visit www.topdogtheatre.com (gate sales available).


 

Thrilling theatrical magic


It’s a fantastical lead up to Christmas as the curtain rises on The Court Theatre’s spectacular summer season of The Wind in the Willows, which was last performed there in 1995.

 

Director Ross Gumbley says audiences can expect thrilling theatrical magic, whether they’ve seen the show before or not.

“Our approach is not to try and recreate something from the past, but how we can best tell this story now and really keep the core of The Wind in the Willows,” explains Gumbley of the exciting new concept.

“Our idea is that the animals in the story have found this old abandoned theatre and they’re putting on the play!”

Costume Designer Stephen Robertson describes it as a period piece with a twist. “From a costume point of view, it’s really big.

There’s probably going to be 150 costumes – and each costume has about six to nine pieces!”

Audiences will love the onstage antics of 22 stars, costumed as rabbits, squirrels and other woodland creatures getting up to all kinds of theatrical mayhem.

The main cast includes Cameron Rhodes as Toad; Eilish Moran as Mole; Gregory Cooper as Ratty; Tom Trevella as Badger and Andrew Todd as Albert.

“It’s wonderful for families, but it’s not purely a kid’s show,” Robertson says, “The Wind in the Willows is one of those timeless pieces like Mary Poppins – it’ll always be with us.”

The Wind in the Willows is playing at The Court Theatre from 23 November.

For bookings phone 0800 333 100 or visit www.courttheatre.org.nz.