Get ready for the show of the summer as international hit Jersey Boys makes its Canterbury debut!
Running at The Court Theatre from November 21, Jersey Boys is the Tony-Award winning smash musical that tells the rags-to-riches story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, offering one hell of a night out at the theatre.
“We are extremely lucky to be able to bring this production to Christchurch audiences,” says director Stephen Robertson.
“It’s going to be spectacular.”
From humble beginnings on the streets of New Jersey, Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons became one of the biggest bands in the world – but almost lost it all.
Jersey Boys chronicals the band’s story with wit and punch, set against a sensational musical playbook.
Including musical hits Sherry and Can’t Take My Eyes Off You, the actor playing Frankie Valli has a huge challenge to take on, emulating his infamously high falsetto voice.
Luckily, The Court have been able to secure international star Kristian Lavercombe!
Holding the world-record for the most performances in The Rocky Horror Show, Kristian is thrilled to be back home in Aotearoa for Jersey Boys.
“I love musicals that show a grittier side of life and Frankie Valli’s story is an absolute rollercoaster,” says Kristian.
“It’s a true story that’s told warts and all. Combine that with some of the most iconic music of the 20th century and it’s a win-win situation!”
Running from November 21, book now at the Court Theatre’s website.
Twenty-five years ago, Pasifika play Fresh Off the Boat debuted before New Zealand audiences; now, a new generation can experience this ground-breaking play at The Court Theatre from 19 October to 9 November.
The story follows Charles as he emigrates from Samoa to 1990s Christchurch for a new life in Aotearoa, but he soon finds the fantasy weaved for him comes with a few holes.
Directed by original cast member Tanya Muagututi’a, her two daughters, Talia-Rae and Josephine Mavaega, take on the same roles that Tanya and her sister, Mishelle Muagututi’a, played in the original production!
“It’s special because I’m working with my daughters – and they’re playing the sisters that I played with Mishelle 25 years ago! Who knew that was ever going to happen? When I was in the production, I wasn’t even thinking about children… it’s amazing,” Muagututi’a says.
Completing this family affair is Tanya’s husband, Posenai Mavaega, creating sound design, with her brother-in-law, Tony De Goldi, designing the set.
Written by Oscar Kightley (bro’Town; Sione’s Wedding) and Simon Small, the play’s 1993 roaring success saw it tour New Zealand, followed by Australia and Samoa, with Muagututi’a playing the role of Ula from 1993 – 1995.
The cast also features Sela Faletolu-Fasi, Jake Arona, Roy Snow and Albany Peseta, all of whom performed in the rehearsed reading last year at The Court Theatre as part of New Zealand Theatre Month celebrations.
Following its success, the Artistic team at The Court decided to revive the play for a full season. “Fresh Off the Boat is, historically, an incredibly important Pasifika play,” Artistic Director Ross Gumbley says. “It still works brilliantly and is perhaps even more poignant now than when it was written – as was shown when it was the star piece of writing in our 2018 Indelible Ink season.”
Described as hilarious but also sobering, this Pasifika play tells a story that culturally challenges us as Kiwis, yet is universal; it’s a story about family, culture shock and looking out for each other. With throwbacks to the ‘90s aplenty, audiences will love the comedy but can also expect to be taken on quite an affecting journey.
Roy Snow is about to take to the stage as Mervyn, the palagi boyfriend of Elizabeth in The Court Theatre’s milestone Pasifika play Fresh off the Boat which is showing at The Court Theatre until 9 November. We caught up with Roy about the role and what we can look forward to.
You’ll always be Shortland Street’s Nurse Matt McAllister to me! But you’ve done a huge number of shows and films since – including Go Girls, Much Ado About Nothing and Outrageous Fortune! What attracted you to acting?
Many, many things, all impossible to quantify. That’s what we call, in the business, evading the question. But it’s not that far off the mark. Lots of little things make what I do incredible; playing, pretending, the hum of an audience, amazing creative people, camaraderie and the joy of doing something I’m super passionate about. I’ve stood in the dark wings in that moment before a show kicks off and thought, ‘Wow, not bad Snow, not bad’. All these things are probably a result of, rather than an initial attraction, so I’m going to say, ‘I loved to pretend’.
Can you tell us about your latest, Fresh off the Boat, and what you’ve enjoyed about this play?
Now this is a play! Ground-breaking when it premiered in the ‘90s, it exploded across New Zealand, the Pacific and then the world. What a journey it must have been for Pacific Underground and its vastly talented crew. No history lesson from me, I’m not qualified. But I can speak to the absolute joy this production has been to work on. So much passion, love and history in the room. You have uber talented daughters playing roles their mum, our director, and aunty played in the original production. We’re visited often by members of the Samoan community and laughter and music go hand in hand with the hard work being put in on the ‘boards’. It’s been a privilege just to be in the room.
Why should audiences get in to see this show?
Because so much of this play resonates 25 years after its Christchurch debut. Its themes are timeless: family, dislocation, culture clashes, discovering your freedom, growing up and dealing with everything that entails. Wrap that up in humour, aroha, music and a fair amount of ‘90s pop culture and you’ve got one heck of a play. See it. And… I’m in it.
How much of a different beast is live theatre to a soap opera?
It’s a different beast but mostly due to the technicality of each medium… boring! As an actor you notice the immediacy of theatre. You know or can feel when you’re in the zone on stage whereas screen has a few more ‘filters’ before it reaches your audience. Both are challenging, both are rewarding and once you’re over the initial nerves, a lot of fun.
What have been some of your most memorable roles over the years?
Oliver Twist. I was ten, it was my first musical. My mum played Nancy and was the star. Here I experienced my first moment of theatre magic. Mum had just sung As Long As He Needs Me and was in the throes of being murdered by the villainous Bill Sykes. I stood in the wings, I couldn’t see anything only hear the screams and pitiful pleas as the life was strangled out of my mum. Then nothing, a silence that, in my young brain, went on forever. In the Balclutha Community Hall, 400 people sat in complete silence for, what seemed to me, an eternity. It stuck with me ever since.
What’s the best part about what you get to do?
That I get to do it at all. I’ve been very fortunate and many wonderful people have contributed to the success I’ve had, none more so than my beautiful wife and whānau. I love what I do; that’s the best part.
What do the next 12 months have in store for you?
That would be telling… That’s actor code for ‘no idea’. Not exactly true – I have a few irons in the fire that may include a musical and a touring show up north in 2020, but such is the nature of this ‘bizz’ that nothing is confirmed until I’ve signed on the dotted line. Straight after Fresh off the Boat I’m into A Christmas Carol at The Forge at The Court Theatre, which will take me right up to Christmas. Then, perhaps, a bit of ‘reno’ on my house in Geraldine if my wife has her way… and she will.
Read more about this milestone Pasifika play HERE.
Described by Rolling Stone as “the best rock musical ever”, Broadway hit and four times Tony Award winner Hedwig and the Angry Inch is coming to The Court Theatre May 11 to June 1.
Hedwig is an ‘international ignored song stylist’ whose personal history of sacrifice and struggle, including her botched sex operation, is told against a punk/glam-rock soundtrack reminiscent of David Bowie and Iggy Pop. Directed by Michael Lee Porter, with musical direction by Luke Di Somma – co-creator of That Bloody Woman – Canterbury audiences are assured of one hell of a night out!
New York based Australian actor Adam Rennie plays Hedwig, and he says he feels a real responsibility in his portrayal of this very challenging role. “For me, if people leave the theatre thinking about how different & strange a character Hedwig is – even if they love her – I haven’t done my job. I want the audience to see how much they have in common with her and see themselves underneath the glitter and makeup.”
Phoebe Hurst plays Hedwig’s husband, Croatian immigrant and ex-drag queen, Yitzhak. Four musicians join the duo to complete the Angry Inch band and bring this show of awe-inspiring costumes, wicked wigs, killer heels and thrilling special effects to life. Porter says that it’s Hedwig’s story that gives the production so much heart. “It’s not every day a musical comes along that resonates with so many different people on so many different levels.”
Metropol catches up with actor Adam Rennie as he prepares for his first production with The Court Theatre from May 11 to June 1 – Hedwig and the Angry Inch.
When did the acting bug first bite you, Adam?
When I was 6 or 7, I was in a production of Oliver and was devastated I wasn’t cast as Oliver and have been on a mission to prove Rockdale Musical Society wrong ever since.
What did it mean to you to make the move from Sydney to New York City?
I’ve always known I wanted to live in NYC. It is the birthplace of almost every show I grew up dreaming of seeing and performing in. NYC is hard and exhausting, but I’m surrounded by incredibly talented and driven people who egg me on and inspire me to grow and push myself.
Of all your stage performances thus far, which role did you most relish playing?
I had such a blast playing Frank N Furter. There is something incredibly freeing and empowering about that character. He’s sexy, funny, powerful and an alien – what’s not to love?
What are the challenges in playing Hedwig in the stage musical Hedwig and the Angry Inch?
Just technically, there is a lot to learn; the show has so many facets to it – stand-up comedy, storytelling, rock music and raw emotional moments. Then you add the makeup, the accent and a character that’s as ferocious as she is vulnerable and you have a lot of moving parts to nail down.
What do you think Christchurch people will love about this show?
It’s a show that defies category. It’s funny and electric energy every night. The music is incredible. I can guarantee a fun time, but it also speaks clearly to all of us and where we are today. How we see humanity and human connections in ‘the other’.
You have described playing Hedwig as a ‘dream role’ – why is that?
Playing Hedwig is the opportunity of a lifetime. She’s arguably the most challenging role in musical theatre and forces me to bring everything I have, every single day. There’s nowhere to hide. On top of that, there are very few roles where I can embrace every part of me. I’m a queer actor and I don’t have to leave that experience at the door; in fact, it’s celebrated! I can’t overstate how grateful I am to have The Court celebrate my uniqueness and show others that they can be celebrated for theirs.
Pick any famous stage/screen actor… who would you most love to perform alongside?
I’d probably choose one of those incredible Shakespeare actors that have also managed to crossover into Hollywood, Ian Mckellan or Patrick Stewart because they have so much gravitas. Wait, also Catherine O’Hara, because she’s an improvising and comedic genius!
What’s up next after Hedwig and the Angry Inch?
I’m honestly not sure; probably a big long nap followed by a few weeks getting the glitter out of everything I own.
Calling all children of Canterbury! Time-traveller Professor Harriet Wells is coming to The Court Theatre and she wants you to join her as she travels back in time to meet a T-Rex dinosaur, then travels forward in time to meet a talking robot!
Writer Andrew Todd has based his new kids play, Time Machine, on the original H.G. Wells time-travel story Time Machine. “I’ve taken Wells’ story and infused it with the energy of fellow time-travel work Doctor Who! This version has plucky and likeable lead characters, some wild time-travel antics and, since we’re travelling in time, dinosaurs and robots. Everyone likes dinosaurs and robots!”
Professor Wells, played by Hillary Moulder, and her assistant, Eloise, played by Monique Clementson, embark on their adventure after Wells’ patron, Lockbottom, played by Dylan Frewin, demands that Harriet proves her time machine invention works. Director Ben Freeth says Time Machine covers all sci-fi bases. “You don’t normally get sci-fi in theatre, let alone in a play for kids, so it’s something different!”
With Time Machine marking the actor’s directorial debut for The Court’s mainstage, Freeth’s vision is to challenge the audience’s imagination, introducing them to creatures they’ve only dreamed about.
“What I want to capture is a bit of theatre magic; things that make the kids ‘ooh’ and ‘ah’! I want to provide moments of spectacle.”
Time Machine – The Court Theatre 13-27 April, Relaxed Performance – Saturday 27 April, 11am. For bookings phone 03 963 0870 or visit www.courttheatre.org.nz. All tickets are $10.
Ross Gumbley and Mark Hadlow last appeared on stage together in The Court Theatre’s 2010 production Gods of Carnage; now they are to be reunited as mismatched flatmates in the quirky Norwegian comedy play Elling.
Hadlow’s Elling is a neurotic budding poet, while Gumbley’s Kjell is a gentle giant who wants nothing more than to have sex. Director Lara Macgregor says that the appeal of Elling comes from seeing two human beings who are struggling with mental health issues trying to survive in a ‘normal living environment’ – and how that challenge brings about a wonderful friendship.
Elling marks Gumbley’s first on-stage performance in almost a decade. Gumbley, who is also The Court’s Artistic Director, says that he and Mark had been looking for a play that could reunite them and when he saw Elling in Australia in 2009, he knew he had found his play. “I thought ‘I’ve never seen a role absolutely begging for Mark Hadlow to play it’.”
Hadlow, one of New Zealand’s most prominent actors, is delighted to be working with Ross again. “We go right back to Flatmates Wanted in the 1980s. It’s wonderful to work with someone you completely trust.” Gumbley says that Elling is lyrical, touching, funny and honest – but also raises questions around underfunding of mental health, which is particularly relevant to New Zealand audiences.
Veteran performers Bruce Phillips, Gregory Cooper and Luanne Gordon round out the cast. Elling – The Court Theatre, 23 February to 16 March 2019.
Listen up all ye small people, tall people and somewhere-in-between people for some very exciting news! The tiniest girl in the world (she’s no bigger than your thumb) is coming to The Court Theatre and her name, ever so appropriately, is Thumbelina!
The story of Thumbelina was written by Hans Christian Andersen in 1835, but in this version, our heroine, though still minute, is a thoroughly modern miss of the 21st century. Written and directed by experienced Court Theatre actor and improviser Emma Cusdin, the story structure is based around the original fairy-tale, in that Thumbelina meets all the same characters however, some of the circumstances of those interactions have changed.
“The production is primarily targeting the three to six years old bracket, but older kids and adults will find plenty of laughs for them as well,” Emma says. Because none of us really know what it is to be thumb-sized, there’s a little bit of magic in the show where the audience is shrunk down to the same height as Thumbelina, and then everyone gets to see the world through her eyes.
The cast of Thumbelina comprises just three actors: Reylene Hilaga (last seen at The Court as Miki in the Littlest Ninja) plays Thumbelina; Kathleen Burns plays the Fairy Prince, the Mole, and the Toad; and stand-up comedian Rhiannon McCall plays the Bird. “It’s fun and fast with totally kooky characters,” Emma says.
Thumbelina opens 16 January through to 26 January 2019 at The Court Theatre. Tickets can be booked and purchased online through The Court Theatre website.
This summer at The Court Theatre promises to be a sizzling one when iconic rock musical Jesus Christ Superstar takes to the stage on 24 November.
Written by dynamic rock opera duo Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, it packs just as much punch now as it did in the 70s.
“Of all of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musicals to bring to our stage, we felt this was his most enduring, and indeed his most exciting,” The Court’s Artistic Director, Ross Gumbley, says.
Director Stephen Robertson says his vision is to partially take the production back to its 1970s roots while maintaining a contemporary feel. “It was written as a rock opera, so the music and sound are being designed to honour this,” Stephen says. The story centres on the last days of Jesus’ life with point of view coming from Judas Iscariot, the disciple who betrayed Jesus. Through his eyes, the very human soul of Jesus Christ is revealed.
Nic Kyle (whose last performance at The Court was in the 2012 production of Grease) takes the leading role of Jesus, while Caleb Jago-Ward plays the infamous Judas Iscariot, and Monique Clementson plays Mary Magdalene. With musical direction by Richard Marrett, The Court Theatre brings this timeless musical to life with 27 singing and dancing superstars. “I don’t know that I’ve heard a stronger singing ensemble than the one we have for Jesus Christ Superstar,” Gumbley says.
September heralds New Zealand Theatre Month with The Court Theatre inviting audiences to laugh, cry and sing along with the O’Reilly clan in Mum’s Choir.
The O’Reillys are a vibrant, typical, true-blue Kiwi family striving to fulfil the near impossible final request of their mum: that they sing Fauré’s Requiem at her funeral. Written by Alison Quigan, actor and current Performing Arts Manager of the Mangere Arts Centre, Mum’s Choir was based on Quigan’s experience when her own mother died in 2001. Music is a huge part of Mum’s Choir, with classic songs performed throughout the play such as After You’ve Gone, That’s Amore, Accentuate the Positive, Every Time We Say Goodbye, Hine E Hine, We’ll Meet Again and, of course, the magnificent Requiem by Fauré.
“The play is about the power of family when we all come together,” says Ross Gumbley, Artistic Director at The Court and Director of Mum’s Choir. “The galvanising force in the O’Reilly family is a love of music and song; singing is a must for this family.”
The exceptionally talented Eilish Moran, Paul Barrett, Lynda Milligan, Nick Dunbar, Amy Straker, Julie Edwards and Wiremu Waretini make up the Mum’s Choir cast. “Mum’s Choir is a play which touches your heart,” Ross says.
“It really is a symbol of where New Zealand plays have come from – and how good they are.”