Showbiz Christchurch returned to the Isaac Theatre Royal stage in full force for 2016 and pulled off the perfect hat-trick of Mamma Mia!, Hairspray and Evita to full houses and rave reviews. Showbiz have announced their 2017 season and it is set to be another stellar three production line up of unmissable theatre and music.
The 2017 year begins in March on a fabulous big bus called Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. This extravagant musical has over 500 outrageous costumes, 200 magnificent headdresses, a spectacular new bus custom built in Christchurch, and a hit parade of dance floor classics including ‘Don’t Leave Me This Way’, ‘I Will Survive’, ‘Hot Stuff’ and ‘Shake Your Groove Thing’.
From 26 – 28 May the Isaac Theatre will be alive with the sound of Rodgers and Hammerstein. This full scale concert – with a live Broadway-style orchestra, vocal soloists and a chorus of over 100 from Showbiz and NASDA – will feature songs from Oklahoma!, The Sound of Music, The King and I, South Pacific, Carousel, amongst others.
In September the soulful Broadway musical comedy Sister Act will have audiences feeling divine. Based on the hit Whoopi Goldberg movie, Sister Act features original music by legendary composer Alan Menken, who wrote the music for Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and Little Shop of Horrors.
Tickets for all three shows are on sale from Thursday 24th November. Showbiz will be repeating the popular full season discount offer which was so successfully introduced for the 2016 season. Discounts of 10% for one show, 20% for two and 30% when booking for all three performances will be available on all Premium and A Reserve seats until 31st January 2017.
Tickets start from $55.00
All bookings at Ticketek 0800 842 538 or www.ticketek.co.nz
The launch of the Showbiz Christchurch 2019 season brings together three exciting new productions; a new ticketing structure which significantly increases the availability of entry level Showbiz tickets; and the continuation of the successful partnership with Christchurch law firm Saunders & Co.
The 2019 Saunders and Co Season begins with the New Zealand theatre company premiere of We Will Rock You, the musical by Queen and Ben Elton. The show features more than 24 of the biggest hits written by Queen and its legendary frontman, the late Freddie Mercury, set in a dystopian future world controlled by all-powerful global company controlled by the Killer Queen, where rock music is banned. Two young outsiders and a handful of rock rebels called the Bohemians band together and embark on the search to find the unlimited power of freedom, love and rock music!
Over 16 million theatregoers in 28 countries have rocked out to this unique musical based on the songs of Queen since it opened in 2002. The Showbiz production will be directed by Stephen Robertson with choreography by Gemma Kearney. Musical direction is by Richard Marrett and Matthew Everingham.
The mid-year concert season builds on the success of Broadway Hitmen in 2018 which featured some of the most popular tunes by musical hit maker Andrew Lloyd Webber.
The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber takes the concert to a new level with fully staged and choreographed production numbers from blockbuster shows like The Phantom of the Opera, CATS, Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat, Evita and more. Devised by Lloyd Webber, this will be Christchurch’s only chance to be part of an exclusive weekend concert season as the concert rights will not be available after 2019.
Ravil Atlas will be returning in the 2019 concert, this time in the role of Artistic Director.
The 2019 Saunders and Co Season finishes with one of the most daring theatrical spectacles of all time. Nominated for an incredible number of Olivier, Tony and Drama Desk Awards, Miss Saigon is the second massively successful musical from the creators of Les Misérables.
Based on the story of Puccini’s Madam Butterfly, Miss Saigon is an epic sung-through pop musical that is universal in its emotional power set amongst the turmoil of the Vietnam War.
Showbiz first staged the New Zealand premiere of Miss Saigon in 2009 to sold-out houses. New Zealand’s foremost directing duo Robertson and Marrett will come together again to bring Miss Saigon to new audiences.
Building on successful strategies developed in 2018 for increasing accessibility to Showbiz productions, the launch of the 2019 Saunders & Co Season on 30 November 2018 will see a new ticket pricing structure introduced which will double the availability of the lowest priced Showbiz tickets.
“Lowering ticket pricing where it counts most is a great way Showbiz, as a community theatre company, can help lower the barriers to audiences for our shows,” says General Manager Michael Bayly.
The two entry priced seating categories, B and C Reserve, have been merged together to create a new B Reserve but all at the lower C Reserve price. This has increased the number of the most affordable seats in the 2019 Showbiz Christchurch Saunders & Co season by almost 100%.
2018 Season Sponsors Saunders and Co are excited to continue to partner with Showbiz Christchurch and endorse these new initiatives. This partnership enables quality innovative productions to continue to be staged by Showbiz for local Cantabrian audiences at the Isaac Theatre Royal.
2019 Season discounts are available for all Premium and A Reserve seating purchased prior to 31 January 2019. Choosing a performance date several months ahead of a show can often be difficult so Showbiz Christchurch has also introduced the FlexiTicket voucher so patrons can take advantage of the generous 2019 Season discounts without having to commit to a performance date.
The opening night of Showbiz Christchurch’s current production, Les Misérables, as per their usual practice was a treat for the senses. Stunning scenery combined with gorgeous costumes and excellent hair and make-up within the beautiful surrounds of the Isaac Theatre Royal. The singing and live orchestral accompaniment really makes you feel immersed in the story in a way that watching a movie just can’t rival. There is magic when you attend a live musical theatre performance, it heightens the enjoyment when you know that you are experiencing an incredibly well rehearsed but ultimately unique performance.
If like me you haven’t seen Les Misérables before you may have arrived at the incorrect conclusion that it was largely a tragedy. It is not. Don’t get me wrong, there is plenty of drama, injustice, and sadness in this scathing commentary on 18th century French society. However there are also plenty of hilarious pratfalls, raunchy gags, and utterly amusing scenes in the show. For those of you that have seen Les Misérables go see it again. This complex tale of love, redemption, sacrifice, and heroism has so much depth that there will always be new layers to unwrap. Les Misérables is a 38 year old musical, based on the 1862 Victor Hugo book of the same name, and among other social injustice issues it perfectly captures the themes of the contemporary #metoo movement. The perfectly performed song “At the End of the Day” is the best example of this. An ensemble piece which explores general aspects of poverty, but then zeros in on women in the workplace. It talks of women in subordinate roles, who can’t afford to lose their jobs, and are at the mercy of a male superior who can fire them without a second thought if his lecherous advances are refused. Sound familiar?
Onto comedic relief, which is largely provided by the two very talented performers playing despicable but somehow likeable inn-keeper Monsieur Thénardier (Ben Freeth) and his wife Madame Thénardier (Rebecca Malcolm). Blackmailing, rotten souled, scoundrels through and through they mistreat and swindle all they come in contact with, but are still relatable. The brilliant acting of the pair, but especially by Ben Freeth, kept the audience riveted on their every devious and usually suggestive or inappropriate move.
Acts of heroism, redemption, and sacrifice are also abundant, even in the face of overwhelming misery. This is a story about doing the right thing, even when you don’t have to, even when it would be easy to find justification for doing otherwise. Several times we witness on stage the characters choosing to sacrifice their comfort and personal feelings. The Ten Tenors performer Daniel Belle is a powerhouse as he plays Jean Valjean, a former prisoner who ultimately devotes his life to making good. Solo mother Fantine, is hauntingly played by Kira Josephson (she was Elphaba’s wheelchair bound sister in Showbiz’s production of Wicked earlier this year) gave literally everything she had to give her young daughter Cosette a good life. You’d have to have a pretty hard heart not to feel her pain, as she is thrown in the path of the comically made-up ladies of the night, during the sarcastically sung “Lovely Ladies”.
Javert, the apparent villain of the show, is played by James Foster and he delivers a solid performance. This is a character with obviously conflicting emotions who believes himself in the right by virtue of his role as enforcer of the law. It is hard to condemn him for doing what he truly believes to be the right thing, even if his actions feel wrong to modern ideals. One of the things I most enjoyed about the show was how nuanced the story is, there is no definite answer of what is right or wrong. It makes for some seriously suspenseful scenes!
The opening night child performers (they alternate through the season) in the roles of Eponine, Gavroche, and Cosette were each spot on in their own way. The challenging solo of “Castle on A Cloud” was performed by Isla Palmer as Cosette and gave me goosebumps. Her voice was positively angelic. An optimistic sounding song, heartbreaking in the context of her miserable situation, this young lady performed with a perfect wistfulness. Gavroche actor Duncan Price on the other hand delivered a comic performance worthy of an actor three times his age. These young actors have a great future in the theatre ahead of them.
There were numerous other outstanding performers incl Eddie Redmayne look-alike Fergus Inder playing young idealistic Marius. Adult Cosette is excellently played by Jacqueline Doherty, and it is a joy to see adult Eponine so sympathetically played by Monique Clementson. Jack Fraser as Enjolras as he once again acts the revolutionary (he was Che in last year’s Showbiz production of Evita).
Aside from excellent singing, dancing, and acting the spectacle was completed by a massive portion of the stage rotating at perfectly timed intervals, adding an extra layer of urgency and perspective to many of the scenes. The set design is incredibly realistic and elaborate, a highlight for me was the barricade made of chairs, tables, doors etc that all perfectly fit together to look like the unstable jumble of a real improvised urban barricade but was instead a carefully crafted set strong enough to hold a troop of performers as they clambered all over it.
The orchestra may have been hidden in the pit, largely invisible to the eye, but it sure made its presence felt. Knowing that the singers are being accompanied live by musicians of the highest quality makes you feel rather proud of our city that we can summon up such talented individuals night after night. The depth of sound that they achieve is really immersive too and adds to the feeling of being directly involved in the story unfolding on stage.
It is plain to see that the work of so many people has not been wasted on this epic musical. Everyone involved with Showbiz Christchurch, at all levels, has clearly put their utmost dedication into this production of Les Misérables and it really has paid off. I suspect that most of Christchurch will want to see this show before it finishes in early October. This is definitely a FOMO-worthy event so buy yourself some tickets now, because this show is three hours (incl intermission) of action packed adventure-drama-comedy you won’t want to miss.
All photos by Danielle Colvin Photography
We know you have been wanting to know so here it is… the performance schedule for the actors playing young Cosette, Eponine and Gavroche in the 2018 Showbiz Christchurch Saunders & Co Season of Les Misèrables
Please note: Showbiz Christchurch reserves the right to amend this performance schedule should circumstances dictate a change.
Ladies and gentlemen, it is indeed my great pleasure to welcome you to the show of tonight, Les Misérables
Victor Hugo’s literary masterpiece was set against the backdrop of the June Revolution of 1832 (not the big one of the 1790s where everyone got their heads chopped off). Although there is no direct translation of the title, it is generally translated as “The Wretched” and focussed on the impoverished in Paris at the time. It turned Hugo into a national hero and his funeral in 1885 resembled that of Eva Peron.
In 1980, the book was turned into a musical which swept France in typical Gallic revolutionary spirit, only to be pilfered by the English (much like Calais) into undoubtedly one of the greatest musicals of all time. Certainly, it is in my personal top five.
This is now the third time that we have stage Les Mis. The first in 1994 was quite a watershed moment for us, as it was the first to be produced under a national Consortium model which has been so successful since. We put 33,000 people through the ITR, which is, so far as we can determine, the third largest season in the theatre’s history. And judging by the public response to this production, Les Mis remains as fresh and vital as the first time around.
The on-going support of our numerous industry partners and business sponsors is vital and hugely appreciated, in particular our major funders the Christchurch City Council, the Rata Foundation, Mainland Foundation, Lion Foundation, Christchurch Music Theatre Education Trust and, in particular, our first annual sponsor, Saunders and Co.
Most importantly, we would like to acknowledge the ongoing support from you, the theatre lovers of Christchurch – our lifeblood.
Please enjoy the show.
Showbiz Christchurch President Markham Lee is pleased to announce the appointment of Tim Scandrett to the Board of Christchurch Operatic Inc.
Tim fills one of the two external directors’ positions on the Board of Showbiz. Those positons were created a number of years ago so that the Board of Showbiz could appoint from outside the organisation to complement the skill base of the Board or management.
“We have kept this position vacant for around a year whilst we found the right person to fill our needs,” said Markham. “Tim ticks all the boxes and then some. It is not usual for this position to be filled by someone with industry knowledge, but to have someone who also brings such industry experience is fantastic.”
Tim has a long association with the arts in Christchurch. He has been a performer, a producer and event manager for many shows and events throughout the city, and has run a successful event management company which worked with many leading stakeholders in the Christchurch entertainment industry.
He is also Chair of the Board of the Christchurch City Council venue management company Vbase, a board member of ChristchurchNZ, and a second term City Councillor for the Cashmere Ward.
“I’ve always had a passion for the arts, and regard Showbiz Christchurch as the leading light in the Christchurch Performing Arts arena,” says Scandrett.
Showbiz Christchurch, founded in 1938, is a not-for-profit organisation incorporated society, with an elected board, small management team and a community of more than 1000 members and regular volunteers. As well as providing education and development for the performance community, Showbiz Christchurch is one of the leading producers of world class musical theatre in New Zealand and is a driving force for the industry throughout New Zealand.
The organisation is a significant contributor to the vibrant arts environment in Christchurch and a partners with the Christchurch City Council providing arts and entertainment programmes to meet their community arts and culture objectives. Showbiz is the primary annual hirer of the Isaac Theatre Royal and is the major client of several of the cities key theatrical technical supply companies.
The 2018 Showbiz season comes to an epic conclusion in September with Les Misérables – the third staging of this popular musical in the organisation’s 80 year history, and also the third to be directed by leading NZ musical director Stephen Robertson.
As part of the inaugural NZ Theatre Month this September – a nationwide festival celebrating New Zealand theatre and the people involved in making it – Showbiz Christchurch is delighted to present their first Audio Described Performance and Touch Tour of Les Misérables. This is a ticketed event for a limited number of visually impaired patrons and their companions during a public performance.
Winner of over 100 international awards and seen by over 65 million people worldwide, Les Mis’ popularity is undisputed but Showbiz wasn’t sure if it would also be a good candidate for an audio described performance.
“We consulted extensively with the Blind Foundation to make sure ‘Les Mis’ would work for their clients,” says Showbiz’s Marketing Manager, Wendy Riley. “Foundation Recreation and Volunteer Coordinator Petronella Spicer is an avid theatregoer so we asked her to review the show and give us her opinion. Once we got the greenlight from her we felt confident in moving forward with the performance.”
NZ Opera have previously audio described their productions of Madam Butterfly and Tosca at the Isaac Theatre Royal. Showbiz Christchurch’s production of Les Misérables is believe to be the first musical to be audio described in the South Island.
Showbiz has engaged the services of a professional audio describer Rachel Sears who has been instrumental in championing accessible theatre. Sears will spend around a week watching rehearsals and preparing for the audio described performance on Sunday 23 September. She will describe the visual aspects of the show live to audience members fitted with headsets that enable them to also hear the live performance. The audio describing equipment is provided by Christchurch company BounceNZ who are industry leaders in theatre sound operation.
Theatregoers who attend the audio described performance will also be able to take a backstage ‘Touch Tour’ prior to the show, so they can understand the makeup of the set, props, costumes and the physical nature of the actors before they attend the performance.
Showbiz also has plans to open up the doors backstage on Saturday 22 September so members of the general public can gain rare access and insight into what it takes to stage a large Broadway-style musical. Tour numbers are limited and tickets will cost $10, proceeds from which will go towards offsetting some of the costs of providing the Audio Described Performance and Touch Tour.
The Isaac Theatre Royal will also open the foyer from 11am to 4pm to view dynamic displays that chart the history of the theatre and some of the stage productions, and catch a glimpse of Les Misérables set from the auditorium.
“These initiatives are part of the journey to make Showbiz Christchurch productions more accessible to a wider audience” says General Manager Michael Bayly.
Audio Described Performance and Touch Tour of Les Misérables:
- 4pm, 23 September 2018
- Information and tickets phone Showbiz Christchurch (03) 377 7954.
Les Misérables Public Backstage Tour:
- 22 September 2018. Tour times: 10:30am, 11:00am, 11:30am, 12 noon and 12:30pm.
Each tour takes 45 minutes.
- The Isaac Theatre Royal foyer will also be open from 11am – 4pm.
- Opens 14 September 2018
Isaac Theatre Royal
Great drama never gets old
The 2018 Showbiz season comes to an epic conclusion in September with Les Misérables. Winner of over 100 international awards and seen by over 65 million people worldwide, Les Misérables is a grand and uplifting story about the survival of the human spirit. This modern classic is based on Victor Hugo’s novel and features one of the most memorable scores of all time proving that great drama never gets old.
Directed by Stephen Robertson, with musical direction by Richard Marrett, this is a new production of Alan Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg’s Les Misérables. It will feature the set from the 2001 Showbiz production – including the famous revolve – all of which has undergone major refurbishment.
This will be Robertson’s third time directing a Showbiz production of ‘Les Mis’, and each time he manages to breathe new life, and reach new heights, with the show he has come to love and know so well.
“Les Mis is big and majestic and directed like musket shot to your heart” said Christchurch Star reviewer Barry Grant of the 2001 production. The 1994 production was no less spectacular and holds the record as the largest musical ever staged by Showbiz, with the season of 33,500 seats sold out before opening night. It is the third longest running musical performed in the history of the Isaac Theatre Royal behind the J.C. Williamson production of My Fair Lady in 1962 and the 1975 production of Jesus Christ Superstar starring Jon English.
In this new production Sydney born tenor Daniel Belle will be performing the principal role of Jean Valjean, the man at the heart of the story.
In nineteenth century France, Valjean is released from 19 years of unjust imprisonment and finds nothing in store for him but mistrust and mistreatment. He breaks his parole in the hope of starting a new life, initiating a lifelong struggle for redemption relentlessly pursued by police inspector Javert.
Belle has performed the role ‘hundreds of times’ in the Australian National production of Les Misérables, and in the Asian tour performing in Manila, Singapore and Dubai.
In June he performed at the Isaac Theatre Royal as part of the internationally acclaimed vocal group The Ten Tenors, which he joined in 2012 after completing studies at The Sydney Conservatorium of Music and the Australian Institute of Music. Performing in the Ten Tenors Double Platinum tour, Daniel has sung throughout Australia, Europe and The United States to critical acclaim.
Performing alongside Belle are seasoned Showbiz performers: James Foster (Javert), Kira Josephson (Fantine), Fergus Inder (Marius), Jacqueline Doherty (Cosette), Jack Fraser (Enjolras), Ben Freeth (Monsieur Thénardier) and Monique Clementson (Eponine). Making her Showbiz debut is Nelson performer Rebecca Malcolm in the role of Madame Thénardier.
98 children auditioned for the roles of young Cosette, young Eponine and Gavroche who will be played by five alternating performers.
Eight year old Duncan Price and 11 year old Ethan Carranceja (Southern Ballet) will perform in the role of Gavroche. Nine year old Lavinia Sutherland and eight year old Isla Palmer (Anna Lee School of Dance) will alternate the role of young Cosette. All are new Showbiz performers with previous performance training and/or experience. The role of young Eponine is currently still being cast.
The ensemble consists of: Mitchell Anderson, Samuel Baird, Katie Beer, Liam Braithwaite, William Burns, Sam Burt, Philippa Chilvers, Roz Ellis, Paul Fidow, Jack Hanrahan, Catherine Hay, Simon Heeringa, Anna Henderson, Bryony Jamison, Andrea Koorey, Jack Marshall, Tara Martin, Laurel Rose, James Shera, Claire Steel, Chris Symon, Lorraine Turner, Chris Walker, Matilda Wickbom & Elliot Wood.
The Saunders & Co Season
Showbiz Christchurch production of
Opens 14 September 2018
Isaac Theatre Royal
A musical by Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg
Based on a novel by Victor Hugo
Music by Claude-Michel Schönberg
Lyrics by Herbert Kretzmer
Original French text by Alain Boublil and Jean-Marc Natel
Additional material by James Fenton
Adapted and originally directed by Trevor Nunn and John Caird
Orchestrations by John Cameron
Original London Production by Cameron Mackintosh and The Royal Shakespeare Company
Licensed exclusively by Music Theatre International (Australasia) and Cameron Mackintosh Ltd.
All performance materials supplied by Hal Leonard Australia.
Tickets available online through Ticketek or by phoning: 0800 842 538
The Ryman Healthcare Showbiz Christchurch Orchestra, 16 soloists and a large chorus will fill the Isaac Theatre Royal stage to present a concert of back-to-back hits from two of the biggest names in musical theatre, Cole Porter and Andrew Lloyd Webber.
American born Porter wrote over 800 songs during a career spanning five decades, conquering both Broadway and Hollywood. His soaring melodies, offset with urbane and witty lyrics, gave rise to his signature musical genre known as ‘the Cole Porter song’. Iconic musicals like Anything Goes, Can Can and Kiss Me Kate remain stage and screen classics, finding new audiences with every decade. Many of his greatest songs have been covered by modern stars like Michael Bublé, Robbie Williams and Lady Gaga.
British composer Andrew Lloyd Webber is arguably the best known name in modern musical theatre. In 2017 he became the first composer to have four musicals playing simultaneously on Broadway since 1953. Webber has written some of the world’s most loved and successful musicals including Evita, The Phantom of the Opera, Jesus Christ Superstar, CATS and Sunset Boulevard.
“This is more than just a ‘stand up and sing’ concert,” says Musical Director Ravil Atlas. “Each of the 26 songs presented has been cherry picked and represents the best and most popular songs from two of the greatest Broadway melodists.”
Atlas, who originally comes from California, has had a distinguished and varied career in opera, musical theatre and concerts for over 25 years. He has starred as the leading tenor in more than 70 professional opera productions in six countries, performed the role of Piangi in the Broadway production of The Phantom of the Opera in San Francisco, starred as Jean Valjean in Les Misérables and has taught many other professional singers and actors at the highest level. In 2017 he appeared as a mentor in TVNZ’s The Naked Choir.
Stage Director Nickie Wellbourn is charged with bringing the songs to life on stage. “Each song performed in Broadway Hitmen will have its own on-stage storytelling,” says Wellbourn. “I’ll also be including a few surprises to build on the ‘wow’ moments from the 2017 concert.”
One surprise which can be revealed is the inclusion of former Christchurch actor/singer Nic Kyle, who is now based in Vancouver. Kyle will be singing ‘Gethsemene’ from Jesus Christ Superstar, which he performed to critical acclaim whilst touring Australasia with world famous musical theatre diva Elaine Page in 2012.
Kyle was described in a Stage Whispers review as “a musical theatre artist with an amazing voice who wowed the audience. His songs were received by rapturous applause which rivaled the star performer, and the show would be worth seeing for his performance.”
The tour with Paige opened doors for Kyle on the West End, where he performed for four years and was nominated for Best Actor (BroadwayWorld) for his role in Savage (The Arts Theatre).
Kyle grew up in Ilam, attended Christ’s College, and graduated from the National Academy of Singing and Dramatic Arts (NASDA). In 2009 he performed the lead role with Showbiz Christchurch in the New Zealand premiere of Miss Saigon before landing the touring gig as Paige’s sole supporting act.
Kyle will be joined on stage in Broadway Hitmen by 15 other soloists, a 30 strong orchestra and a chorus of more than 50 to present all the songs from two of the greatest popular melodists in one concert.
“I was introduced to the songs of Cole Porter by my mother when I was a child and I have loved them ever since. They were her favourites and now they are mine,” says Wellbourn. “I hope to see an audience full of people sharing the music they love with younger members of their family.”
The repertoire will take the audience from the birth of Broadway with Cole Porter’s witty and suave Broadway standards from the 1930s, through the Lloyd Webber blockbusters. “It starts with 1930s nostalgia and ends with Broadway on steroids,” says Atlas. “It’s all your old friends together in one concert from two writers who gave the world popular melody.”
And for those who don’t think they know any Porter or Webber songs, Atlas and Wellbourn reassure “there are plenty of songs you will recognise and don’t realise that you already knew!”
Broadway Hitmen will be at the Isaac Theatre Royal for four performances from 13-15 July 2018.
If you’ve ever been to a Showbiz Christchurch performance and been blown away by the on-stage performance, you’re seeing just a small fraction of the local talent that culminates in an end product of this calibre.
The 80-year-old community theatrical society stages three productions each year. The Saunders & Co 2018 season commences at the Isaac Theatre Royal with Wicked from 6-21 April; followed by Broadway Hitmen, a concert of Cole Porter and Andrew Lloyd Webber hits, from 13-15 July; and is completed by Les Misérables opening on 14 September.
Up to 100 people can be involved behind the scenes in just one show, volunteers who put hundreds of unpaid hours into their roles.
In Wicked’s on stage performance, you will see two leads (played by four actors on alternate nights), six principal roles, 16 ensemble cast and 15 dancers, with 16 backing vocalists and 18 orchestral performers in the pit. Backstage however, 100 equally important parts make it all come together.
Vicki Morris-Williamson has been volunteering for Showbiz Christchurch for 19 years and is part of a team responsible for ensuring hats and costumes are made show ready and fit the brief of Director Stephen Robertson.
Successful Broadway shows like Wicked, complete national and international tours before the rights to stage them are given to community theatre groups. Showbiz Christchurch is the first in New Zealand to get these rights to stage Wicked.
“The Showbiz Christchurch performance is a whole new production,” Vicki says.
“Stephen creates the best shows he can and is completely invested in bringing something special to the stage. He visualises exactly what he wants down to the smallest detail. We then start with the bones of the costumes, adding and improving everything, making it our own unique show.”
Vicki is currently living in a sea of green, as she works diligently to overhaul hats that came from an international production and create new ones, for the Emerald City townsfolk in Wicked. Just about every member of the cast is on stage for this scene and every costume has a hat. That’s 35 hats, each representing Vicki’s work to realise Stephen’s vision for it.
Vicki wears many hats herself in the months that go into each performance. She is involved in costuming, pre-setting (planning set positioning), pack in (putting props up in the theatre), then the in-theatre rehearsals, before the run of shows.
“I warn my hubby heading into show season, that he won’t see me for three months,” she laughs. But working around a full-time job, it’s not an exaggeration.
It’s a family affair for her though. Vicki’s son James (then 12) joined her in her first production, in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Her daughter Jenna – a professional dancer from the New Zealand School of Dance – made her Showbiz Christchurch debut at 19 and will be performing in Wicked when it starts in April.
Craig Given has never had the desire to soak up the spotlight and perform on stage.
Instead you will find the percussionist hidden away in the dark orchestra pit of a theatre juggling a spectrum of quirky instruments.
“We have got to blend into the background, we have to be invisible, which is quite impossible when you are waving you arms all over the place,” he said.
Next month, Given, 39, will take on what is both a percussionist’s dream and nightmare, playing nearly 60 instruments in Wicked, Showbiz Christchurch’s first production of the year.
Wicked is one of the largest grossing musicals in Broadway history and tells the back story of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.
Although Given has been playing percussion for Showbiz for more than 20 years, he said Wicked is one of the highlights of his musical career.
“There is so much diversity in the music . . . it ebbs and flows. There is African influences, orchestral and jazz – all sorts of different stylistic pieces,” he said. Finding the instruments required to create the thematic music has been as much of a challenge as playing it.
For many of the instruments, Given has either had to track them down from overseas or build them himself.
“I have had to make a few instruments; there is one called a bird-flapper, which is sections of balsa wood glued together which represents the sounds of birds flapping,” he said.
Other unique instruments which did not exist or had to be tracked down overseas included a bell plate, trine, talking drum, nut-shaker and wand.
Given said some of the music ranges from very earthy to high, sparkly sounds.
One of the strangest instruments used to represent a character in the show is the waterphone, which is often used in horror films.
“It is a bizarre instrument – you have probably heard nothing else like it,” Given said.
He has been looking for the instruments and preparing for the show since December.
Given said while living in New Zealand means performers are exposed to a bunch of shows, it is also difficult because the country is isolated.
“I’ve talked to guys overseas in Broadway and doing productions in America and got a lot of photos and videos from them to help research and fabricate the instruments,” he said.
As for playing the music, Given said the most difficult part is the choreography of getting from one instrument to the next.
“If you have a moment of inattention, you will get yourself into all sorts of trouble,” he said.
Given said he is looking forward to passing his knowledge about the instruments onto other percussionists as the show is performed by companies around New Zealand.