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
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.
We know you have been wanting to know so here it is… the Wicked Leads’ performance schedule.
Heather Lee Wilcock (Elphaba) & Rebekah Head (Galinda)
- Friday, 6 April, 7.30pm
- Sunday, 8 April, 4.00pm
- Wednesday, 11 April, 7.30pm
- Friday, 13 April, 7.30pm
- Saturday, 14 April, 7.30pm
- Tuesday, 17 April, 7.30pm
- Thursday, 19 April, 7.30pm
- Saturday, 21 April, 2.00pm
Jane Leonard (Elphaba) & Ellie Neal (Galinda)
- Saturday, 7 April, 7.30pm
- Tuesday, 10 April, 7.30pm
- Thursday, 12 April, 7.30pm
- Saturday, 14 April, 2.00pm
- Sunday, 15 April, 4.00pm
- Wednesday, 18 April, 7.30pm
- Friday, 20 April, 7.30pm
- Saturday, 21 April, 7.30pm
Please note: Showbiz Christchurch reserves the right to amend the Leads’ performance schedule should circumstances dictate a change.
There is no more exciting way for one of Christchurch’s oldest musical theatre societies to commence its 80th year than by staging one of the most popular Broadway shows of all time. Showbiz Christchurch commences The Saunders & Co 2018 season at the Isaac Theatre Royal on 6 April with the New Zealand theatre company premiere of Wicked.
“Every time we ask our patrons which shows they would like to see, Wicked always comes out on top,” says Showbiz Christchurch General Manager, Michael Bayly.
Wicked tells the untold story of an unlikely but profound friendship between two witches who first meet as sorcery students at Shiz University: the blonde and popular Glinda, originally played by Kristen Chenowith, and a misunderstood green girl named Elphaba, played by Idina Menzel in the Broadway Production.
Showbiz auditions for the lead roles began in September, with full company auditions following in October. “They proved to be extremely popular,” says Bayly, attracting over 163 performers from throughout Canterbury, Wellington and Auckland, as well as performers based in Melbourne and London.
Competition was intense for the coveted roles of Elphaba and Glinda. “Due to the demands of these lead roles, the audition panel selected two performers for each,” Bayly said. “It is with great pleasure we can now announce that Elphaba will be played on alternate performances by Jane Leonard and Heather Lee Wilcock, and Glinda will be played by Rebekah Head and Ellie Neal.
Christchurch based performer Jane Leonard is already a favourite with Showbiz audiences. She played Meg Giry in The Phantom of the Opera (2015); the mistress in Evita (2016); a diva in Priscilla, Queen of the Desert and a featured soloist in An Evening of Rodgers and Hammerstein Classics (2017).
“When I received the phone call telling me I had landed the role of Elphaba I had just woken up, so it was very much a case of ‘pinch me, I think I’m still dreaming’,” explains Leonard. “Elphaba is one of those roles that in a beautiful way confirms and solidifies your abilities and hard work as an actor, and for that I am grateful.”
Heather Lee Wilcock is an Auckland based performer and who won the NAPTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role for her portrayal of Tracy Turnblad in the North Shore Music Theatre production of Hairspray. Wilcock has twice played the lead role in Evita.
Another performer figuratively pinching herself is Ellie Neal, who saw the touring Australian production in 2013 and has dreamed of performing one of the lead roles ever since.
Neal is a graduate of Toi Whakaari: NZ Drama School and the Lee Strasberg Film and Theatre Institute. She played the lead in The Court Theatre’s 2016 production of Legally Blonde and runs her own theatre company, Vision Theatre NZ in Wellington. Wicked will also be her first production with Showbiz.
Now based in Auckland, former Christchurch performer Rebekah Head will also play Glinda. Since graduating from NASDA in 2014, Head has been busy performing throughout New Zealand with NZ Playhouse, Whoa! Studio, Auckland Fringe and The Court Theatre. Wicked will be her first production for Showbiz.
Head sums up her delight at landing the role of Glinda by quoting a song from the show: “I couldn’t be happier!” She adds “I’m also super excited to be playing a role that was originated by an actress who is under five feet, just like me.”
The Showbiz production will be directed by New Zealand musical theatre heavyweights Stephen Robertson and Richard Marrett, and choreographed by Robertson and Glen Harris.
The remaining principal roles, ensemble, dancers and backing vocalists will be announced on Tuesday 7th November.
Showbiz Christchurch celebrates its 80th anniversary in 2018 with one of the most popular line-ups of major musical entertainment it has ever staged and the announcement of its first annual season sponsor.
Christchurch law firm Saunders & Co are partnering with Showbiz Christchurch and have put their name to the 2018 season.
Saunders and Co General Manager, John Bates says that it is Showbiz’s proven track record of delivering a consistent, innovative and high quality product, with widespread appeal that attracted the law firm to this partnership. “Showbiz Christchurch exemplifies what we value and strive for within our own organisation,” says Bates.
The Saunders & Co 2018 season commences at the Isaac Theatre Royal with Wicked on 6 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.
The Showbiz Christchurch season of Wicked is the New Zealand theatre company premiere of one of the most successful Broadway shows of all time. It tells the untold story of an unlikely but profound friendship between two girls who first meet as sorcery students at Shiz University: the blonde and very popular Glinda and a misunderstood green girl named Elphaba.
The Showbiz production will be directed by New Zealand musical theatre heavyweights Stephen Robertson and Richard Marrett, and choreographed by Robertson and Glen Harris.
A full show orchestra, soloists and a large chorus will fill the Isaac Theatre Royal stage mid-year to present Broadway Hitmen, a concert of back-to-back hits from two of the biggest names in musical theatre, Cole Porter and Andrew Lloyd Webber. The concert will be under the baton of Ravil Atlas (Atlas Voices and TVNZ’s The Naked Choir) with stage direction by Nickie Wellbourn, who will step off-stage after her powerhouse performance as the rapping Sister Mary Lazarus in Sister Act.
The season will be brought to an epic conclusion in September with Les Misérables, a grand and moving story about the survival of the human spirit which has won over 100 international awards and been seen by over 65 million people worldwide. This true 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!
Showbiz is repeating the popular Season subscriptions discount for all three shows. Theatregoers can purchase standard Premium or A Reserve seats for one 2018 Showbiz production and receive a 10% discount. Purchase a second show at the same time and the discount increases to 20%. Purchase all three productions and receive a 30% discount*
* Discounts are preloaded into the online ticket price and apply to standard full price Premium and A Reserve seating when purchased as a single transaction prior to 31 January 2018. Discounts don’t apply to the $2.50 Isaac Theatre Royal Heritage Levy component or the Ticketek service fee components of the ticket price.
“This is slick, colourful, polished entertainment with evocative backdrops, brilliant live musical accompaniments, attractive choreography, dazzling costumes, and topped off by committed performances from a gigantic cast. With Sister Act, Showbiz Christchurch triumphs once more with a full razzamatazz theatrical extravaganza.”
“You hope for a show where everyone is doing their best and here it is. Not surprisingly every member of the cast deserves the thunderous applause which, on opening night, extends to a number of curtain-calls.”
The Press: Sister Act entertaining and engaging
By Tony Ryan
“What could easily have been the all-too-usual big brash Broadway approach, emerged as entertaining, engaging and even, at times, genuinely moving. The show is superbly cast, from Monique Clementson’s impressively portrayed Deloris Van Cartier, to the consistently believable and focused performances of the entire ensemble.”
“The chorus of nuns is, perhaps, the real star of Sister Act …”
”The added incongruity of gangsters singing and dancing contributes further comedy, which made the outstandingly performed Lady in the Long Black Dress (Chris Symon, Blair McHugh, Rychalo Thompson) a real highlight.
“All the solo contributions were excellent with no weak link, but I must mention Nick Purdie’s (Curtis Jackson) singing of When I Find my Baby…”
“Set (John Harding), costumes (Lesley Burkes Harding) and lighting (Grant Robertson) played a significant part in the show’s effectiveness with some creative visual effects that completed a highly enjoyable night of musical theatre.
Backstage: Review – Sister Act is ‘fabulous, baby’
By Kate Divett
“Clementson offers sass, vulnerability and humour to create a character the audience connects with. Her vocals are rich, soulful and powerful.”
“Other performances are solid and in safe hands. Sarah Greenwood Buchanan is outstanding as the Mother Superior, her song Haven’t Got A Prayer is marvellous. Nick Purdie (Curtis Jackson) offers his smooth voice to the truly vile gangster role. Chris Symon (TJ) holds back his stunning voice to provide terrific comic relief, and is joined by fellow ‘thugs’ Blair McHugh (Joey) and Rychalo Thompson (Pablo) to woo the nuns in Lady in the Long Black Dress. Matthew McMenamin (Eddie Souther) is well cast as the nice guy who gets the girl in the end. Ian Lester (Monsignor O’Hara) is at his best when in full-blown preacher-mode.
“And then there are the nuns. A terrific gathering of incredibly talented women.”
“…. the sum of this production’s various parts is entertaining and leaves you with a sense that you’ve just been through a disco workout. Sister Act is indeed a fun way to end the Showbiz Christchurch season.”
Tearaway Review: Is It a Sister Act? Broadway Comedy Hits Christchurch
By Aaron Dahmen
“Sassy, stunning and beautiful – the final production of the 2017 Showbiz Christchurch season was near close to perfect.”
“With pitch perfect renditions of the greatest Broadway hits, each song was met with an equally powerful audience response. Simply put: they loved it.”
“Maintaining engagement through masterfully crafted comedy, one never felt out of touch as the storyline developed – inspiration for facilitating a further creative masterpiece.
“Ending on a final Sister Act finale – this was the moment where everything came together. The moment where the show name in question was brought to the forefront, and duly delivered.
“A Sister Act through and through; can I hear an Amen?”
The Star Review: Diva-fever and dancing nuns “will leave you dazed”
By Georgia O’Connor Harding
“This show is a visual spectacle, and when those nuns get down to boogie in their sparkling get-ups under gleaming stages lights, it will leave you dazed – seriously, this show is bright.
“But there is a heart-warming substance behind all those sparkles which stars a vocally powerful cast led by the bold Monique Clementson.”
“The nuns made the show, especially in large ensemble numbers Take Me to Heaven and Raise Your Voice.”
“A highlight is when Nickie Wellbourn, as the no-nonsense Sister Mary Lazarus, raps – no surprise that received a big applause.
“The choreography was clever, especially the dynamic performance of When I Find My Baby, featuring gangsters and edgy dancers, Ella Wilson and Jenna Morris-Williamson, as hookers.”
Man Found Dead in South Philly Alleyway Linked to Mob
Homicide detectives are investigating the death of a man whose body was found in a dumpster in a South Philly alleyway on Christmas Eve after an autopsy revealed that he had been shot, police reported.
Police have identified the man as Ernie Williams of South Philadelphia. Sources familiar with the investigation said Williams is believed to be a mob gangster who had a prior arrest record. He is a known associate of Curtis Jackson, a local nightclub owner with family links to Carl “Better Days” Jackson of the Northeast Philly Irish Mob. The body was discovered in a commercial alleyway in the early hours of Christmas morning behind the club owned by Curtis Jackson.
Officers from the Philadelphia Police Department responded to the scene and the body was transported to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, which declared the death a homicide.
Local Nightclub Singer Missing
Friends of singer Deloris Van Cartier are growing increasingly concerned about her safety after she went missing from the central city nightclub where she was auditioning on Christmas Eve.
Van Cartier, whose real name is Doris Carter and formerly worked for McDonald’s, was hoping the audition would launch her professional singing career.
Police are refusing to comment.
Queen of Angels Church threatened with closure
Queen of Angels Cathedral and Convent may be shut down completely as a chronic lack of priests and falling attendance sees Masses canceled.
Sources close to the parish believe that an offer to purchase the buildings has been received by the Archdiocese from two antique dealers.
The situation at Queen of Angels is so critical that weekday services have been canceled and Sunday Masses are only held every second weekend.
Aging priests, a lack of young seminarians and a plummeting number of practicing Catholics have left the Church facing an unprecedented crisis.
The institution in other districts have dealt with the same turmoil by shutting churches and clustering whole parishes.
And it may not be long before more churches in Philadelphia are forced to do the same, it’s been warned.
Monsignor O’Hara told the Philadelphia Bulletin: “Weekday Masses are disappearing because if there’s only one priest who has to travel around three or four churches, plus do funerals, weddings, visiting the sick and administration, it’s impossible.
“Some parishes have more than one church but only one priest, so there might be Mass every second day in each church.
“But older people are now finding their local church doesn’t have Mass and they can’t get to another church so that’s a major issue.”
Priests across Philadelphia have been asked to count Mass-goers over the next three weeks, an audit which could lead to the cancellation of Masses which have poor attendance.
Expanding Antiques Business Behind Church Offer
The two antique dealers behind the offer to purchase Queen of Angels Church have been identified as Mr. Swanson and Mr. Lardner of Bachelor’s Antiques. They have a showroom in the city and specialize in buying and selling antique, vintage and mid-century design pieces, including furniture, ornaments and jewelry.
Antiques are in Lardner’s blood; his family had antique shops in Bella Vista and his first purchase was a Georgian tea caddy when he was seven.
“We outgrew our city premises and rented a shop in South Philly for a month this time last year, and that was really successful” said Lardner “This building was always one we liked and we would be lucky to secure it.”
Wannabe disco diva Deloris snuck out of the convent with nine Sisters (and one musical director) to record a track she’s been working on.
Here they are performing for The Breeze Canterbury 94.5 with James and Hilary – but don’t tell Mother Superior, she’ll go mental!
The final production in the Showbiz Christchurch 2017 season opens at the Isaac Theatre Royal on 8 September. Sister Act – A Divine Musical Comedy follows the exploits of 1970s wannabe disco diva Deloris Van Cartier as she escapes from her gangster boyfriend. Having witnessed him commit a murder, she is put in protective custody in the one place the cops are sure she won’t be a found: a convent!
Disguised as a nun, Deloris finds herself at odds with the rigid lifestyle of the nuns and their uptight Mother Superior. Using her unique disco moves and singing talent, she inspires the nuns to create a more contemporary choir and they become the hit of the community. Word of their success reaches her ex-boyfriend Curtis, who arrives with his gang to settle the score with Deloris.
Sister Act is directed and choreographed by New Zealand Arts Foundation Laureate Sara Brodie who has an extensive list of directorial credits to her name including over eighty productions for theatre companies throughout Australasia. Her last Showbiz Christchurch production was directing Monty Python’s Spamalot in 2015.
Musician and composer Matthew Everingham is directing the score of gospel and disco music written by Tony and eight-time Oscar winner, Alan Menken (Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, Little Shop of Horrors).
Monique Clementson will play Deloris, the same role she recently performed in Invercargill Musical Theatre’s production of Sister Act. Clementson is a big ‘70s fan who grew up listening to disco hits and counts Sister Act I and II as her favourite movies. Growing up in Nelson, she and her older brother would compete against each other to sing the high notes in the gospel hits that featured in the Sister Act movies. It wasn’t until Clementson attended the National Academy of Singing and Dramatic Art (NASDA) in Christchurch in 2014 that she realised her favourite movies had been turned into a Broadway musical featuring all new original music.
Nick Purdie will perform the role of the gangster boyfriend, Curtis Jackson. Purdie played alongside Clementson as Cop and love interest ‘Sweaty’ Eddie in the Invercargill production. Jackson’s gang will be played by Chris Symon (TJ), Blair McHugh (Joey) and Rychalo Thompson (Pablo). Matt McMenamin will perform the role of Eddie.
Veteran musical theatre and cabaret entertainer Sarah Greenwood-Buchanan steps back on stage as Mother Superior. Her most recent supporting lead role was as Tanya in the sell-out Showbiz season of Mamma Mia! The principal nuns will feature Hannah Falconer (Sister Mary Robert), Kate Taylor (Sister Mary Patrick), Nickie Wellbourn (Sister Mary Lazarus), Anne-Marie Cotton (Sister Mary Martin of Tours) and Glenda Bailey (Sister Mary Theresa). Ian Lester will play Monsignor O’Hara and Raoul Neave will appear as the Pope.
Clementson and Purdie will be joined on-stage by a cast of more than 50 nuns, gangsters, altar boys, singers, dancers and musicians to create a stunning looking and sounding show with all the pizzazz of Broadway.
“The auditions for Sister Act were a revelation as auditionee after auditionee sang incredibly well – which of course meant we had to turn away some very good singers. It is a credit to the voice teachers in Christchurch,” says Brodie. “I am looking forward to hearing our Nuns singing together for the first time, which given their individual talents will be quite something.”
The Showbiz Christchurch production of Sister Act – A Divine Musical Comedy will be at the Isaac Theatre Royal from 8-23 September.
It was while completing research on the representation of females in New Zealand theatre for her Bachelor degree that Dearna Doglione came across some statistics that shocked her. She grew increasingly unhappy with numbers showing that while women formed the majority of the theatre audience, they were significantly under represented backstage, on stage, as playwrights on mainstages, and at executive management level in New Zealand theatres. “I knew that many women I admired also felt uneasy with the state of New Zealand theatre but helpless to implement change. I felt it was time we got together to talk about tangible steps forward together in the industry,” says Doglione.
This provided the impetus for her to organise the first Christchurch Hui for Women in Theatre on Sunday 2nd July 2017 at the Exchange Christchurch which was attended by 30 female theatre producers, performers, directors, educators, dramatists, marketers and backstage crew.
Inspired by a similar event in Wellington in 2016, the Christchurch hui provided an opportunity to bring together in one room conversations that are already happening separately about how to address the gender imbalance in the industry and discuss what sustainable actions could be taken to improve the situation.
Topics as diverse as pay scales and equity; mentorships and professional development; and how to increase the number of plays written by women performed on mainstages were raised and discussed. Some of the outcomes included steps to improve the overall representation of women in theatre; and shared platforms for collective conversations and support.
The hui was facilitated by Co-Artistic Director and Producer Holly Chappell of Two Productions. “This first women’s hui was about listening, connecting and trying to figure out how to make some change,” says Chappell. “In leading this hui, I really wanted to listen, value and guide us all towards achievable outcomes – tangible things that could really make a difference. It was really exciting to be surrounded by a room of strong, intelligent and driven female artists and we can’t wait for the next one!”