Cold nights and warm theatres go together like the costumes and music of an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical – you know it’s something very special (possibly technicolor) and you know you’re going to be entertained. Showbiz Christchurch is bringing Broadway sizzle to Christchurch on a cold weekend.
The mid-season concert that is now a fixture of the Showbiz calendar highlights the ‘best bits’ of a certain composer’s body of work – this time, no less than the modern master himself, Andrew Lloyd Webber. There are 24 songs included, from Lloyd Webber’s best known (and some less well-known) musicals, including The Phantom of the Opera, Cats, Whistle Down the Wind, Song and Dance, Evita, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Jesus Christ Superstar, Sunset Boulevard, Aspects of Love, and Starlight Express. Performers include 14 soloists, the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra, and a dazzling array of dancers and chorus members.
It’s a busy night. With so much happening on stage and such a huge body of work to cover, the pace is frenetic (and at times, humorously, the dry ice is a little overwhelming!). While the concert is once again very enjoyable, the nature of these ‘best bits’ shows also presents some challenges that I’m sure provides plenty of discussion for musical aficionados afterward. Are we in agreement about which is the ‘best bit’ of each musical? Is some context lost in translation when shifted into a concert setting, for example, does everyone understand why that cat just flew up into the sky? Does everyone know that those last people were trains? For the unfamiliar, the songs and the non-singing soloists have the potential to feel a little confusing.
But no matter – we’re here for the music, the singing, and the dancing, and we are not disappointed in this regard.
Highlights of the night are many but have to include Jack Fraser, James Foster, and Amanda Atlas. Fraser and Foster had several outings each, but Fraser’s outing as Judas in ‘Heaven On Their Minds’ was quite brilliant – a powerhouse performance. James Foster gave a beautiful, tender performance of ‘Music of the Night’ from Phantom of the Opera. Amanda Atlas only needed one song to make an impression on the evening – she delivers ‘With One Look’ from Sunset Boulevard with emotional depth and masterful vocal command.
Ashley Brown’s cello solo in the ‘Variations Theme’ from Song and Dance was mesmerizing. What an inspired inclusion, and a virtuoso performance.
Other worthy mentions include Donna Alley as a suitably outrageous ‘Prima Donna’, and Michael Bayly in various roles, most memorably for his sassy singing (and costume) as King Herod in ‘Song of the King’. He also provides a solid counterpart to Chuana McKenzie’s Evita numbers, my favourite being ‘I’d Be Surprisingly Good For You’. Jenna Baxter (‘Whistle Down the Wind’) and Karen Tewnion-Smith (‘Unexpected Song’) each had marvelous moments. The Children’s Chorus were delightful, particularly melting our hearts in ‘No Matter What’.
The dances elevate the evening. From the slinking entrance of the Jellicle Cats to the sultry tango that echoes McKenzie and Bayly’s courtship in ‘I’d Be Surprisingly Good For You’, they provide context and atmosphere in the concert setting.
Bravo to Richard Marrett and the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra. Theirs is, as audiences have rightfully come to anticipate, a reliably fabulous performance of unrelenting musical magic.
Overall, this is a very enjoyable, easy way to spend an evening. We have some outstanding talent in Canterbury, and these concerts are a very special opportunity to showcase their skills. Showbiz Christchurch is once again shining the light towards the end of a wintery tunnel with their mid-season musical offering.
This was a nice and easy way to finish the week with a well put together show that was just the right length and did a good job of covering the work of one of musical theatre’s most prolific and successful composers.
I have to say I’m not the biggest Lloyd Webber fan but I enjoyed this and felt that it represented some of his best work, drawn from 10 musicals, as well as including song choices that were perhaps not the most obvious.
Artistic director Ravil Atlas pulled together a good production, Showbiz delivering the high standard that we have come to expect, all under the expert musical direction of Richard Marrett and the accompaniment of the CSO.
I’ll get to the solo items shortly (if I can find my way through the slightly overdone dry ice) but I felt that what really brought the stage to life were the seemingly indefatigable dancers and the strong chorus. I also liked the children’s chorus, adding that extra dash of zest in uptempo numbers like Song of the King and pathos in the exposed cameos in No Matter What.
Standouts for me were Jack Fraser, James Foster and Amanda Atlas, all strong voices taking on songs that needed robust delivery. Fraser’s Heaven On Their Minds was gutsy and angry, handling the rapid-fire lyrics brilliantly, a definite contrast with the subtlety of his duet with Charlotte Taylor in All I Ask of You. They blended well.
Foster’s Music of the Night was perfectly executed, making for a suitably creepy but polished Phantom, hitting those formidable high notes confidently. He also took on Love Changes Everything, again nailing it.
Amanda Atlas only appeared once in With One Look, a song of faded glory and misplaced hope, and she gave it her all. Atlas always manages to get to the heart of a song and, boy, did she do that here.
Ashley Brown’s account of the Paganini Variations was a surprising and welcome inclusion, fiercely difficult and not made easier by the stage arrangement. I liked the inclusion of the dancers but felt that he could have held centre stage in his own right for the second set.
Donna Alley was superbly arch in Prima Donna, soaring above it all gloriously, and I liked Jonathan Densem’s take on Joseph. Michael Bayly hammed it up in Song of the King and provided the rock for Chuana McKenzie’s Evita bracket.
Unfortunately, his mic failed him in Hosanna but he gamely saw it through. McKenzie was suitably sultry and manipulative in I’d Be Surprisingly Good for You, following an energetic Buenos Aires, and Jenna Baxter’s Whistle Down the Wind was nicely done. I also enjoyed Karen Tewnion-Smith’s direct delivery of Unexpected Song and James-Paul Mountstevens handled Starlight Express well.
The show runs until 16 June.
By Emma Dyer
Showbiz Christchurch’s mid-year concert, The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber, is as delightful as a box full of chocolates. It is a perfectly sized taster, a wide range of pieces from one of the most renowned composers of musical theatre. If you aren’t familiar with his work, if you are familiar with his work, if you love it, if you don’t, whatever your feelings you will almost certainly find something to appreciate in this spectacular show.
Showbiz Christchurch have been given special permission, from Andrew Lloyd Webber himself, to make this show more than just a singer on stage and some musicians hidden away. Instead what you are treated to is a selection of fully staged mini productions from ten different musicals. Each given the care, costumes, choirs, full orchestras, expertly performed choreography, subtle but perfect lighting, and so on that make you feel instantly transported to that musical. Part of the genius of the evening (and of the composer himself) is really that there is such a wide range of musical styles and subject matter. With so many highlights throughout the evening it is indeed a hard task to pick just a few.
Evita transports you to 1940s Argentina. Charming Evita (Chuana McKenzie) whether for love or love of power pushes herself as a perfect match for Juan Peron (Michael Bayly). She sings of her claims that she’d be “surprisingly good” for him, while the other half of the stage is given over to a couple dancing a tango to represent this verbal tango taking place between Evita and Juan Peron.
One of the absolute stars across many numbers from several different musicals is James Foster. He completely blew us away every time he took to the stage, appearing to be a natural actor who seems to embody every role he takes on, his powerful voice impressed most especially in “Music of the Night”. Another from The Phantom of the Opera, “Prima Donna” pairs laugh out loud comedy with breathtaking vocals when Donna Alley perfectly plays the demanding yet insecure personality of an early 20th century opera star. And what would a star be without their entourage, a trio of strong male vocalists imploring her to grace the stage with her presence. Oh go on.
Switching it up again, fans of Elvis will love “Song of the King” from Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Looking and sounding like something out of a show in Las Vegas the stage lights up with dancers clad in glittering gold Egyptian inspired costumes, this number is more than packed full of energy and pizazz.
You might not know the musical Whistle Down the Wind but if you’re a fan of 1990s Irish boy-band Boyzone, “No Matter What” is sure to fill you with delight. And if all of that wasn’t enough this number has some of the most adorable young performers take to the stage, they do Christchurch proud to have so much talent and grace at such a young age.
If you’ve always wanted to see CATS then you’ll be left wanting more as the stage is filled with perfectly costumed dancers leaping and flying about the stage as if they really were cats, while behind them the choir and the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra tells a vivid story.
This show is for you if you like any or all of the following; celebrity dancing shows, old school Hollywood glamour, ballet, contemporary dance, drama, comedy, flashy clothes, opera, classical music, escapism, love stories or really just a great night out. If you need a break away from the gloominess of a Christchurch winter then you’d really be sorry to miss this show. And while you’re at it make sure you get your tickets now for Showbiz Christchurch’s next production Miss Saigon because the people who brought you The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber really know how to put on a show.
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
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
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.