By Violi Calvert, Australian Filipina MagazineOctober 01, 2019

The Miss Saigon musical staged by Showbiz Christchurch at the Isaac Theatre Royal in Christchurch opened last Friday (September 27) to a captivated audience.

Judging by the number of people up on their feet in [a] standing ovation at the end of the show, it was a huge success.  Even during the intermission, the buzz and lots of smiling faces indicated the audience was suitably impressed by what they had seen so far.

The musical, which was written in tribute to Puccini’s Madame Butterfly, by Claude-Michel Schönberg and Alain Boublil of Les Misérables fame has been toasted globally. I have previously watched three productions of Miss Saigon in Sydney and could confidently say that this time, again, the story was well told and would have a strong season in Christchurch.

The story of the lead up to the fall of Saigon draws out and gets the audiences involved in the drama of the lives of people affected by the American war. It centres on [the] romance of a young innocent Vietnamese girl (Kim) and an American GI (Chris), which turns into a tragedy when they got separated when Saigon falls. Unbeknown to Chris, he fathered a son with Kim. Their reunion years later was heart-wrenching with Kim then meeting the wife of Chris (Ellen), then deciding how her son could have a better life.

Overall the cast and the ensemble delivered through the haunting and challenging songs, the convincing acting, the music, and the crisp and well synchronised group moves.

They had been aided by the simple but effective set and props, effects, lighting, costumes and make-up. Notably, the helicopter scenes and the gates cleverly shifting, shutting out the anguished crowd wanting to get out, were so realistic that the audience felt they were part of the scenes.

Marcus Rivera, who played The Engineer, was the standout performer.  I have watched him twice in that role and I would say that he again had gone a notch higher in his latest portrayal.

He commanded the stage in “The Heat is On in Saigon” and “If You Want to Die in Bed” and mesmerising in “The American Dream” amidst the backdrop of scantily-clad showgirls and male dancers.  He personified an unsavoury and disreputable pimp, with his confident singing not missing a beat with the orchestra’s accompaniment.

But don’t just take my word for it.  Patrick Shepherd who did the review for Stuff.Co.NZ also felt that: “the show’s success rests on the three main leads and especially the engineer.

Marcus Rivera was excellent as the sleazy, self-serving manipulator making a buck amid the chaos. …. Rivera relished this role, singing with an easy confidence and plenty of cheeky sauce.”

Backstage Christchurch reviewer Kate Divett also said:  “Marcus Rivera (The Engineer) is sassy and clever as the opportunistic club owner – his moment in “The American Dream” was memorable.”

Tina Bergantinos Panlilio, a Filipino-New Zealand singer and musical theatre actress who played the role as Kim and Jack Fraser as Chris, get equal votes from me in their level of performance and contribution to the success of the show.  Both have strong voices and convincingly conveyed the deep emotions they were feeling.  If I were to pick only one song by each of them to put on the weighing scale, it would be Panlilio’s rendition of “I’d Give My Life for You” and Fraser’s “Why God Why”.

Daniel Aguilar, another Fil-Aussie singer and stage actor, who was a late addition following an adjustment of the cast, did the role of Thuy superbly. He has played the same role years ago and his confidence from that stint showed.

James Foster‘s acting and vocals, in the role of John, get a big tick, too.  His exchange with Chris as a concerned colleague and friend in “The Telephone Song” and leading the all men choir in the Opening of Act II – “Bui Doi” especially touched and drew much appreciation from the audience.

Hannah Austin played the role of  Chris’ wife Ellen in a touching way.  Her rendition of  “I Still Believe” with Kim as thousands of miles separated them and “Now That I’ve Seen Her” expressed a torn yet hopeful heart.

Sion Choi (Gigi), who made her musical theatre debut, is a talent to watch out for.  As she gains more experience, she would be able to show off more of her vocals and exude more confidence onstage.

This Miss Saigon production is a stunning theatrical spectacle and amazing musical theatre.  I tip my hat to the Director, Stephen Robertson; the Musical Director, Richard Marrett and Showbiz Christchurch for a job well done.

Miss Saigon runs through to October 12 at the Isaac Theatre Royal, Christchurch.

Violi Calvert is a producer/broadcaster of Radio Tagumpay, Triple H 100.1FM and winner of the Parliament of New South Wales Multicultural and Indigenous Media Award for Coverage of Community Affairs (2015).

By Emma Dyer

Miss Saigon starts in 1975 at the very end of American involvement in the Vietnam conflict, the Fall of Saigon. If, like me, you go to see Miss Saigon with a preconceived idea of the show, prepare to have your expectations delightfully challenged. I had read and heard a lot about both the show itself and the history that inspired it. There are certainly some aspects of this, originally groundbreaking show, that can now be seen as problematic. However, Showbiz Christchurch’s production of it firmly addresses issues that a decade ago, when they last performed it, would not have been considered. One of the most valuable contributions to this show I’ve seen is the care and effort taken to talk with real people, refugees and veterans, who will see their own history somewhat reflected in this show. Context really is what makes Miss Saigon more than just a show, women like Kim still exist, and people continue to be displaced by war and injustice. Hagar New Zealand is an organisation that supports people who have suffered these traumas. After watching the show it was easy to see why Showbiz Christchurch have chosen to support the excellent work that Hagar does.

The three key roles are Kim (Tina Bergantinos-Panlilio), The Engineer (Marcus Rivera), and Chris (Jack Fraser). The amazing voices of these three lead performers propel this tragic story across the Isaac Theatre Royal. It is hard not to be drawn in. Without spoiling the plot for those who like to be surprised, the story centres around a young Vietnamese woman, Kim, who endures many of the different hardships refugees still suffer today. Orphaned and having fled her village to the big city of Saigon, she is desperate, and enters into work as a ‘bar girl’ in Saigon at “Dreamland”. On her first night as a bar girl, she meets a young American man, Chris. This meeting is to change their already chaotic lives forever.

One of the aspects Tina Bergantinos-Panlilio especially brings to this role is her ability to convey both innocence and strength at the same time. Her portrayal of Kim gives a completely believable voice to thousands of authentic Vietnamese stories. Having had the privilege to hear some of the stories told to Showbiz Christchurch, by now local Vietnamese women, I can say that her Kim does them justice.

Even a sad story needs comedy for balance, in this case, it often comes from the sleazy and shady character who owns Dreamland, “The Engineer”. It’s a tribute to Marcus Rivera that he can play a character who quite often behaves as in a morally reprehensible way but still comes across as likeable, even relatable. A line from the song “Backstage at Dreamland” sums up The Engineer perfectly, “shut up and put your hot pants on”. The fact that it barely raises an eyebrow among the girls he employs ought to make you thankful to live here in our usually more enlightened society.

Chris is best summed up as what happens when young men are sent abroad into a war of questionable morality. In casting Jack Fraser Showbiz Christchurch have hit perfection, he melts into the role and adds the humanity that could otherwise be missing from this tired and warworn soldier. That’s not to mention his always fantastic voice, every word sung is perfectly clear and filled with emotion and meaning.

The music in Miss Saigon is as epic as you’d expect from the talented duo who also created the musical Les Misérables. Something you won’t see from your seat in the theatre, but is of particular note, is that the score is so complex and detailed as to require not one but two percussionists to produce the wide range of distinctive musical elements that make this show feel so atmospheric. One of the best parts of the whole show combines both sound and sight. This occurs in the first act as the story transitions in time from 1975 to 1978, the orchestra masterfully provides the soundtrack to a regime change, while the communist army marches across stage, faceless. It’s hard not to be awestruck by this.

The set and costumes for a show are always one of my highlights. I like to be dazzled. The costumes for Miss Saigon are beautiful and cunningly designed to be as tasteful as possible, given the constraints of characters who sometimes have to wear “hot pants”. But it was Harold Moot’s set that most caught my imagination. There were many amazing pieces but perhaps the most interesting was an enormous American flag made from flashing lights, straight out of Las Vegas. Head of Lighting Darren McKane told me after the show that each of those hundreds of bulbs was a delicate (and hot) incandescent bulb that had been carefully saved from the last production of Miss Saigon a decade ago. Go and watch the show, if only to marvel at the effort involved in just this one feat of set construction.

Photo by Wendy Riley

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.

James Foster and Charlotte Taylor. Photo by Wendy Riley

James Foster and Charlotte Taylor. Photo by Wendy Riley

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.

Photo by Wendy Riley

Photo by Wendy Riley

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.

Amanda Atlas. Photo by Wendy Riley

Amanda Atlas. Photo by Wendy Riley

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.

Photo by Wendy Riley

Donna Alley and Michael Bayly. Photo by Wendy Riley

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.

We Will Rock You is the latest musical show to grace the stage of The Isaac Theatre Royal, and it keeps its promise, you will be rocked.

By Emma Dyer

We Will Rock You is a story about rebellion, set to the music of Queen, with outrageous futuristic or punk costumes, and an endless supply of music references and jokes. You don’t have to be a Queen fan but it definitely doesn’t hurt to be a fan of pop music culture because the jokes will be that much funnier. Exhibit Brit, a rather rough and tough male character who proudly identifies his full chosen name is “Britney Spears”. With gags like that you know that you’re in for a good time.

Listening to this show it isn’t hard to remember why they still call Freddie Mercury a genius. The range of songs that Queen has given the world is why the entire list of musical numbers [in the musical] can be made up of their work. There are 23 different Queen songs in this show, most of them so perfect a band would be lucky just to produce one in their career. While it would be hard to pick a favourite you could do worse than Killer Queen or the show closer (which they really make you beg for) Bohemian Rhapsody.

Don’t be fooled into thinking this is just a bunch of jokes, excellent music, and more leather than a field full of cows. There is a serious message here. In a time where we are really questioning the massive amount of power that a few internet giants hold over our lives this really is a story of what the future could look like if we let it. It is outrageous and at times almost cartoonish, but it could be our future. The gags might take things to extremes, evil villain Killer Queen’s hair or the white and rather distressingly tight outfits of the “Gaga Kids”, but there is still a strong undercurrent of truth. For decades the music of Queen has been a part of our collective culture. The writer of this show, Ben Elton, knows a thing or two about pop culture, about making fun of it, and about becoming part of it. You might not be familiar with his name but you probably know his work on comedic classic TV series like “Blackadder” or “The Young Ones”. His joyful, playful, biting, and absurd sense of humour comes through in this show in a way that is delightful and eye-rolling at the same time.

Welcome to the “iPlanet” (Earth has been rebranded), where nobody communicates in real life, individuality is strongly discouraged, and live music is banned. On this planet we have the dreamer dude Galileo Figaro, played by Caleb Jago-Ward who looks remarkably like a young Bon Jovi. Then we have badass babe Scaramouche (and if you think that is a odd name or that you shouldn’t call her “babe”, well so does she) played by the fantastically talented Jane Leonard. What develops from here is a story of love story, of teenage rebellion, and of why it is important that music keeps being created for love not money. But where in another telling of this story Scaramouche could have been relegated to sitting on the sidelines cheering on the musical hero Galileo, that simply isn’t the case here. She’s tough, she fights for what she wants, she runs towards the danger, and she doesn’t take any condescending talk from anyone. Meanwhile Galileo spouts out musical lyrics that just appear in his head, with no idea what they mean, but excellent comedic timing (“Scaramouche will you do the fandango?” does not go down well with her).

For regular attendees to the theatre, used to seeing the orchestra or band tucked away under the stage, it might be quite the surprise to see them on a platform precariously high above the stage, as much a part of the show for the eyes as they are for the ears. Multiple electric guitars replace the usual violins or oboes. So that what you end up with is an awesome lineup of musicians playing  great songs in a very rock n’ roll way. Add to that the supporting ensemble singing and dancing to fill the stage with their energy and enthusiasm, not an easy feat in some of the skin tight costumes, and you have something that could easily be described as “a kind of magic”.

While the baddies are definitely bad they still are relatable. Who doesn’t want to be special? Killer Queen (played to nasty perfection by Naomi Ferguson)  just wants to be special by ensuring nobody else is. Her evil henchman Khashoggi (played by the excellent Jack Fraser), well he just wants to avoid having his brain fried by his boss. The usual office politics. And what about the goodies? Well they hang out in the run down beat up Hard Rock Cafe. They are a punk dressing group of bohemians including VHS wielding Buddy (as in Holly played by Aaron Boyce), outrageous Oz (as in Osbourne played by Catherine Hay) and her lover boy risk-taker Brit (as in Spears played by Tom Hart). So what do the Bohemians want? They want music, they don’t know what it is or what it sounds like or even how to play a VHS tape, but they know deep down in their souls it’s what they need. And in the end everyone needs that, we need music to keep us human, to make us think, cry, be angry, and to unwind. We Will Rock You is a promise kept of all that and more. Buy tickets, see the show, remember why you love music and life.

We Will Rock You, the Musical by Queen and Ben Elton, 29 March – 13 April 2019

As a reviewer I often get asked by friends or colleagues, “Was it really that good?” or, even better, “Is it worth me buying a ticket?”. My pre-emptive strike on this one is a resounding, “oh, yes!”. If you’ve seen the show already, you know what’s coming; if you haven’t, I suggest you book your tickets now because by the time word gets out, they’ll be in hot demand.

This is a first-class production brimming with hi-octane exuberance from start to finish, super-strong leads, an energetic young ensemble cast and a cracking band. Add to that the visual spectacle of a huge video screen and the show reaches a whole new stratospheric level. The show is wall-to-wall great music from one of the greatest rock bands ever, threaded together with the pithy, observational wit of Ben Elton as he takes a poke at the absurdities of modern life.

OK, so it is all assembled around a daft, rather irrelevant plot, but I doubt if anyone cares beyond the obvious downside that when you have a Killer Queen as good as Naomi Ferguson, you don’t get much of her in the second half.

For a first night it was immaculate, especially given the technology involved, so if there were any glitches, they were of the sort that only the tech crew would notice. Lighting and sound were faultless.

As the hits just kept coming, so did the laughs and I couldn’t believe that the time went by so quickly. Caleb Jago-Ward and Jane Leonard were excellent as Galileo and Scaramouche respectively, both fabulous singers singing what sounded like their ideal roles, belting out the big numbers but also pulling on the heartstrings with a touching Who Wants To Live Forever. Jago-Ward and Leonard both relished being front-and centre, making for a highly entertaining pairing.

Similarly, Bohemian couple Catherine Hay (Oz) and Tom Hart (Brit) injected pace, humour and gutsy vocals. Oz’s big moment came in No-One But You and the pair really rocked the house with I Want It All. Aaron Boyce was a suitably Ringo-esque Buddy, his moment in the sun being a well-taken These Are The Days Of Our Lives, while Jack Fraser made the part of archetypal Bond villain Khashoggi his own, as well as Seven Seas of Rhye.

As I’ve alluded to earlier on, one of the highlights of the show was Naomi Ferguson, commanding the stage in all her scenes, singing absolutely superbly throughout and making for a truly fearsome Killer Queen. Covering a wide vocal range across her songs, she powered through the big numbers – an outstanding vocal performance but also a gripping stage presence.

The show runs until April 13 – the opening night audience was on its feet at the end and having an absolute ball so here’s hoping for full houses for the rest of the season. As the title of the show suggests they will, indeed, rock you.

Reviewed by Kate Divett, Backstage Christchurch.

Friday 29 March

It is a deeply reflective time to be living in Christchurch currently, as we try to make sense of the events of Friday 15th March. We are a city in mourning and in shock. In the fortnight that has followed, we have gathered together in many ways – to grieve those who have been lost, to support those who remain, and in vigils for the peace and way of life we hold so dearly. Gatherings have been important.

Showbiz Christchurch thought deeply about whether or not to gather for the opening of their season of We Will Rock You. Their unanimous decision that “the show must go on” was the right one. I have personally found solace in the words of Leonard Bernstein this week: “This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before” and I held these words in my mind as I entered the theatre doors on Friday night.

So this is what the cast and crew of We Will Rock You have done: an exceptional, high energy, full noise and lights opening night, and an act of defiance against those who would want our lives interrupted. Bravo and thank you to all involved.

With the theatrical music of Queen woven together by the comedic writing of Ben Elton, it’s a winning combination. The story is set 300 years in the future, and the internet has destroyed any sense of community or individualism. Humans conform to mainstream, commercial ideals that are enforced, Big Brother-style, by Globalsoft Corporation. A small group of rebel Bohemians, however, are living counter to this tyranny, believing in a prophecy that a dreamer will come to help them find the last remaining musical instrument that has been hidden on the iPlanet. And there’s obviously a love story in there for good measure, which is brilliant.

Okay, the story might be a little bonkers, but we’re really here for the music – and we are not let down. At all. If the title of the show “We Will Rock You” was a promise, then Showbiz have definitely kept it. From the opening strains of ‘Innuendo’, we’re reminded that Queen’s music is intricate, lyrical, and incredibly well-known – especially in the recent success of 2018’s biographical film about Freddie Mercury, ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’. The band set the tone for an epic night of rock immediately, and bravo in particular to Michael Ferrar and Heather Webb for their work on guitars. Brian May’s solos and breaks are some of the more recognisable in music history!

The night belonged to the two lead roles though. Caleb Jago-Ward (Galileo) is phenomenal – it’s actually difficult to adequately express how extraordinary his voice is.

It is a treat to see him throw himself into what must be a very fun role to perform and apply his vocal talent to. Every song was a winner. Jane Leonard (Scaramouche) is equally brilliant and a fabulous casting opposite Jago-Ward, bringing sass, feisty attitude and some great comic timing. I particularly enjoyed ‘Somebody To Love’, but the duet moments for these two singers – particularly in ‘Under Pressure’ and ‘Who Wants To Live Forever’ were magical.

Naomi Ferguson (Killer Queen) and Jack Fraser (Khashoggi) had reliably good performances as the evil counterparts to Galileo and Scaramouche. Ferguson, in particular, had a big role with a big personality to play – and a wig to match – and the vocal range required of her songs would be a challenge for most singers. We have Freddie Mercury to thank for that! Her costumes were wonderfully outrageous, and this is a good opportunity to congratulate Diane Brodie QSM (Costume) and Sarah Greenwood-Buchanan (Hair and Makeup) and their teams for their incredible work once again.

Aaron Boyce (Buddy), Catherine Hay (Oz), and Tom Hart (Brit) played excellent parts and contributed even more mouth-dropping vocal performances. I particularly noted that Hart’s voice at times sounded incredibly similar to Mercury’s, particularly in ‘I Want It All’. Hay and Hart have some very funny on-stage chemistry and brought wonderful comedic moments. Boyce plays a fabulous futuristic hipster, a great leader of the Bohemian group.

The cohesion of direction, musical, production and technical elements of this production is evident for all to see.

The Showbiz Christchurch team should be incredibly satisfied that they are doing their bit to serve the Christchurch community with high-quality moments of escape into the Arts when we need it most. The themes of the show – standing up for what you believe in, acceptance of difference, friendship, and the power of music to unify people – hold an added poignancy that could not have been predicted. The response from the audience on opening night – whooping, hollering, and generous applause throughout, followed by a joy-filled sing-a-long and an emphatic standing ovation – were all confirmation that this is a show that will add to our collective wellbeing. Audiences should secure their tickets before the season sells out and get ready to rock (yeah!).

The Showbiz Christchurch Saunders & Co Season of We Will Rock You is on from 29 March – 13 April at Isaac Theatre Royal.

Theatreview: Sparkles With Infectious Energy
By Grant Hindin Miller

“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.”

>> Read full review


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.

>> Read full review


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.”

>> Read full review


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?”

>> Read full review


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.”

>> Read full review

Audience wowed by an Evening of Rodgers and Hammerstein Classics
By What’s Up Reviewer Jenny Sew Hoy Agnew

One of the advantages a local production has over an international touring show is the partisan audience of family and friends of the performers.

Showbiz’s audience for An Evening of Rodgers and Hammerstein Classics was no different.

Richard Rodgers’ familiar music, coupled with Oscar Hammerstein’s witty lyrics, was presented delightfully and wowed the crowd.

All around me I could hear snatches of words or humming of the tunes.

My companion had to nudge me at times to shut me up!

These songs were definitely the best from the Golden Age of musical theatre.

The addition of the entire NASDA student body gave a youthful aspect to the established Showbiz chorus and swelled the numbers to 120.

To be able to provide solo spots to individuals from this chorus is a wonderful example of the talent we were so lucky to hear.

Jane Leonard showed again both her acting and her singing abilities, especially in “Mr Snow” from Carousel. Nigel Withington wrung good advice from “Climb every mountain”, usually Mother Abbess’s solo in The Sound of Music.

Nick Hollamby joined Jane Leonard to exhort each other not to show their partiality, worrying that “People will say we’re in love”, from Oklahoma!

Not every song was rip-roaring and pacey like the finale. The tragic “We kiss in a shadow” from The King and I, was a truly moving duet by Celine Rosa Tan and Nigel Withington.

It was a pleasure to be able to hear the words of the lyrics.

The soloists’ clear diction enabled us to appreciate the stories told by the songs.

The always splendid Richard Marrett energetically conducted the 30 piece Broadway-style orchestra.

The CSO was acknowledged for its fine contribution to the evening.

The percussionists always seemed on the move.

How fortunate Christchurch is to have musicians of such calibre!

See original review


Star Review: Classic songs come to life onstage
By Star.kiwi reporter

So many performances these days seem to be getting bigger, flashier, more colourful, more dramatic, more incredible.

If that’s what your after, The Showbiz Evening of Rodgers and Hammerstein Classics would not be for you.

Yet there is something magical about going back to the simplicity of music.

And this was music beautifully presented and flawlessly performed, with a full orchestra, incredible soloists and a chorus of 120 voices.

It was an old fashioned style performance – the full orchestra dominated the stage, conductor front and centre in immaculately shined shoes. The chorus stood in rows, 120 white faces, while the soloists came and went in suit jackets and fairytale gowns.

The soloists were incredible, each bringing strong voices and powerful performances.

Read full review


Backstage: Review – An Evening of Rodgers and Hammerstein
By Kate Divett

“As hokey pokey is to icecream, the performance is a smorgasbord of hits from the Golden Age of musical theatre – the best songs from the great musicals that paved the way for the shows of today. The affect of this is much like eating all the hokey-pokey bits in one go – everything is the best, which is definitely a guilty pleasure and perhaps a little overwhelming.”

“Richard Marrett’s assembly of a 120-strong chorus provided the grunt and depth of sound that is often not possible in smaller stage productions, which was a delight whenever their curtain was lifted. Highlights included a rollicking and intricately arranged Do-Re-Mi, and the men sounded magnificent in There is Nothing Like a Dame. It was marvellous to have the orchestra join the vocal performers on stage, which allowed us to collectively appreciate their work and talent during instrumental interludes.”

“All in all, An Evening of Rodgers and Hammerstein Classics is everything it should be – a retrospective savouring of musically and lyrically decadent show-tunes, brought back to life in a way that ends up being both sickly-sweet and yet delightfully indulgent. A guilty pleasure indeed.”

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Christchurch talent coup in entertaining ‘Desert Queen’ fabulousness

Staging Priscilla Queen of the Desert has to be one of Showbiz Christchurch’s most ambitious undertakings. Cast and crew must grapple with the challenges of 500 costumes, 200 wigs and headpieces (primarily sourced from previous productions), the choreography and vocal demands of an array of disco tunes and pop songs and some moments of pure pathos in the midst of camp chaos. For the most part, Showbiz can be proud of this epic spectacle.

Read full review: What’s Up review by Ruth Agnew

Priscilla shakes her groove thang

Full of fabulousness and the original pre-meme Felicia, this camp costumed comedy caper has more mince and flesh on display than the Mad Butcher. More funny, funky, flash cheese than the Canterbury cheesemonger.

Not that the story matters so much as the sights and sounds of the sensational set-pieces, but essentially it’s about drag racing across Australia. It’s the tale of two drag-queens Mitzi (Isaac Pawson, last seen in the Court Theatre’s pert musical comedy Legally Blonde, but also swimmingly good in The Little Mermaid) and Felicia (an unflinchingly brave Tom Worthington), and a transgender woman Bernadette (the versatile Cameron Douglas, who impressed in the terrific That Bloody Woman, among many recent Court appearances). The tart, tucked trio are contracted to perform a drag show at a casino in Alice Springs in the remote Australian desert. Beautifully bitchy, they head west from Sydney on a fine feathered, rather reckless roadtrip aboard their pink party bus, Priscilla.

Well chosen, the three male leads’ voices blend beautifully, even hampered by unwieldy Ocker accents and some technical sound issues.

The sheer exuberance of the entire triple-threat cast matches the calibre of the astonishing OTT costumes, which damn near steal every scene.

The touching father-son storyline as well as the budding romance manage to be poignant and heart-warming, amidst the extravagance of hundreds of costumes.

The Christchurch crowd is always a bit staid and standoffish to start with but by the frocking-up of the Australian-themed finale the marvellous cast had earned the standing ovation. This accomplished quick-change diva-licious cast deserves a crowd ready to party. Eat your heart out, Adele.

Read full review: Backstage Christchurch review by Margaret Agnew

A stunning array of costumes that just keep on coming

Cameron Douglas is particularly impressive as the ageing transgender performer Bernadette, played by Terence Stamp in the film. He is utterly convincing and embodies the tricky role with aplomb.

Emily Burns, Jane Leonard and Naomi Ferguson are also fabulous as the three glittering divas that descend on wires from above to provide a kind of camp Greek chorus and knock-out some disco classics.

The flying singers are just one of many impressive feats of stagecraft on display in this technically outstanding production. Priscilla the bus becomes a character in her own right – turning on the stage, roaring across the outback and providing a lofty stage for dance numbers.

There is also a stunning array of costumes that just keep on coming like an unending waterfall of glitter and feathers.

This show is a great excuse to hear some rocking pop tunes performed with style and verve and enjoy some Broadway standard production values.

Read full review: The Press review by Charlie Gates

Amid the Gloss, Most – but Not All – Comedy Rooted in Truth

Showbiz Christchurch does spectacle really, really well. Their production of Aussie jukebox musical Priscilla, Queen of the Desert plays to their strengths; it is a glitzy, glamorous, camp, high energy carnival that really pushes its cast to deliver an outrageously over-the-top evening of entertainment.

Read full review: Theatreview by Erin Harrington