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LUMA Southern Light Project - credit Che McPherson Pixel Peeps

Let there be light: LUMA is the annual festival that lights up the southern skies

According to the Book of Genesis, ‘God said “Let there be light,” and there was light. A group of dedicated Southern Lakes locals may not have divine powers, but each year they deliver an innovative light festival that takes people on an interactive sensory journey like no other.

LUMA  Southern Light Project - credit Kiara Collab Photography
LUMA Southern Light Project – credit Kiara Collab Photography

Central Queenstown will shine brightly for four nights over Queen’s Birthday Weekend when the LUMA Southern Light Project comes to town. The free public event, now in its third year, attracted more than 35,000 visitors in 2017 and has gained a loyal following among locals as well as people from around New Zealand and overseas.
Set within the idyllic Queenstown Gardens and along the waterfront, the festival will transform the giant natural amphitheatre into an illuminated winter wonderland full of art, curated collections of stunning light sculptures and thought-provoking installations.
Luma was the brainchild of SILO, a collective of Southern Lakes professionals which – along with its wider group of fellow hard-working volunteers – is highly motivated to give the region more exposure to culture and creativity, to foster and enhance social wellbeing and develop a stronger sense of community.
Duncan Forsyth, whose day job is General Manager and Winemaker at Mount Edward, contributes countless hours of his ‘spare’ time while wearing the hat of Luma Light Festival Trust Chairman. For him it’s all about wanting to “give something back” by providing an event that is entertaining, accessible, family-friendly and joins everyone together.
“It looks like all the streets are paved with gold in the Southern Lakes,” Duncan says. “But the reality is that it can be a very difficult and costly place to live in and to enjoy. Families are working hard and trying to hold down two jobs… sometimes that sense of community gets swamped.”

LUMA Southern Light Project - credit Che McPherson Pixel Peeps
LUMA Southern Light Project – credit Che McPherson Pixel Peeps

Although Queenstown has firmly cemented its reputation as a hub for outdoor activities and adventure sports, Duncan believes the rich and thriving creative side of the Southern Lakes district is often overlooked. “We see Luma as really helping to put our region on the map as a respected cultural and arts destination.”
Without spoiling too much of the surprise, Duncan says this year the aim is to “pull people down a rabbit hole of visual delights”. It’s safe to say that the audience will be stimulated, and enlightened – literally and figuratively. “Every year we want to change people’s expectations of what Luma is about. If you’ve been before you’ll have a new and different experience this time.”
Aucklander Angus Muir, who has been recognised internationally, returns as principal light installation artist, featuring alongside creative art luminaries such as Daniel Brown, Jon Baxter, Puck Murphy, Mapping Mondays and Nocturnal.
Luma Southern Light Project is at Queenstown Gardens/Marine Parade for Queen’s Birthday Weekend (Friday 1 June to Monday 4 June), 5pm-10pm. Entry is free however, a gold coin donation would be appreciated. Car-pooling or taking public transport into town is advised. For more information, visit www.luma.nz.

Mamma Mia

Mamma Mia’s Ashburton debut: get carried away to the music of ABBA at The Ashburton Events Centre

More than 54 million people around the world have fallen in love with the characters, the story and the music that make Mamma Mia! And, in May 2018, it will be performed for a limited season at the Ashburton Trust Event Centre, with a stellar cast, live band, amazing custom-made touring set and costumes.

Mamma Mia

The Ashburton Trust Event Centre was born out of the necessity to replace the aged Regent Theatre that had occupied the site for many years and was in very bad repair. “It would not have survived the Christchurch earthquakes had it still been standing,” Ashburton Events Centre Manager Roger Farr says.
“The brickwork was crumbling, the dressing rooms leaked like a sieve and there were broken trusses in the roof.”
Now ten years on, the Ashburton Trust Event Centre is gearing up to celebrate its first milestone by staging the box office extravaganza Mamma Mia. Leading the production team will be Director Roger Farr, Musical Director Richard Marrett and Choreographer Madison Tew Keyworth from Australia.
“I couldn’t think of a better show to pick for a celebration than Mamma Mia,” Madison says.
“It’s such a fun show; one of those shows that you just cannot help but smile when watching! It’s a clever storyline woven throughout Abba’s greatest hits.”
Mamma Mia runs from Friday 18 May to Saturday 26 May. For more information and to purchase tickets, drop in and see the team at the Event Centre, or visit online at
www.ateventcentre.co.nz.

Photo: Grant Hadley-Bennett

Vocal virtuosos: the talented performers behind ‘Oriana’

They’re young, vivacious and vocal virtuosos. Meet Amelia Ryman, Kimberley Wood, Matthew Harris and Harry Meehan, the faces of Oriana. This premier ensemble is rocking retrospective songs like nobody else – think sixteenth/seventeenth century retrospective!

Photo: Grant Hadley-Bennett
Photo: Grant Hadley-Bennett

The name Oriana is a nod to Queen Elizabeth I. “Oriana was a kind of nickname for her; it was slipped into many poems and compositions at the time,” explains Dublin born Harry. “And we do that, too,” adds Amelia, brainchild and founder of Oriana, “At the end of each performance, we sing ‘Long Live Fair Oriana!’”
Their debut concert was Christmas 2017 at Avebury House, while 2018 has seen Oriana sing the Easter Vigil at St Michael and All Angels, and a lunchtime concert at St Mary’s Pro Cathedral on 18 April. Coming up are 2pm concerts at Knox Church, 10 June, and The Piano, 19 August.
Kimberley says that Oriana’s choral pieces and madrigals are filling a gap in the market; Harry nods in agreement. “Auckland and Wellington have these groups but Christchurch, post-quakes, had nothing; now we can provide that high standard, quality music.”
Amelia says the friendship they have outside of performing is important. “Our connection with each other makes for a good connection with our audiences.”
Oriana also does private functions. “Corporate events, engagements, weddings, birthdays, whatever’s wanted, we’ll do it,” Matthew says. “And we happily do modern, and can go unscripted,” he adds, with a not quite cherubic smile.
For more information email orianaensemble@gmail.com or find Oriana on Facebook.

FANTINE AND OVAL OFFICE

All jazzed up: getting excited about the Cavell Leitch New Zealand International Jazz and Blues Festival

New Zealand’s biggest combined jazz and blues event is returning to Christchurch for its 23rd year, with more than 30 shows across five days. Cavell Leitch New Zealand International Jazz and Blues Festival will see international, national and local artists performing in 10 different venues across the city from May 23.

FANTINE AND OVAL OFFICE
FANTINE AND OVAL OFFICE

James Morrison kicks off the festival in the Isaac Theatre Royal on 23 May and international jazz singer Fantine performs two nights of jazz, soul and funk on 24 and 25 May.
Favourite local performers include The Eastern, this year teaming up with local master chef Richard Till for Country Eats, and two great food and music shows on 25 and 26 May at the Lyttelton Arts Factory.
Food, wine and jazz lovers have it all matched up with a three-course southern food dinner menu at Hotel Montreal, accompanied by live music of New Orleans by King Tubbs and wine pairings from award-winning Black Estate, on 24 and 25 May.
For three days Christchurch will be humming to the beat of free music from the River City Jazzmen on the Christchurch Tramway from 12 noon to 2pm on Thursday 24, Friday 25 and Saturday 26 May, while Jazz for lunch at The Piano highlights the sounds and souls of Georgie Clifford and Alice Tanner on 24 and 25 May.
To wrap up, local singer Roslen Ulaula will present a Jill Scott tribute at Christchurch Boys’ High School on 27 May, before the festival after-party jam hits Blue Smoke that evening.
For more information visit jazzbluesfestival.co.nz.

Molls Dolls

The dames of dance: how the award winning dance group ‘Molls Dolls’ got their collective groove on

Molly Chapman was four years old when she donned her first pair of tap shoes and clicked her way across the floorboards. Born and raised in Dunedin, Molly grew up in a family that was, and still is, very involved in musical theatre. “My sister plays leading roles and directs musicals in Dunedin, and my brother acts and directs too.”

Molls Dolls

Molly taught tap in Dunedin and continued to teach it when she moved to Christchurch, aged 22. Her love of dance was passed onto her son, Hayden Withers, who graduated from the American Musical and Dramatic Academy (AMDA) in 2014, and is now New York based, and wowing audiences at Off Broadway. “Hayden’s my
inspiration,” Molly says.
The birth of Molls Dolls came about when the mother of a young girl she taught suggested Molly take a class for adults, as well as preschoolers. The same mother also suggested the name Molls Dolls.
It was while attending a Masters Games event with a softball team, which Molly says was enormous fun, that she became aware that the Masters had a Dancesports category.
She returned home with a plan in mind and wasted no time in putting out the word she was looking to teach tap to adult women. She set up a dance studio in her home and in 2015, Molls Dolls were up and tapping.
In 2016 they competed in their first Masters Games in Dunedin. “Our team comprised six ex-tap dancers. We were in the Formation Team section of the Dancesports and the crowds loved us so much that we returned home wearing silver medals!”
Fired with such a win, Molls Dolls headed to the Masters at Wanganui in January 2017. “But this time there were 11 of us (three teams) and we came away with Gold and Silver.”
On Waitangi weekend of this year, Molls Dolls competed at the Masters, again; by now the three teams had grown to 21 dancers, aged from 37 to 69. They made a clean sweep, with the red and silver team winning the gold medal, the blue team taking out the silver, and the black and gold team getting bronze. They also got the silver medal in Show Dance.
The girls are super industrious when it comes to fundraising. “From May to August we make up to 300 dozen cheese rolls, per run – we’ve even made over 1,200 dozen!”
Next up for these indefatigable dames of dance is the Masters Games in October at Timaru and Wanganui in February, 2019. “We’ve also been invited to an Australasian Competition called Follow Your Dreams, with a qualifying competition in Christchurch in August. If we qualify then we’ll be heading to Melbourne in January 2019.”
Molly says her dancers inspire her and have brought so much fun into her life. “The girls give me so much joy. I don’t think I would have survived the hard times without them; they make Molls Dolls!”
For more information, email molz@xtra.co.nz.

Wicked Showbiz

Behind the scenes: the Wicked talent behind the scenes for Showbiz Christchurch

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.

Wicked Showbiz
Vicki Morris-Williamson with some of the hats under construction or refurbishment for Wicked. Photo courtesy of Showbiz Christchurch.

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.

Wicked Showbiz
Up to 100 people can be involved behind the scenes in just one show.

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, playing Joseph in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour 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 next month. Tickets are available from www.ticketek.co.nz/showbiz.

Easy Money

A laugh a minute: The Court Theatre presents “Easy Money”

They say the best things in life are free… But that’s not so for con-artist couple Trudi & Stephen in Roger Hall’s newest play, Easy Money.

Easy MoneyMaking its worldwide debut this March at The Court Theatre, Easy Money is a laugh-a-minute satire about greed, with playwright Hall describing the play as having “no moral, no message – just entertainment.”
Adapted from the 17th Century play The Alchemist; Easy Money is a hilarious romp which follows the two con artists as they try to fool their prestigious Auckland neighbours into buying shares in the Auckland Harbour Bridge. The duo claims that there’s a congestion toll coming that will send shares skyrocketing… If, in fact, there are any shares at all.
Featuring Roy Snow, Luanne Gordon, Lynda Milligan, Bruce Phillips, Geoffrey Heath, Jared Corbin, Gregory Cooper, Susannah Kenton, Melinda Joe and Albany Peseta, director Ross Gumbley has assembled a dream cast. “I’ve got a cast who are wonderful actors and packed with funny bones.”
Will Trudi & Stephen’s neighbours fall for it? The question on Hall’s mind is whether or not audiences will. His aim is for audiences to walk away wondering, “…would we have been taken in by them?”
To find out, you’ll just have to go and see it all play out…
Easy Money opens at The Court on 17th March and runs through until
14th April.

American Express Openair Cinema

Events guide: Five things well worth leaving home for

The temperatures may have begun their downward descent, but that doesn’t mean it’s time to lock yourselves inside! We’ve gone in search of some of the hottest events around that will be sure to bring some warmth to your autumn.

American Express Openair Cinema
American Express Openair Cinema

Food, fun and flicks:

American Express is bringing the Openair Cinema festival of food, fun and flicks to Rauora Park from 15 March to 1 April.
There will be an array of alternative entertainment, live music and DJ performances before the latest and greatest feature films light up the big screen.
Better yet, you can bring along a ‘Doggy Date’! Pampered pooches will receive the VID treatment with a pawfect picnic platter of doggy delights and their own canine couch. Tickets start at $13 and are on-sale now at www.openaircinemas.co.nz.

Jump for charity:

Some of the country’s leading horse and pony riders are getting in behind the New Zealand Breast Cancer Foundation with the second annual Jump for Cancer Hagley charity event at North Hagley Park on 25 March.
St. Margaret’s College students will be collecting donations on behalf of the New Zealand Breast Cancer Foundation and food vendors will be selling everything from coffee and gelato to gourmet pizzas and potatoes.
General admission is free with VIP tickets available from www.eventbrite.co.nz. To find out more, head to the Jump for Cancer Hagley Facebook page.

Middle-aged man in lycra!

Following a sell-out premiere season across New Zealand, much-loved Kiwi actor Mark Hadlow remounts for a final ride into Christchurch in the acclaimed one man show, MAMIL (middle-aged man in Lycra), in all its lurid lycra glory for ‘Le Tour d’Isaac’, from Thursday 31 May to Saturday 2 June at the Isaac Theatre Royal.
Shining as the affable, yet uncomfortably relatable anti-hero in the one-man show, Hadlow commands the stage. With his energetic presence and childlike enthusiasm to the character, he breathes life into the cleverly crafted monologues to delight even the most stoic of MAMIL-phobes.

Colourful fun :

All the colour and fun of a carnival is coming to Cathedral Square on Saturday 24 February.
The popular Latino market is heading into the city from 4pm to 8pm on so you can enjoy a delicious culinary collection of Latin street food, live music, art and craft and, of course, the warmth of the local Latin community.
There will also be workshops, a dance floor and performances with Latin rhythms (including capoeira and samba do Brasil). So bring your most colourful clothing – and your dancing shoes – and prepare for a night of colourful fun.

A catwalk crusade:

Designers and celebrities are set to hit the catwalk on Thursday 12 April wearing the latest New Zealand fashion.
Guests at the annual M Factor Fashion Show will see collections from the likes of Annah Stretton, Augustine, Repertoire, Trelise Cooper and many more to raise funds for Ronald McDonald House Charities New Zealand and Ronald McDonald House South Island.
Held at 7pm on Thursday 12 April at The Transitional Cathedral, tickets are available at ticketmaster.co.nz and are priced at $75 for VIP, $55 for General Admission and $20 for children and students.

Lansdown House

Music at Lansdown

After Mozart’s Don Giovanni on St Patrick’s Day, ‘Lansdown Summer’ concludes its 5th festival at the beautiful heritage property at 132 Old Tai Tapu Road, with its second ‘narropera’ – a narrated format of opera. Weber’s ‘Der Freischütz’, The Devil’s Marksman will be held on 25 and 31 March.

Lansdown House
Lansdown House, the venue for Lansdown Summer

Narropera reduces an opera to its musical and storyline essentials. Performances last 85 minutes and are without interval, as mesmerising as a ‘Who dunnit’.
One hundred and fifty years ago, Wellington’s Evening Post wrote, “The great event of the operatic season, Der Freischütz, took place last night. The applause was immense… such cheers hardly ever have been heard before in this theatre.”
Fifty years later, the same newspaper wrote of another performance, “Lovers of operatic music will welcome the performance of Weber’s Der Freischütz, next Saturday. The best cast of soloists to be obtained in the Dominion has been engaged”.
The NZ Herald described a third performance of Der Freischütz as “one of the most beautiful compositions in the repertoire of operatic music, too well known to require any detailed statement of the plot”.
It is hard to believe that a work that was so loved and admired in early New Zealand is now unknown. So, head to Lansdown and discover the exquisite music and wonderful story of Der Freischütz, for yourself.
When and where: Giovanni 17 March; Freischütz 25 March and 31 March, The Golden Room, Lansdown House, 132 Old Tai Tapu Road at 8PM, parking in grounds.
Bookings, location map and more are available from www.lansdownsummer.com or c/o Box Office, Court Theatre 03-963 0870. Take a picnic, gates open at 6.30pm.