Ross Gumbley and Mark Hadlow last appeared on stage together in The Court Theatre’s 2010 production Gods of Carnage; now they are to be reunited as mismatched flatmates in the quirky Norwegian comedy play Elling.
Hadlow’s Elling is a neurotic budding poet, while Gumbley’s Kjell is a gentle giant who wants nothing more than to have sex. Director Lara Macgregor says that the appeal of Elling comes from seeing two human beings who are struggling with mental health issues trying to survive in a ‘normal living environment’ – and how that challenge brings about a wonderful friendship.
Elling marks Gumbley’s first on-stage performance in almost a decade. Gumbley, who is also The Court’s Artistic Director, says that he and Mark had been looking for a play that could reunite them and when he saw Elling in Australia in 2009, he knew he had found his play. “I thought ‘I’ve never seen a role absolutely begging for Mark Hadlow to play it’.”
Hadlow, one of New Zealand’s most prominent actors, is delighted to be working with Ross again. “We go right back to Flatmates Wanted in the 1980s. It’s wonderful to work with someone you completely trust.” Gumbley says that Elling is lyrical, touching, funny and honest – but also raises questions around underfunding of mental health, which is particularly relevant to New Zealand audiences.
Veteran performers Bruce Phillips, Gregory Cooper and Luanne Gordon round out the cast. Elling – The Court Theatre, 23 February to 16 March 2019.
Elaine Paige, the queen of musical theatre, is heading to our southern city with a show at Christchurch’s Isaac Theatre Royal on Monday 21 January.
The English singer and actress has built a stellar career, with some laudable performances, including the role of Eva Perón in the first production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Evita in 1978, which made her a household name.
We caught up with Elaine to discuss her illustrious career.
Can you tell us a bit about the concert series and what Christchurch audiences can look forward to?
It’s a concert series that will be celebrating song writers that I love and people I grew up listening to, such as Harry Nilsson, Randy Newman and Carly Simon. It’s really celebrating their music and a bit of a soundtrack of all our lives really, from the late 60s to 70s. It’s a show that has something for everybody.
What attracted you to singing and performing?
Academically I was not that interested; I was always much more about the vocational things in life. Singing was something I knew I loved; I was in the school choir, did the end of school productions. Dad asked me if I would like to go to drama school. I’m always grateful he made that suggestion. I’m not altogether sure I would have come to that myself. From a middle class family, we knew nothing about drama schools or anything of that ilk. Pretending to be someone else appealed to me, so I went to drama school and that’s how it all began.
What are some of your career highlights?
Evita will be one of the major highlights. Having the opportunity to originate the role of Eva Peron gave me a career in musical theatre, so that will always be the one that is most special to me. I was able to pick and choose after Evita what roles I wanted to play. I was very fortunate to find myself in a very privileged position that gave me a career and choice.
You’ve performed at some of the biggest venues around the world, what are you looking forward to about performing in New Zealand?
I’ve come ‘Down Under’ to New Zealand and Australia several times during my career, although I haven’t been your way in half a dozen years. So I’m really looking forward to visiting and seeing the changes. Equally it’s like coming home really because New Zealand is so similar to England. That’s what I like about it. People are always very welcoming and in the past have come out to see me, so I’m hoping I can enjoy the same this time around.
What do the next 12 months have in store for you?
I’ve always worked very hard, many hours, done many different things. Next year I’m coming to see you in January, then when I come back to England there’s some television on the cards, a play I might be doing and in the summer I’m looking to do a new album with Cliff Richard. I’ve been having a quiet year this year, jumped off the bandwagon for a bit, smelled the roses and next year is looking to be quite busy.
The rebuilding city is emerging as a creative hotspot, perhaps most evident in the burgeoning arts scene within the central city. Now the stage is set for The Court Theatre to make its triumphant return to the central city, with a new home within the Performing Arts Precinct.
For the past six and a half years, The Court Theatre has operated from a purpose-built temporary theatre at The Shed in Addington. Christchurch City Council has been working with the theatre and the Crown on options for developing a permanent home for the theatre company, Christchurch City Council General Manager Citizens and Community Mary Richardson says.
“The Court Theatre has been based in Addington since the earthquakes, but they are eager to return to the city centre and the council is committed to helping make that happen.”
Council is prioritising the new home within the Performing Arts Precinct, setting up a Theatre Working Group which will have until the end of March 2019 to present a viable business case and concept design to council for approval.
“We are incredibly excited by the prospect of moving back into the city centre,” The Court Theatre Chair, Steven van der Pol says.
“The Court brings with it significant footfall which will help to revitalise the central city.”
Unique in New Zealand, The Court is a producing theatre, employing a company of more than 250 practitioners annually. All sets, costumes and technical elements are designed and created in house, with the organisation’s performances attracting about 150,000 people a year.
If you’re into dramas about delusional stalkers who get to kidnap and imprison their unsuspecting victims, then Stephen King’s Misery, coming to The Court Theatre 4-25 August 2018, should have you booking front row seats.
Adapted from his bestselling novel Misery, this is a thriller play about obsession. Director Dan Bain elaborates on the theme, “It’s about the ownership fans feel towards material they love. Look at the backlash around the new Star Wars films. Misery poses some really interesting questions around ownership and the roles of creators and audiences.”
Court Theatre Director and actor Lara Macgregor plays the seriously disturbed Annie Wilkes, who initially appears to be novelist Paul Sheldon’s saviour after a car crash leaves him with broken legs, but when she takes him to her home instead of the hospital, and locks him in a room, things look a bit more sinister.
Annie reveals that she’s Paul’s biggest fan of his popular Misery book series, but when she gets to read the latest novel, she hits the roof and demands Paul writes a sequel – under her dictation.
Gavin Rutherford plays Paul Sheldon, and Adam Brookfield plays Buster the policeman. “We’ll be doing our best to honour the intent of the piece,” Dan says. “Our aim is not to please, coddle or pander. Our goal is screams.”
You have been warned. Bring a friend – nah, better bring two!
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.
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
As the fog descends footsteps approach – closer, closer. You hear laughter – a chilling cackle; you clutch your companion’s arm… surely there’s safety in numbers? From the mist, a raised arm, a bloodied blade – you scream! Too late… Jekyll and Hyde have already entered the theatre.
Based on the Robert Louis Stevenson novella The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Jekyll and Hyde, the rock musical, opens at Rangiora Town Hall on 10 May.
“It’s a challenging show for our cast, but in a good way,” says Director Paul Johnson. “It’s very much a musical with music entwined, rather than a play with songs.”
Born and bred in Rangiora, Paul is very loyal to his hometown. He has been involved with the North Canterbury Musical Society (NCMS) since 2006 when he played Bernardo in West Side Story. His directing debut came in 2011 with Guys and Dolls. “It’s thanks to NCMS that I am where I am in the performing arts in Canterbury.”
Paul says there’s a great camaraderie within the Jekyll and Hyde cast. “Many of our cast live outside Rangiora, so there’s a lot of car-pooling to rehearsals.”
Musical Director Leanne O’Mahony has done an impressive 10 shows for NCMS and Lance McBride, who plays Jekyll/Hyde, had the lead role in the 2015 NCMS production of Disney Beauty and the Beast, directed by Paul.
Jekyll and Hyde: 10 May to 26 May, Rangiora Town Hall. For more information email firstname.lastname@example.org or to book tickets visit www.ncms.co.nz with iTicket.
If you’ve ever been to a Showbiz Christchurch performance and been blown away by the on-stage performance, you’re seeing just a small fraction of the local talent that culminates in an end product of this calibre.
The 80-year-old community theatrical society stages three productions each year. The Saunders & Co 2018 season commences at the Isaac Theatre Royal with Wicked from 6-21 April; followed by Broadway Hitmen, a concert of Cole Porter and Andrew Lloyd Webber hits, from 13-15 July; and is completed by Les Misérables opening on 14 September.
Up to 100 people can be involved behind the scenes in just one show, volunteers who put hundreds of unpaid hours into their roles.
In Wicked’s on stage performance, you will see two leads (played by four actors on alternate nights), six principal roles, 16 ensemble cast and 15 dancers, with 16 backing vocalists and 18 orchestral performers in the pit. Backstage however, 100 equally important parts make it all come together.
Vicki Morris-Williamson has been volunteering for Showbiz Christchurch for 19 years and is part of a team responsible for ensuring hats and costumes are made show ready and fit the brief of Director Stephen Robertson.
Successful Broadway shows like Wicked, complete national and international tours before the rights to stage them are given to community theatre groups. Showbiz Christchurch is the first in New Zealand to get these rights to stage Wicked.
“The Showbiz Christchurch performance is a whole new production,” Vicki says.
“Stephen creates the best shows he can and is completely invested in bringing something special to the stage. He visualises exactly what he wants down to the smallest detail. We then start with the bones of the costumes, adding and improving everything, making it our own unique show.”
Vicki is currently living in a sea of green, as she works diligently to overhaul hats that came from an international production and create new ones for the Emerald City townsfolk in Wicked. Just about every member of the cast is on stage for this scene and every costume has a hat. That’s 35 hats, each representing Vicki’s work to realise Stephen’s vision for it.
Vicki wears many hats herself in the months that go into each performance. She is involved in costuming, pre-setting (planning set positioning), pack in (putting props up in the theatre), then the in-theatre rehearsals, before the run of shows.
“I warn my hubby heading into show season, that he won’t see me for three months,” she laughs. But working around a full-time job, it’s not an exaggeration.
It’s a family affair for her though. Vicki’s son James (then 12) joined her in her first production, 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.
Oil That Is, Black Gold…Texas Tea! Yes, ma’am, you heard right. That rag-taggle bunch of Hillbillies are coming to town, and they’re promising all kinds of crazy Clampett chaos!
Produced by Craig Hutchison of CAS’n’OVA PRODUCTIONS, The Beverly Hillbillies is the second show to be directed by Rebecca Wakelin. In 2016 Rebecca directed Dad’s Army and had such a ball, she couldn’t wait to get back in the director’s chair.
The Beverly Hillbillies calls for 22 characters, with 17 actors on stage. “I love big shows and I love big casts,” Rebecca says. “We are only in the second week of read-throughs, but already there’s a great sense of camaraderie amongst cast and crew.”
Along with crotchety Granny, peace-maker Jed, heart-throb Jethro and the lovely Ellie-May, the show sees the return of unscrupulous banker Milburn Drysdale and his ostentatious wife Margaret, and Drysdale’s secretary, the prim and proper Miss Hathaway.
“We’d love for people to dress the part – flaunt their favourite Hillbilly look. We plan to have the Clampett’s car (a near spot-on replica) parked outside the theatre, so people can pose as ‘the Clampetts’ and have a photo or two of a fantastic, fun-filled show.”
That’s as genuine a heart-warming invitation as the Clampett’s ‘Ya’ll come back now – y’hear?’
The Beverly Hillbillies: 19 April – 28 April. Bookings information visit www.casnova.co.nz/theatre.
Metropol has two double passes to The Beverly Hillbillies to giveaway. To enter, head to www.metropol.co.nz/win. Entries close on Monday 12 March and winners will be notified on Tuesday 13 March.