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The best of Broadway: Showbiz Christchurch


Since the opening of the re-built Isaac Theatre Royal, Showbiz Christchurch has exceeded all expectations with a feast of world-class musical theatre. From The Phantom of the Opera in April 2015 to the most recent Miss Saigon, more than 167,000 patrons have experienced the best of Broadway here in Christchurch.

 

PHOTO CREDIT: JOHAN PERSSON

 

Now 2020 promises a fabulous continuation of the musical journey with three new productions: My Fair Lady, Chess in Concert, and Buddy, The Buddy Holly Story.

My Fair Lady tells the story of Cockney flower-seller Eliza Doolittle and pompous linguistics professor Henry Higgins who wagers he can transform the girl from the Eastend gutters into a genteel Edwardian society lady.

Songs such as Wouldn’t it Be Loverly?, The Rain in Spain, On the Street Where You Live, I Could Have Danced All Night, and Get Me to the Church on Time capture the clash of class, cultures and minds in this charming musical.

When My Fair Lady was first performed in Christchurch in 1962, it set the Theatre Royal record, with a total of 200,000 patrons attending 171 performances!

Showbiz Christchurch brings this stunning new production of My Fair Lady to the Isaac Theatre Royal from 3 April 2020.

The weekend season of Chess in Concert from 19-21 June 2020 features a large onstage chorus and orchestra, with sensational soloists performing international hit singles such as I Know Him So Well, One Night in Bangkok, and the epic ballad Anthem. Set during the Cold War, an American and a Russian chess master become political pawns of their governments as they battle for the world chess title and a woman’s attention.

Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story opens in September 2020 at the Isaac Theatre Royal. Set during the 1950s when Buddy was the world’s top recording artist, this rock n roll musical features his greatest hits, including Peggy Sue, That’ll Be the Day, Oh Boy, Rave On and Raining in my Heart, and will have audiences on their feet and grooving in the aisles.

Season earlybird discounts on sale from Monday 25 November. For tickets, visit www.ticketek.co.nz/showbiz. Freephone 0800 842 538 or 03 260 5260 Ticketek Box Office at Isaac Theatre Royal, 145 Gloucester Street. Open Monday to Friday, 10am-5pm.

 


 

Born for the Arts


A local actress with her own distinctive vibe has been fundamental in helping the local art scene get a wriggle on.

 

 

Phoebe Hurst put on her first solo performance of WORM last week, which had an intimate audience squirming with mirth. “It is weird – but it’s a comedy with no linear storyline, designed for the audience to participate and have fun and disconnect from reality for 50 minutes.”

She takes the Glitter and Chaos production to Auckland’s Basement theatre next month, opening on 15 October. Where WORM will wriggle to next will be interesting. The Edinburgh Fringe Festival is her goal post.

Born for the arts, Phoebe spent two years at Hagley Theatre Company before moving to Wellington and graduating from Toi Whakaari, New Zealand Drama School, in 2011.

Now well-seasoned on the Christchurch theatrical scene, she stole the show last May in The Court Theatre’s dark comedy Hedwig and the Angry Inch. “I was in male drag as Yitzhak. He was a beautiful, humble, charismatic and patient character.”

However, her Christchurch stage debut was in 2015 as part of the musical production That Bloody Woman at The Christchurch Arts Festival, which then went on to be performed up and down the country. “I was super stoked to be involved in such a successful project.”

Phoebe, who lives in Linwood with her husband, has just turned 30. “I feel like I have crossed an imaginary threshold. When I graduated, I was crippled with self-doubt and suffered depression.”

She decided back then to be a musician instead. With two EPs under her belt, That Bloody Woman came along and thankfully created the opportunity for acting to take centre stage in her life again. This led on to other ventures such as working with Silo Theatre, The Auckland Philharmonia and The Christchurch Symphony Orchestra.

Alongside WORM, Phoebe is currently working on a cabaret act for the 2020 Jazz and Blues Festival with Two Production’s co-artistic director, Holly Chappell-Eason.

“Acting is a remedy and illness at the same time,” Phoebe explains. “It helps me to process stuff – it is a double-edged sword.”

In this year’s 48-hour film festival, her team Snack To The Future won the national grand final with their film A Familiar Feeling. “We were given the genre ‘gross-out/cringe comedy’. It’s about two people who meet in a bar and discover they have more in common than they think.”

A must-see, the film can be watched on www.48hours.co.nz. Phoebe encourages anyone and everyone to support local theatre.

 

 


 

 

Bad Girls!


Ladies, lock up your men! The girls from HMP Larkhall are coming to town, and they are bad!

 

 

Bad Girls: The Musical takes the first three series of Britain’s ITV’s Bad Girls and wraps it up in a two-hour musical that features core onscreen characters, like Shell Dockley, Nikki Wade, Denny, Sylvia “Bodybag” Hollamby, conniving Officer Jim Fenner, and idealistic Wing Governor Helen Stewart.

Director and choreographer Tom Hart says directing this premier South Island show has been a really good process. “Being a lesser-known musical, there’s more freedom for creativity and for our actors to bring their own versions of the characters to the stage.”

Tom has performed lead roles in Blood Brothers, Oliver and Whistle Down the Wind for the Riccarton Players, and recently played Brit in the Showbiz Christchurch production of We Will Rock You. In fact, six cast members from We Will Rock You are reunited for Bad Girls: The Musical, including Aaron Boyce who plays Jim Fenner. “Aaron’s Fenner is just like the Jim Fenner from the original series – really nasty,” Tom laughs.

The show features a live band under the baton of Musical Director Cheryllynn Callander. Freedom Road is Tom’s favourite song. “It’s about the struggles these women face to find freedom and peace. It’s powerful and gut-wrenching. It’s a song that stays with you.”

Bad Girls: The Musical will be on show from 2 to 11 October, 7:30pm nightly (except 6 and 7 October); matinee 4pm-6:30pm Sunday 6 October at Hagley Theatre, 510 Hagley Avenue, Christchurch. For more information visit www.riccartonplayers.co.nz.

 


 

A Sensational Show


Showbiz Christchurch staged the New Zealand premiere of Miss Saigon in 2009; one decade later, the curtain is set to rise on their second production of this epic musical about an ill-fated romance between an American GI and an orphaned Vietnamese bargirl, set during the closing days of the Vietnam War and the pull out of America from Saigon.

 

SHOWBIZ CHRISTCHURCH | KURT LANGER

 

French musical-theatre composer Claude-Michel Schӧnberg, of Les Misérables fame, came across a photo in a magazine of an 11-year-old Vietnamese girl about to board a plane from Vietnam’s Tân Sơn Nhất Air Base for the United States to join her American father, leaving her mother behind. Schönberg considered this mother’s actions for her child to be “The Ultimate Sacrifice”, an idea central to the plot of Miss Saigon.

“I was so appalled by the image of this deliberate ripping apart that I had to sit down and catch my breath,” Schӧnberg said.

Based on Puccini’s Madame Butterfly but relocated and reset in war-torn Vietnam of the 1970s, Miss Saigon also draws parallels with the story of Fantine from Schӧnberg and Boublil’s Les Misérables, in that both Kim and Fantine sacrifice all for the sake of their children. Both are stories of passion and exploitation, which reflect the jarring reality of life during pivotal moments in history shaped by French nationalism and colonialism.

As one theatre reviewer said: “these shows brim with images and scenes that incite reactions and provoke questions”.

As with the 2009 Miss Saigon, Stephen Robertson is once again to direct and choreograph this year’s production and Richard Marrett returns as musical director.

 

SHOWBIZ CHRISTCHURCH | DANIELLE COLVIN

In Miss Saigon, Schӧnberg uses music to underline the conflict between the two distinct cultural worlds of Kim and Chris.

Richard says this show is among his favourites to conduct. “Its score is wonderfully orchestrated and is at times soaring, passionate and epic, and at others delicate, intricate and beautiful.”

Former New Zealand resident Tina Bergantinos-Panlilio, who has played the role of Kim in the Hamilton Musical Theatre and Dunedin Operatic productions of Miss Saigon, returns from the Philippines to reprise the lead role.

Jack Fraser plays American GI Chris Scott; this will be his third role this year with Showbiz Christchurch, having had major parts in The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber and We Will Rock You. Jack has also performed twice in Les Misérables.
Filipino/Australian countertenor Marcus Rivera performs the role of The Engineer, a role he is very familiar with, having played it three times previously.

Two performers from Showbiz’s 2009 production of Miss Saigon, Ena Azuma and Eric Wong, return to play in the ensemble of the 2019 production.

The live orchestra features 19 expert musicians playing orchestrations of diverse musical styles. “There is a fusion of Western and Asian influences, as well as some saxophone-infused Broadway-style power ballads,” says Miss Saigon percussionist Craig Given. He and international ethnic percussion specialist Doug Brush will have an impressive set-up of traditional and ethnic instruments, such as gongs, prayer bowls and a ‘damaru’ or Tibetan skull drum, which was traditionally made from the cranium of two human skulls.

Showbiz Christchurch had NZ Vietnam Veterans and NZ Vietnamese, who escaped before and after the fall of Saigon, share their stories with the Miss Saigon company and theatre patrons. With such meticulous and in-depth background work put into delivering the best audience experience, we have much to look forward to in this sensational production.

Miss Saigon opens 27 September at the Isaac Theatre Royal. For bookings, freephone 0800 842 538 or visit www.ticketek.co.nz/showbiz. For more information on Showbiz Christchurch, visit www.showbiz.org.nz.

 


 

Winter Theatre


The temperatures have started to drop and heading out somewhere ‘cool’ in the evenings and weekends has taken on a bit more of a literal meaning.

 

 

Thankfully Christchurch has some of the country’s hottest indoor theatres that will give you something to sing and dance about throughout autumn and beyond. We’ve done the legwork and put your itinerary together for you.

  1. 9-30 May
    Hir
    Challenging, hilarious and gutting all at once, Hir is a breathless piece of theatre taking a blow torch to the status quo.
    The Court Theatre
    www.courttheatre.org.nz
  2. 8 June
    The Monkees Present: The Mike & Micky Show
    The Monkees Michael Nesmith and Micky Dolenz are hitting the country in June! Get ready to start Monkee-ing around!
    Isaac Theatre Royal
    www.isaactheatreroyal.co.nz
  3. 14-16 June
    The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber
    The Showbiz Christchurch 2019 mid-year concert builds on the success of Broadway Hitmen in 2018 which featured some of the most popular tunes by musical hit-maker Andrew Lloyd Webber.
    Showbiz Christchurch
    www.showbiz.org.nz
  4. 22 June-20 July
    Les Liaisons Dangereuses
    Pierre Choderlos de Laclos’ eighteenth century satirical novel, expertly adapted for the stage by Christopher Hampton, has lost none of its power and bite.
    The Court Theatre
    www.courttheatre.org.nz
  5. Opens 27 September
    Miss Saigon
    Madam Butterfly is given new life in this epic adaptation of Puccini’s 1904 opera, exploring love and loss in the Vietnam conflict.
    Showbiz Christchurch
    www.showbiz.org.nz