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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.

 


 

Worldwide musical phenomenon


A Postmodern Jukebox (PMJ) show is a toe-tapping banquet for the senses and it’s returning to a venue that befits the sumptuous performance.

 

Singer Aubrey Logan (Front middle with the trombone) with the Post Modern Jukebox crew

 

The timely Welcome to the Twenties 2.0 tour will touch down at Christchurch’s Isaac Theatre Royal on Saturday 19 October.

Scott Bradlee, founder of the Postmodern Jukebox legacy, has crafted a worldwide phenomenon with modern songs transformed into the style of classic genres, such as the razzamatazz of the roaring ’20s. “And here we are, entering the ‘20s again,” says singer Aubrey Logan.

Aubrey is one of the favourites in the revolving cast of dozens, featured in this spring’s Antipodean tour. It’s her first visit to New Zealand, but the fifth time for PMJ, “and I just can’t wait,” she says. The unique band has reached 3.5 million YouTube subscribers – Bad Blood and Benny and Jetts being among Aubrey’s claim to fame.

As well as a mellifluous voice and spine-tingling four-octave range, she plays a mean trombone. It’s not important to be impressive, she says. “I just want to inspire and move people and connect emotionally; that’s what counts.”

After being away from PMJ for two years, rocking it in jeans and leather jackets on her own solo album tours, Aubrey says, “I get to dress up!”

“PMJ really encourages us to go all out – sequins, costume changes and colour co-ordinating trios. I’m ready to wear some fancy dresses again and go back to the glam!”

Her voice is a genetic blessing, but Audrey says she still has to work at it. A natural at acting, she grew up in musical theatre. “I’m thankful of some of the boredom of being an only child. Being alone in my room with the door shut gave me the opportunity to practice and experiment with my voice, make weird sounds, listen to my parents’ CDs and try to emulate everyone I could.”

The Seattle-born, L.A-based 31-year-old has a phenomenal knack for scat singing – that funky, nonsensical jazz improv. She doesn’t deny it; she says they travel a lot, so performing and talking with fans can be hard on your voice and body.
“I say to the band after the shows, ‘guys, I can either have bad sleep or alcohol – pick one!’” she laughs. “I don’t have balance; I have an extreme life – so it’s all about prioritising.”

She has huge gratitude to Scott Bradlee for her success. PMJ is family to Aubrey. “We all have our own projects, but we have that bond to be able to lean on each other. “I’m always inspired by my peers’ talents. Each one of them, on every tour, has a superpower – there is no one that sounds like anyone else.

“Ariana Savalus is my best friend, even though we’ve nothing in common. I learn from her and she’s so freakin’ funny. And Casey Abrams is a free spirit. I’m an organised-to-a-fault Type A, but he’s taught me to enjoy music and my life.”

Audrey loves to connect, meet and be with the audience – the only reason for performing live, she points out. “I’m really looking forward to being back on the stage, as there’s nothing like a PMJ audience – they dress up like us, and even better!”

 


 

Cutting his comedy teeth


We’ve all heard the motivational stories of those who make something from nothing. For Brendan Dooley, making something from nothing has a more literal meaning – after all, making goldfish appear in glasses of water and pulling $20 notes from inside Crunchie bars are all in a day’s work for this local comedy magician. “I was the kid that never grew out of it,” he laughs.

 

 

“I saw a juggler at a circus when I was three and that was my first obsession. My mum got me a magic kit when I was five, I had a magician at my birthday and that was that.”

While he was always the quirky kid at school, Brendan kept largely to himself, but it was on stage – every chance he got – that he would shine. At the age of 11 he made his career choice, in both heart and mind. It was at the Buskers Festival in Nelson when he saw street performer James James – one of the world’s top street performers – surrounded by 200 people. “All he had was a small table and his personality,” Brendan says.

 

 

“It was on that table that he produced six oranges from three cups and a pineapple from his hat! I’d never seen people react to magic like that, just the clapping, the cheering, the energy… it was next level.
“It was in that moment that I knew I wanted to give people that same feeling.”

Brendan now takes the same approach to hosting corporate events. “The job of a street performer is to stop you and make you watch something you didn’t plan to watch.
“Corporate entertainment is so mainstream, so I aim to give them something they didn’t expect.”

The St Bedes alumnus who was born in Dunedin and called Christchurch home since he was three, dropped out of school at 16, did his first national tour at 17 and has since toured New Zealand, Australia and Asia – even Jakarta – doing predominantly corporate events, festivals and theatre touring, after cutting his comedy teeth with private shows. “I haven’t unpacked my suitcase in two years,” he laughs.

 

 

The youngest recipient of New Zealand’s Best Comedy Magician, a nominee for 2018 Variety Entertainer of the year and the youngest member of the world’s longest running magic show, Brendan likes to “approach the line, but not quite cross it” in his comedy and his “quirks” are something he embraces – that includes his love of funky shoes and suits.

But along with belly laughs, there’s been plenty of tears too. There was bullying in school for his unique passions and sense of style, but even more poignantly, Brendan lost his mum, who had raised him alone, to cancer when he was just 18.
Interestingly, it is the hard times that have made him such a good performer, by forming the basis of what is a beautifully refreshing attitude to life. “For me the main point is that bad things are going to happen; it’s all about how you deal with it,” he says.

“We don’t have a choice over what happens, but we do have a choice over how we react. It’s about whether we get ‘bitter’ about it or ‘better’ about it.” And there’s no doubting, Miss Dooley would have been proud.

 


 

Heading East


I let Adam McGrath select the meeting point for our interview; there’s more than a bit of irony that the frontrunner for local band The Eastern sends me east! Upshot Coffee’s Heathcote location is much like Adam himself; real, authentic, perhaps a little rough around the edges, but that’s what makes them both so very good. Housed in a modified 20ft shipping container, Upshot Coffee shares its Bridle Path Road premises with a working farm and offers an impressive rural outlook.

 

 

It’s also Adam’s local when he’s in town, but he’s been on the road since last September, such is the muso life. Soon after we catch up he’s heading off to a sell-out show in Queenstown, then it’s back to Europe.

It’s a powerful story for someone who never expected to amount to much – “best case scenario, join the army or play rugby league” – and, while others speak of music as being their saviour, for Adam, it really was. “When I was a kid my dad did this thing where basically stolen things would end up in our house on their way to other places. So you’d always have an extra TV or something showing up and one day they put a stereo in my room.

“My dad gave me some records and showed me how to use it and I just fell in love with records. That was it for me man; there was really nothing else. I never thought I would play music or could play music; I just loved music.”

But it turns out he can play music; how else do you explain being able to live off music “for maybe 14 of the last 15 years, maybe even a bit longer”. “I basically decided a long time ago that I just wasn’t going to do anything else, no matter what, and just see what would happen,” Adam explains. “But every day I wake up and still don’t have to go to a day job, so that’s a good thing.”

He’s thankful for the worlds music has opened up to him – both literally and figuratively. He’s thankful too that the band has helped him build a family; “most specifically Jess, Shanks, Jono, Hopley and everyone involved.“If it does all end tomorrow I can say well at least that happened and that’s a really nice thing.”

That family – The Eastern – is “a string band that roars like a punk band, that swings like a gospel band, that drinks like a country band, that works like a bar band, that hopes like folk singers, and sings love songs like union songs, and writes union songs like love songs, and wants to slow dance and stand on tables, all at the same time”.

He works at his craft every day. “I’m happy to get a song when it shows up, I just hang out and wait for them to come and I found the more you work on it, the more they show up; they just want to make sure you’re worth it.” And Adam most certainly is.

 


 

Award-winning artistry: Windsor Gallery


Windsor Gallery boasts over 30 artists on exhibition in their contemporary art gallery and one of the largest selections of picture frames in the city.

 

ELIZABETH GUARD

 

Artist Rhoyne McIlroy is the gallery’s featured artist this month and after having established an international career, the award-winning artist’s latest works (pictured) draw from her native New Zealand ancestry. By recently investing in amazing new technology, a canvas stretching machine, Windsor Gallery is now able to create a tighter, smoother finish for canvas works which is difficult to achieve manually.

Their award-winning skilled staff can spend time with you to work through the framing process, showing you different matte colours and framing options to suit your artwork. Windsor Gallery is well worth a visit with outstanding artworks and sculptures on display from leading New Zealand artists. Off-street parking is available. 386 St Asaph Street, east of Fitzgerald Avenue.


 

Broadway hits NZ


Described by Rolling Stone as “the best rock musical ever”, Broadway hit and four times Tony Award winner Hedwig and the Angry Inch is coming to The Court Theatre May 11 to June 1.

 

 

Hedwig is an ‘international ignored song stylist’ whose personal history of sacrifice and struggle, including her botched sex operation, is told against a punk/glam-rock soundtrack reminiscent of David Bowie and Iggy Pop. Directed by Michael Lee Porter, with musical direction by Luke Di Somma – co-creator of That Bloody Woman – Canterbury audiences are assured of one hell of a night out!

New York based Australian actor Adam Rennie plays Hedwig, and he says he feels a real responsibility in his portrayal of this very challenging role. “For me, if people leave the theatre thinking about how different & strange a character Hedwig is – even if they love her – I haven’t done my job. I want the audience to see how much they have in common with her and see themselves underneath the glitter and makeup.”

Phoebe Hurst plays Hedwig’s husband, Croatian immigrant and ex-drag queen, Yitzhak. Four musicians join the duo to complete the Angry Inch band and bring this show of awe-inspiring costumes, wicked wigs, killer heels and thrilling special effects to life. Porter says that it’s Hedwig’s story that gives the production so much heart. “It’s not every day a musical comes along that resonates with so many different people on so many different levels.”

For bookings phone 03 963 0870 or visit www.courttheatre.org.nz.


 

Adam Rennie in the Spotlight: Q&A


Metropol catches up with actor Adam Rennie as he prepares for his first production with The Court Theatre from May 11 to June 1 – Hedwig and the Angry Inch.

 

 

 

When did the acting bug first bite you, Adam?
When I was 6 or 7, I was in a production of Oliver and was devastated I wasn’t cast as Oliver and have been on a mission to prove Rockdale Musical Society wrong ever since.


What did it mean to you to make the move from Sydney to New York City?
I’ve always known I wanted to live in NYC. It is the birthplace of almost every show I grew up dreaming of seeing and performing in. NYC is hard and exhausting, but I’m surrounded by incredibly talented and driven people who egg me on and inspire me to grow and push myself.


Of all your stage performances thus far, which role did you most relish playing?
I had such a blast playing Frank N Furter. There is something incredibly freeing and empowering about that character. He’s sexy, funny, powerful and an alien – what’s not to love?


What are the challenges in playing Hedwig in the stage musical Hedwig and the Angry Inch?
Just technically, there is a lot to learn; the show has so many facets to it – stand-up comedy, storytelling, rock music and raw emotional moments. Then you add the makeup, the accent and a character that’s as ferocious as she is vulnerable and you have a lot of moving parts to nail down.


What do you think Christchurch people will love about this show?
It’s a show that defies category. It’s funny and electric energy every night. The music is incredible. I can guarantee a fun time, but it also speaks clearly to all of us and where we are today. How we see humanity and human connections in ‘the other’.


You have described playing Hedwig as a ‘dream role’ – why is that?
Playing Hedwig is the opportunity of a lifetime. She’s arguably the most challenging role in musical theatre and forces me to bring everything I have, every single day. There’s nowhere to hide. On top of that, there are very few roles where I can embrace every part of me. I’m a queer actor and I don’t have to leave that experience at the door; in fact, it’s celebrated! I can’t overstate how grateful I am to have The Court celebrate my uniqueness and show others that they can be celebrated for theirs.


Pick any famous stage/screen actor… who would you most love to perform alongside?
I’d probably choose one of those incredible Shakespeare actors that have also managed to crossover into Hollywood, Ian Mckellan or Patrick Stewart because they have so much gravitas. Wait, also Catherine O’Hara, because she’s an improvising and comedic genius!


What’s up next after Hedwig and the Angry Inch?
I’m honestly not sure; probably a big long nap followed by a few weeks getting the glitter out of everything I own.