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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.

 


 

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.

 


 

A gorgeous, opulent concert!


Hot on the heels of smash-hit 2018 Showbiz Christchurch production, Broadway Hitmen, comes the fabulous concert The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber.

 

With artistic direction by Ravil Atlas and Richard Marrett conducting, this promises to be the show to banish your winter blues and have you singing all the way home from the Isaac Theatre Royal. “The audiences are going to adore this! It’s light, it’s beautiful and it’s opulent. It’s Andrew Lloyd Webber – and that guy can write a tune,” Atlas says.

Broadway Hitmen was half Cole Porter and half Andrew Lloyd Webber, and it was a straight-up concert. Atlas says the challenge for him in designing this show, (with staging permission from The Really Useful Group Limited) was to pick the Lloyd Webber music they hadn’t done, and also to stage the music. “In essence, this is a staged concert, as opposed to a fully staged musical or a ‘stand and sing’ concert. We have costumes, sets, and special effects.”

Atlas says that each different Lloyd Webber musical has been tied into vignettes. “For instance, we’ve two songs from CATS, two from Whistle Down the Wind, three from Joseph, three from The Phantom of the Opera, three from Jesus Christ Superstar and so on. Within each vignette, we’ve created these mini-stories.”

The Canterbury Symphony Orchestra brings a full 33-piece orchestra onstage – not the usual pit orchestra of 14. This is a first partnering between Showbiz Christchurch and the CSO. “To be able to work directly with the CSO and have that quality of music is fantastic!” Atlas says. “We’ve got this opulent orchestra; we’ve Maestro Marrett conducting; we’ve beautiful sound and lighting design, and our set designer, David Bosworth, has come up with a beautiful asymmetrical set, which is unique. It will be gorgeous!”

Atlas agrees that Showbiz Christchurch has a growing reputation for producing shows of the highest calibre. “Absolutely. Showbiz does musical theatre at an extraordinary level. I saw Wicked at the West End and I remember watching it here and thinking that the whole physical production – the singing, the storytelling…well, I’ve seen good shows, but Showbiz’s production of Wicked was on par with, if not better than, what can be seen on Broadway!”

Born in San Francisco, Atlas was a professional performer and operatic soloist for thirty years, working in Italy, England and ten years on Broadway. His original training was in stage direction and conducting. He retired from singing in 2007 and, in 2009, came to New Zealand to start a family with his Kiwi wife, opera singer Amanda Atlas.

One of the highlights of this concert for Atlas is not only that Amanda is reprising her character role from last year, (from Sunset Boulevard) but also that their nine-year-old daughter, Katya, performs in the children’s chorus – her Showbiz Christchurch debut performance. It’s good news for Christchurch theatre, then, that Atlas is here to stay. “You’re stuck with me, whether you like it or not,” he laughs, “I keep saying to my wife that if I’m not having fun, I’ll stop doing it. But I’m having fun!”
Venue: Isaac Theatre Royal
Date: 14 -16 June 2019
Tickets: ticketek.co.nz/showbiz or
Freephone: 0800 842 538

Dynamite With A Laser Beam


It’s very exciting times ahead as the launch of Showbiz Christchurch 2019 season brings us three new fantastic productions.

 

Dynamite With A Laser Beam

 

We Will Rock You, the musical by Queen and Ben Elton (writer of the hugely popular television shows The Young Ones and Blackadder) launches the 2019 Saunders & Co Season, 29 March 2019 at the Isaac Theatre Royal (ITR). This futuristic comedy features more than 24 of Queen’s biggest hits, including: Killer Queen, We Are The Champions, Radio Ga Ga, I Want To Break Free, Somebody to Love, Don’t Stop Me Now, Under Pressure, Another One Bites The Dust, Bohemian Rhapsody, and of course, We Will Rock You.

Elton has confessed that he’s long been a Queen fan who fell in love with musical theatre at a young age. “Musical theatre as a genre has always fascinated me and I’ve always found it a great pleasure. I love pop music. I never had any training in the classics but I love popular music – and musical theatre is pop music. Gilbert and Sullivan, Gershwin, Cole Porter, Noel Coward – before radio and recording, pop music was delivered via the theatre.”

For the ultimate rock experience, there are new ‘Killer Queen Seats’ for selected performances of We Will Rock You. Only 100 of these exclusive seats are available. They are the best in the house and come with an autographed souvenir programme and show memorabilia!
Friday to Saturday 14-15 June 2019 is the exclusive weekend concert season of The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber in Concert at the ITR. It features a superb on-stage orchestra, outstanding soloists and a large chorus. The fully staged and choreographed production features songs from Lloyd Webber shows, such as The Phantom of the Opera, CATS, Joseph and the Technicolour Dreamcoat, Evita and more. The show was devised by Lloyd Webber himself; artistic direction is by Ravil Atlas.

 

showbiz Chch

Following on from the hugely popular 2009 premier season of Miss Saigon comes the new production of Miss Saigon. Opening 27 September at the ITR, this epic sung-through pop musical is universal in its emotional power; it’s a tragedy of passion and beauty, and is described as one of the most daring theatrical spectacles of all time. As in the 2009 production, the 2019 Miss Saigon will reunite New Zealand’s foremost directing duo of Stephen Robertson and Richard Marrett.

Miss Saigon has been nominated for an impressive number of Olivier, Tony and Drama Desk Awards and comes from the creators of Les Misérables. The story is based on Puccini’s Madame Butterfly. Set in the turmoil of the Vietnam War, American GI Chris and Vietnamese girl Kim fall in love and marry but are separated when Saigon falls. Alone, Kim gives birth to Chris’ son and waits faithfully for his return. Unable to contact Kim, Chris remarries and attempts to move on with his life. Circumstances see Chris return to Vietnam and he learns the truth, which brings about tragic consequences.

 

showbiz Chch

Tickets go on sale from 30 November 2018 and feature 10-30 percent savings on ‘Premium’ and ‘A Reserve’ tickets until 31 January 2019.
Recognising that choosing a date to attend a show which is months away can be tricky, Showbiz has introduced the new and fabulous FlexiTicket; this way ticket purchasers can take advantage of the generous 2019 Season discounts without having to commit to a performance date.

 


Flexi tickets can be purchased online and make an ideal gift for your mad-on-musicals mates!
Just visit www.ticketek.co.nz/showbiz/


 

Showbiz Christchurch

Back to back Broadway hits: you’ll get a kick out of Showbiz Christchurch’s mid-winter concert Broadway Hitmen

Back to back hits from two of the biggest names on Broadway, Cole Porter and Andrew Lloyd Webber, will be performed at the Isaac Theatre Royal, with four performances from 13-15 July.

Showbiz Christchurch
Charlotte Taylor will feature as a soloist in Broadway Hitmen. Photo Wendy Riley

American born Porter wrote more than 800 songs across a five-decade career, conquering both Broadway and Hollywood. His soaring melodies, offset with urbane and witty lyrics, gave rise to his signature musical genre known as ‘the Cole Porter song’. Iconic musicals like Anything Goes, Can Can and Kiss Me Kate remain stage and screen classics, finding new audiences with every decade; his greatest songs covered by modern stars from Michael Bublé to Lady Gaga.
British composer Andrew Lloyd Webber is arguably the best-known name in modern musical theatre. The first composer to have four musicals playing simultaneously on Broadway since 1953, he has written some of the world’s most loved and successful musicals including Evita, The Phantom of the Opera, Jesus Christ Superstar and CATS.
Broadway Hitmen features favourites from these two musical theatre hit makers performed by an onstage orchestra under the baton of Ravil Atlas, along with soloists and a large chorus.
Amongst the soloists will be West End singer/actor Nic Kyle, who toured with Elaine Page in 2012; soprano Charlotte Taylor who has performed with NZOpera and Showbiz; jazz and blues artist Kate Taylor of the All Girl Big Band; and Kira Josephson who recently played Nessarose in the Showbiz production of Wicked.
Bookings through Ticketek, 0800 842 538, www.ticketek.co.nz/showbiz or www.showbiz.org.nz/broadway-hitmen.

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.