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The musical of all musicals!


Showbiz Christchurch is set to raise the curtain on its first show for 2020, a stunning new production of the stage show described as the “musical of all musicals” My Fair Lady.

 

Kira Josephson as Eliza Doolittle. Photography: Danielle Colvin

Based on George Bernard Shaw’s play Pygmalion, My Fair Lady is that rare musical by which all others are measured.

Pompous linguistics professor Henry Higgins wagers he can transform Eliza Doolittle (played originally by Julie Andrews and Audrey Hepburn), a street-smart girl from the East End gutters, into a proper Edwardian society lady.

But as audiences get to meet the feisty, independent and entrepreneurial Eliza, the question becomes ‘who is really undergoing the transformation here?’

My Fair Lady is set in 1912, and as Marketing Manager Wendy Riley explains, it was a time of massive social and class upheaval in England.

“There was the first national coal mining strike that year, followed by strikes from the dockworkers and tailors. Scabs were taking work from families already impoverished by the strikes, while many of the upper and lower classes, keen to get away from it all, boarded the Titanic for her maiden voyage to New York.”

It was also a time of change for women.

The Suffragettes were throwing themselves before carriages and chaining themselves to railings, determined to cast off the shackles of post-Victorianism and its attitude towards women.

When thinking of a young woman such as Eliza Doolittle trying to forge a life for herself in those somewhat turbulent times, it’s easy to understand why she was determined to have her own flower shop and thereby move out of lower-class squalor.

It also explains why Eliza’s story has been retold so many times in films like Pretty Woman, Educating Rita, Weird Science, Mannequin, She’s All That, and even crossing into Science Fiction in the 2014 film Ex Machina. Eliza’s story is timeless.

Christchurch-based, international performer Kira Josephson (Wicked, Les Misérables) has always dreamed of playing Eliza, a show she knew as a child growing up in Laguna Beach, California.

Kira feels the show has strong relevance to today’s young people because of its emphasis on class distinctions and education.

Higgins gives Eliza the tools to improve herself and her situation.

Eliza uses education to find herself. “It’s really a story about carving your own way – not being judged, not being taken at face value, but figuring out the tools for you to get people to understand who you are. The show isn’t about Eliza changing – she’s the same person – but what’s beautiful about it is that, by the end, it’s Higgins we see change, but it’s too little, too late.”

Working with musical director Richard Marrett has been a brilliant experience for Kira.

“His ear is incredible – not like anybody else’s. The score is amazing – it’s lush and wonderful. They just don’t write harmonies like that anymore. We have a huge ensemble and, already, everyone sounds just fabulous.”

Roy Snow as Henry Higgins.

 

Directed by Stephen Robertson, the principal cast of My Fair Lady features Roy Snow (Shortland Street, Outrageous Fortune, Go Girls) as Henry Higgins, Peter Hind as Colonel Pickering, and James Foster and Ian Lester as Freddy Eynsford-Hill and Alfred Doolittle respectively.

Newly appointed General Manager of Showbiz Christchurch, Paul Christ, says it is an honour to revive a show of such notable and critical success.

“My Fair Lady has stood the test of time. Its original productions broke all previous sales records and set the standard by which future musicals are modelled.”

Catch My Fair Lady from 3 to 18 April at the Isaac Theatre Royal.
To find out how to go in the draw for a sumptuous high tea for two at Crowne Plaza Christchurch and tickets for My Fair Lady, turn to page 58.


 

New name in Showbiz


He’s lived and breathed musical theatre for most of his working life. But for Paul Christ, the opportunity to come to Christchurch and take the reins of our local operatic society was a dream come true.

 

Photographed by Thomas Hamill

 

What drew you to the General Manager role with Showbiz Christchurch?
I have spent a huge amount of my life in musical theatre; you could say it’s in my DNA!

I’ve always felt at home in Christchurch and I’m really excited by the city’s rebuild, so when the opportunity arose to become a part of the musical theatre community at Showbiz Christchurch, I grabbed it with both hands.

Can you tell us about your background in musical theatre?
I first became involved in music as a conductor in the classical symphonic world.

My first professional musical was actually My Fair Lady (the first show of the 2020 Saunders & Co Season playing from 3-18 April) and for 15 years I was Musical Director and Supervisor for numerous West End shows, including Les Misérables, Miss Saigon, The Phantom of the Opera, The Producers and Mary Poppins.

I was the Musical Director for Elaine Paige in The King & I at the London Palladium, and Disney’s worldwide Musical Supervisor for the Broadway production of Disney’s Beauty & The Beast, before moving to Vienna to work.

What are you looking forward to the most going forward?
I’ve been very fortunate to travel throughout my career and see what musicals are being produced around the world, so I’m incredibly excited about what could be coming our way!

There are some exceptional shows coming out of Broadway and the West End; we’re in talks to bring that excitement to Christchurch and make more world-class theatre, utilising world-class local talent.

How exciting is the 2020 Showbiz Christchurch line-up?
It’s really exciting! These are exceptional shows and each one has some personal connection.

My Fair Lady set a Broadway record when it opened in 1956 and its revivals have all been huge hits.

Chess in Concert in association with the CSO (19-21 June), is re-visiting the work of the ABBA boys, with international hits like I Know Him So Well and One Night in Bangkok.

Buddy Holly had so many number one hits that anyone can come to Buddy (11-26 September) and have a sing along and a good time, which is a theme of all the shows – everyone can enjoy them.


 

Bringing Rock to Towns

Bringing Rock to Towns


Imagine a world where everyone wears the same clothes, watches the same movies and thinks the same thoughts, where individuality is extinct and live music is banned under the control of an all-powerful global company and its tyrannical boss.

 

Bringing Rock to Towns
Killer Queen
(Naomi Ferguson)

 

In this futuristic comedy by Ben Elton, more than 24 of Queen’s biggest hits have been reimagined; wrapped into the story of an incredible dystopian world that is as unique as the music from which it was based. Successful West End shows like We Will Rock You (WWRY), complete national and international tours before the rights to stage them are given to community theatre companies. Showbiz Christchurch is the first to receive these for New Zealand, with the organisation then responsible for envisioning a whole new production.

 

Bringing Rock to Towns
Scaramouche (Jane Leonard) & Galileo (Caleb Jago-Ward)

It ensures what you see on a local level is special, with alterations made right down to minute detailing on the costumes and sets which were designed in the UK especially for WWRY.  The set, props and costumes came to Showbiz late last year from Queen Theatrical, the owners of the musical. The set was made by award-winning set builder Stufish Entertainment Architects, which is known internationally for creating the ‘Rolls Royce’ of sets, while the costumes were created by BAFTA and Olivier awards-winning costume designer Tim Goodchild.

Despite a prestigious career designing for stage, TV and film, including more than 60 West End productions, WWRY was a singular task. Goodchild joined the original London production team just six months before the May 2002 opening and turned his talented hand to creating more than 150 costumes – a task which can be likened to designing and making an entire couture collection.

 

Bringing Rock to Towns
Buddy
(Aaron Boyce)

While he took to the mammoth task with his usual attention to detail, which includes extensive research, WWRY required something ‘next-level’. The creative endeavour included visiting photographic libraries and antique shops for old magazines to get inspiration for the costuming, which meant Adam Ant, Ziggy Stardust, Kiss, Boy George, Skyhooks, AC-DC all played a part.

The finished product is a recreation of the entire spectrum of rock. Not just the Queen period, Goodchild has captured Bay City Rollers and Vivienne Westwood and Boy George within the ornate and exceptional quality costuming. His costume ‘bibles’ – all bursting with sketches, notes, photos and material samples that chart the progress of the costumes from idea to stage – are now splayed across the tables in the Showbiz Christchurch wardrobe department, amid the fusion of tartan, torn tights and distressed denim.

 

Bringing Rock to Towns
Oz
(Catherine Hay)

There are several of these bibles and the Showbiz Christchurch team were blown away by the extensive and detailed notes that came with the costuming, that too was exceptional quality and detailed. Multiple sizes of key costumes – such as one of the 8kg Killer Queen costumes – have been created for the diverse range of performers to play the roles, during the musical’s global journey. Throughout the world, legions of devoted audiences have turned WWRY into a global success and, since 2002, more than 16 million theatregoers in 28 countries have rocked out to this unique musical.

 


Make sure you get your tickets so that like the Bohemians, you too can embark on the search to find the unlimited power and freedom of rock music! Book online at www.showbiz.org.nz/wwry or 0800TICKETEK (0800 842 538).