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Amazing Grace


It was always in his mind to cast an actress as young as possible in the role of Juliet because Shakespeare’s Juliet, of Romeo and Juliet, was a 13-year-old girl. Derek Doddington, Founder and Director of Top Dog Theatre, stands firmly by his ground-breaking decision. “With casting such a young cast, I’ll either fall on my sword or it will be the biggest triumph,” Derek says, with an irrepressible twinkle in his eye.

 


** Metropol has two double passes to give away. To enter, head to our Facebook page and follow the instructions. Competition will be drawn on Tuesday 11 February.**

 

Thirteen-year-old Grace Opie, who plays Juliet in Top Dog’s Summer Shakespeare Festival, confesses she’s a bit obsessed with Shakespeare and has loved Romeo and Juliet “for ages”.

Grace studied the play last year at her school, Ao Tawhiti Unlimited Discovery and feels she has come into the show with a pretty good understanding of the story.

“But speaking the lines is very different to reading them and studying the context of the play.”

Grace says the portraying of Romeo and Juliet as the Bard of Avon intended them to be, makes the show feel a lot more realistic, as many of the decisions they make are impulsive and don’t end well.

“It also explains how they fell in love almost immediately and how strong their emotions became that eventually led them to making decisions without much thought.”

Grace has attended Original Scripts Theatre School since the age of six and says she has had great experiences there and with other theatre companies.

Summer Shakespeare is her first experience of outdoor theatre and it’s been a positive one.

“I’ve really enjoyed rehearsing outside at Mona Vale. I’ve loved the process and people, seeing everything come together and working with such an experienced team as Top Dog. Everyone has been really nice and supportive.”

Grace says she loves to perform and would like to explore as many different genres as she can in the future. “But definitely more Shakespeare!”

Romeo is played by 17-year-old Rhys Murdoch and Mercutio by 18-year-old Felix Elliott, completing the teen cast of lead roles that Derek had long envisioned.

“I’ve seen performances where the actress playing Juliet’s obviously too old – I recall one where they gave her a doll to make her look 13!”

Derek has switched the gender of a few characters in the play in order to keep a good balance of male and female actors on stage – hence there’s now a Mother Superior and Benvolia instead of Friar Laurence and Benvolio.

The original music score is composed by Harry Lawrence, and the wardrobe department is under the expert hands of Caitlin Maclennan and Polly Mortimer.

“There’s rich comedy, beautiful live music, singing and dancing, and our costume people have done a brilliant job,” Derek says, “Romeo and Juliet is the ultimate love story. Pack a picnic, bring your deck-chairs, sit back and just enjoy being part of it all.”

Romeo and Juliet is showing from Wednesday 12 February to Saturday 22 February at The Mound Lawn, Mona Vale, 6pm nightly and 2pm Saturday matinees.

For tickets, visit www.topdogtheatre.com (gate sales available).


 

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.


 

Skills on stage


Local Year 13 student Sarah Lawrence will be heading to London to tread the boards at the famous London Globe theatre next year.

 

 

One of four students from Christchurch (two are from Cashmere High and one from Catholic Cathedral College), she will be joining 24 of the most talented young actors from around the country, as members of the Shakespeare Globe Centre New Zealand Young Shakespeare Company.

During their two weeks in London, they will watch professional performances and also have 12 rehearsals, taken by a Globe director, of scenes from one of Shakespeare’s plays which they will then perform on the Globe stage in front of an audience. An additional week is spent in Stratford Upon Avon where they will watch more performances and take part in tours of the village where Shakespeare was born.

A member of the Court Theatre Youth Company and one of 48 students selected for the SGCNZ National Shakespeare Schools Production (NSSP) in September, Sarah has been able to hone her skills and confidence on the stage.

“It was incredible to have the experience of working with nationally and internationally recognised directors at the NSSP, and also so much fun to work with such talented actors and creatives from around New Zealand,” she says. “The experience of playing Lady Macbeth in the Pipitea Marae on the Wellington waterfront then again in the Legislative Council Chamber in Parliament was unforgettable.”

Sarah’s mum Samantha says she is thrilled for her daughter, who has grown as a performer (both as a musician and actor), supported by the opportunities and tutoring at Rangi Ruru.

“Rangi has given Sarah the freedom to involve herself in a wide range of activities available in Christchurch and New Zealand, alongside her academic studies. She’s fortunate to have had a lot of high-level music tuition and tutelage in theatre, and has learnt by performance in front of an audience, rather than through a series of exams. It’s given her confidence to take risks, artistically speaking, and really fly,” she says.

When asked if this talent and drive runs in the family, Sarah immediately mentions her 74-year-old grandfather who was a bass operatic singer but chose not to pursue it professionally.

“He’s amazing,” she says. “He’s been performing in the last few weeks in his hometown in Australia, in a local production of Phantom of the Opera. My mum says she remembers seeing him dressed up as the grandmother in a panto version of Little Red Riding Hood, dancing to the Time Warp. Mum was my age at the time and was ready to be completely embarrassed, but was so proud of him when she saw how talented he was. I love that story,” she says.

Sarah will sit her Year 13 scholarship drama examination soon, under the tuition of Peter Rutherford, the Director of Theatre Arts at Rangi, and has already completed her scholarship music exam under Janet Kingsbury, Rangi Ruru’s Director of Music.

She heads to the UK in July and until then will be completing her school year, at this stage intending to study Law and Arts at Victoria University for the first half of 2020.

 


 

 

Art Couture NZ

Crazy, creative couture: Art Couture NZ is set to bring back last year’s wildly successful wearable art show to a new Lincoln location

A fabulous excuse for crazy, wild creativity in a wearable form is once again being offered to all New Zealanders.

Art Couture NZ
MADAM BRIDE DESIGN BY LEANNE DAY

Following last year’s Canterbury-based wearable arts show at a Tai Tapu vineyard, Art Couture NZ’s planning for this year’s event is a happening thing. Scheduled for 13 October, new entrants are still welcome to enter until 4 August, according to founder Kim Strange.
Kim and three key organisers have chosen the Lincoln Events Centre for 2018’s larger, yet still intimate show. “We’ve received nationwide entries including many from Canterbury,” Kim says.
She lists off a raft of entry categories. It’s obvious all ages and design incarnations are accommodated, with more than $2500 available in prizes. “We think this year’s event will take the whole artistic venture to the next level,” Kim says.
The motivation for the arty event is about creativity, participation, inclusivity and fun. One category attracting a good number of entrants involves receiving a ‘Sow’s Ear’ bag of fabrics and assorted materials.
Kim says that people can, but don’t have to model their own creations. Often family members and friends become the designer’s models. Alternatively, designers can choose to have a model provided.
A range of tickets are available; some include North Canterbury wine labeled ‘27 Seconds,’ which donates profits to help stem the third world problem of human slavery. “It’s a way for us to support a great cause that touches all hearts,” Kim says.
Visit www.artcouture.co.nz and Facebook for details.