Major Productions

Evita

Message from the Director

When I was a boy of thirteen at the nasty boarding school I was forced to attend in Dublin, a parcel arrived at the college library from the Argentine Embassy. It contained a plethora of photographs pertaining to the life of the late Eva Peron who had then recently died. It was 1952 – a time still of austerity in Ireland so we were cheered up immensely by the myriad of photographs of Eva in all her glory as an Argentine folk hero, including many of our heroine, beautifully embalmed in her glass-topped coffin. Being of a morbid nature, I was fascinated by the images, (I gather from reading matters connected with her short life that she hasn’t changed a bit in the intervening sixty six years).

Moving forward to 1976 when I purchased a copy of Evita, the new album at Wray Wilson’s in Esk Street for the princely sum of $12.88. I, like most people, loved the catchy lyrics of Tim Rice and the glorious melodies of Andrew Lloyd Webber. It was a great listen so when it was (with considerable difficulty) translated to the musical stage we couldn’t wait to see it. It broke records in London and New York and has been staged all over the world except in Argentina where it is still a definite no no as it does not present public matters in a favourable light. And let’s face it “Santa Evita” (as the common people called her) and her husband, Juan Peron, manipulated the governing system for their personal benefit unbeknownst to the adoring masses – mainly working class.

Staging Evita is difficult. It has high challenging musical demands. It chops and changes in its locations. It is virtually carried along by three characters. It requires many strong, plausible, acting characterisations by the supporting company, all of whom are required at some stage to sing and dance. It demands much from your imaginations and the famous concept of suspended disbelief.

Thanks to a brilliant – and I use the adjective with chest-puffed pride – Production Team I believe that we have triumphed in our efforts to stage this demanding and complex musical with an on-stage cast of teenagers.

Mrs Little and assistant, Michael Forde, have worked with an unexpected passion to ensure that the Lloyd Webber music was delivered with spine-tingling mellifluousness.

Ms Maria Alcock and young Mr Brendan Bowie “twinkle-toed” the big production numbers into a kaleidoscope of flashing feet and the Company loved the choreography (which hasn’t always been the case in the past, particularly amongst the males).

Mr Pannett painted a Buenos Aires backdrop of the famous Plaza de Mayo and the Casa Rosada (Pink House or Presidential Palace), as well as creating the (often not attempted) interiors.

Mrs Laura Fryer and her team have had to find a wardrobe that is almost as complex as the plot – and there were some very quick changes involved. Lighting and Sound were completely student driven under the leadership of Ben McIntyre. Last, but certainly not least, Laurel Swan and Caroline Raynes fulfilled the property demands to a professional level – especially those contemporary (1946) Union of Workers placards.

It has been a privilege to act as the so-called “gaffer” for such a talented team of thespians and their mentors.

Sadly we bid farewell to Sarah-Lene Hogg who has climaxed her acting career here with an outstanding portrayal of Eva Peron. Surely one of the most difficult and challenging roles in modern musical theatre. Her understanding of the character was the key to this triumphant characterisation to say nothing of her mellifluous voice. What a contrast with last year’s comedic role in Brigadoon.

Equally sad is the loss of Nepia Ruwhiu who has a been a “star” on our stage since his debut as the nine year old son of French planter Emile Le Becque in South Pacific seven years ago. This was followed by the Artful Dodger in Oliver. Last year he played the male romantic lead in Brigadoon but no doubt the pinnacle of his acting career here at Hargest has been his characterisation of Ché, the cynical character/device used by Tim Rice to link the episodic construction of his libretto. Ché literally opens/closes the production with scarcely a moment off the stage in between. Alex Thomson as Peron accomplished a debut role with style and convincing accuracy.

Penultimately, newcomers Daniel McDonald (Magaldi) and Amy Lee (Peron’s ex) did great vocal service to both these small but important roles. And finally, thank you Jaimes Brown for that boy soprano aria which you sang so beautifully having had to wait nervously until two thirds of the opera had been completed.

JWE Tucker

Director

 

EVITA CAST

Leads

Eva                                                                                  Sarah-Lene Hogg

Peron                                                                              Alex Thomson

Che                                                                                  Nepia Ruwhiu

Magaldi                                                                          Daniel McDonald

Peron’s Mistress                                                           Amy Lee

 

People of Argentina

                   Samaria Anaru Hill                                   Amy Bell                                    Victoria Bradney

                         Maya Brass                                     Caleb Brown                                Rachel Checketts

                  Declan Cruickshank                             Logan Dalgity                                  Logan Dennis

                      Aleisha Elliotte                             Mackenzie Fallow                                Cassie Gray

                          Brian Grigg                                     Thomas King                                       Meg Lake  

                            Amy Lee                                         Chloe Lewis                                       Kate Loan

                      Wilson Ludlow                              Anais Maclennan                               John Marshall             

                       Jarod Murphy                                    Emma Riley                                   Thea Saavedra            

                   Shoshana Shearing                              Zhane Skippe                                   Tom Stewart              

                      Lewis Thomson

 

Off Stage Chorus/Children

                       Jaimes Brown                                 Grace Doherty                                  Kate Edwards

                      Georgia Hawke                              Scott Henderson                                Darcy Herrick

                     Rebecca Kingma                                Brianna Loan                               Alexander Munro

 

 

Orchestra

Keyboards

Michael Forde

Brendan Bowie

Jaewon Lee

Violins

Donald Thomson

Hannah Gray

Alexander Lindsay

Ingrid Lindsay

Viola

Robin McNeill

Cello

Rose Collen

Guitar

Haein Shin

Bass

Wayne Perniskie

Drums

Jake McQuarrie

Percussion

Trinity Waddell

Finn Cruickshank

Flute

Rebekah Elder

Clarinet/Bass Clarinet/Tenor Sax

Emma Jarman

Trumpet

Grant Chalmers

Flugelhorn

Anna Redmond

Trombone

Josiah Brown

Horn

Claire Yorkstone

Brigadoon

Brigadoon

Brigadoon, Lerner and Loewe’s first great collaboration, is an oldie but remains one of the great musical show biz classics. Furthermore, it has great chorus scenes contrasting with last year’s triumphant Sound of Music, which has really no ensemble requirements. This musical is almost dominated by big scenes and crowded, animated groupings with their rigorous song and dance demands. This is hugely demanding on large numbers of non-speaking roles who must support the principal actors constantly. A failure to do so can destroy such a scene. This was an exceptional chorus, particularly as many are still in Year 11.

Brigadoon’s plot needs no explanation, but it contains all the human elements and emotions within the framework of a mythical highland village in lovely Scotland. Despite the sophistication and occasional cynicism of this cyber age, this cast have become comfortably and delightfully immersed in the magic of this happy good-feeling piece of musical theatre. It’s like the old chap in that TV drink driving advert who volunteers to drive the boys to their required destination and switches the radio to country and western, retorting that “I like it”. And that is exactly what our young company feels about the seventy year old quality piece of showbiz.

Of course, such an exercise as this has required (as it does annually) the skilled assistance of a large number of brilliantly willing staff and – a comparatively recent phenomenon – a coterie of pupil technocrats. The latter, virtually unassisted, have created all the sound/light magic that hugely enhanced this production. Thank you Ben “Major” and Ben “Minor”, and assistants, for your ever willing enthusiasm, time commitment and creativity. Ben “Major”, we shall miss you so much after your five year tenure in the lighting box/stage house and up THAT ladder.

Finally, but no less important, there was some ‘tinkering’ with production personnel this year. Mrs Little changed hats and choreographed Brigadoon and wow, it seems that she is as adroit at this as she has been over the recent past successes when she was Musical Director and Orchestral Director.

Michael Forde, your musical direction, choral training and performing as rehearsal pianist, was a hugely demanding ‘first’ for you. You passed with honours (1st class).

We were delighted to have Neitana Tane – former pupil and Joseph in our original 1987 production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, who created a brilliant characterisation as the custodian of all that is good in the village of Brigadoon – Mr Murdoch.

Last, but certainly not least, congratulations to Reuben Brown (last year’s romantic Nazi in The Sound of Music), for his hugely successful conducting and control of our orchestra. We will miss you next year. As, indeed, we bid farewell to brilliant players from previous Major Productions – Sarah Boniface, Liam Fairbairn, Cameron Harley, Dominic Burrows (Dance School in Wellington) and the last of the Blaas family, young Rhys.

Sadly, Morgan Vandergoes and Brian Grigg who created so wonderfully, the characters of the older men with absolute conviction – and this was their first Major Production. But Brigadoon also revealed the glowing talent of Jeremy Tiatia and Sarah-Lene Hogg who will be back with us in 2018. As will be the multi-talented Kate Loan who brilliantly played multi roles in this production.

JWE Tucker

Stage Director

Article from the Express

Brigadoon_002

Sound of Music

Shrek the musical

Recently students from the Junior Campus performed ‘Shrek the Musical’ to sold out crowds.  We had an amazing cast of over ninety students involved on stage as well as behind the scenes.  The storyline was loosely based around the movie of ‘Shrek’ and was full of clever humour and catchy musical numbers.   On stage the different fairy tale and forest creatures were moving to the beat and singing with gusto.  Whether a chorus member or main character in the production all students put in an amazing effort, which made it a great success.   Thank you to all of the students, staff and whānau members who supported us over the weeks leading up to our final performance.

Oliver

Last staged in 1984 with the principal characters (with the exception of Bill Sykes) all played by staff members. Furthermore, all the Workhouse urchins and Fagin’s gang were all female as were Oliver himself and the Artful Dodger. Now, thirty years later, our 21st century Oliver himself was cast one hundred per cent from the pupils (students if you prefer) from both Junior and Senior Campuses. No shortage of blokes this time especially in the huge chorus of Londoners. Of course, talented young women had to be turned away as the limitations of our stage had the final say in regards to cast size. That said, it was a thundering great chorus of rhythmic movers and actors who filled the staff with colour and character in the two great chorus numbers in Oliver – the Artful Dodger’s Consider Yourself and the famous Oom Pah Pah in the Three Cripples (lovely name) pub. Hugely disciplined and accurate the chorus again were first class in the Who Will Buy scene in the posher neighbourhood of London.

2014’s chorus was exceptional. If the adult chorus reached such heights so did the Workhouse “Boys” and Fagin’s Gang (the same crew with slightly altered day wear). This group from the Junior Campus arrived fully prepared musically thanks to the expert tutelage of Miss Sue Donkin.

All the principal Dickensian characters were played with conviction. Cameron Eade’s Mr Brownlow was the stand out non-singing performance. Ebony Phillips was a delightfully empty Charlotte and Jonathan Tulett the nastiest bully Noah Claypole. Caroline Santos-O’Connell again made capital of the small role of Mrs Sowerberry and Matthew Joll was a marvellously sychophantic Mr Sowerberry.

As the Bumble/Corney pairing – but both far too good looking and pretty. Dryw McArthur and Matilda Phillips drew gasps and guffaws from the audience for their brilliant portrayal of this dreadful pair. Rose Freeborn was a lusty and powerful Nancy and her “partner” Bill Syskes was played with terrible menace by first time actor, Ben Dobbie – his villain was a tour de force.

It was a great pleasure to have Nepia Ruwhiu back from his tiny role in last year’s South Pacific to display his thespian talents with absolute conviction as a rather jolly Artful Dodger and we have four more years of Nepia here with us at the Senior Campus.

Unknown to his father, Dominic Burrows certainly proved that he could sing. This delightful young man was huge fun to direct and ultimately produced the definitive character of the musical’s title. Lionel Bart would have been delighted.

Finally Fagin. Daniel Botha’s acting career at this school/college culminates with the famous role of Fagin which he played with a delightful lightness and benign craftiness. He leaves after a glistening career both here and in the community since his arrival from South Africa in 2009. His willingness to accept ANY role and turn it into a brilliant characterisation has been a hallmark of his acting.

His impressive CV is unique in this school’s 55 years stage history.

Thank you Daniel for your unparalleled contribution to this school and our Southland community over the past five years.

Oliver’s success was as usual due to the genius of Mr Alan Pannett who designed and built the set in between his myriad demands as Senior Master. Oliver also looked good because of the involvement of a brilliant new wardrobe team led by Ms Laura Turner (convenor), Ms Michaela Thomson and Ms Martha McSoriley. They came one night during a full rehearsal and voila, two week later the finished products are what you see on the coloured section of this article.

Newcomer Pip Paulin (she has a distinguished stage pedigree) took on the task of choreographer (Ms Maria Alcock is having a sabbatical) and created all those exciting dances which all the chorus seemed to manage – even those in the back row. Finally, to musical maestro, Juliet Woller. The school is grateful for your expertise as chorus mistress, solo tutor and orchestra conductor (and trainer). What energy and expertise in such a small package!

To all the other staff members who provide their specialist talents voluntarily year after year. Mrs Lesley Horner (properties), Mrs Sharon Scobie (make-up), Mrs Jocelyn Redmond (business manager), the South and Lighting boys (Liam Fairburn, Andrew Richards, Ben King, etc, etc, Mrs Barbara Jones (publicity) and producing the best school production programmes in New Zealand and last but always brilliantly on the job, Mr Evan France as Stage Manager.