School Dance by Matthew Whittet
Directed by Darlene Mohekey
Review date: 22nd March 2017
I was expecting a flashy high standard production when I entered the Centrepoint Theatre last night to see School Dance. It promised to be eighties, fun, colourful, and centered around the horrific teenage angst that most of us would have experienced at high school- especially at the school dance. It seemed like a great opportunity to take my young teenage daughter along in hopes that she could see a lot of the stuff she’s experiencing right now in a more comical and abstract light. It was a risk, maybe she’d think the eighties were really stupid and that the teenage dramatics were really off base.
I was immediately transported to the eighties before I’d even entered the theatre as the foyer had been ever so slightly school-dancified and Madonna’s eighties ballad ‘Material Girl’ could be heard over the babble of an energised audience. There was even a gaudy green cocktail available at the bar called something like ‘electric lemonade’.
The set really grabs you and locates you firmly in a typical school hall, it was all so familiar and brought a sweep of nostalgia over me. It’s hard to describe how the rest of it all unravelled. It’s like I’d been shoved in a hairspray aerosol with every amazing thing from the eighties, shaken up and then sprayed out in joyous streams of music and fluorescent colours. There is so much great content to experience in this high energy show and some of it simply must be enjoyed as a surprise.
The story opens with an off-stage narrator (which I found out afterwards was actually pre-recorded, and was the voice of director Darlene Mohekey) who plays an interesting role throughout most of the play. There are no adults (well actually they are all adults playing child characters) in the play and it can be safely assumed due to the at times erratic and unorthodox behaviour of the narrator- that they too are still somewhat immature.
Kyle Chuen takes to the stage first as teen loser Matt, and is soon joined by his mate Luke played by Chris Symon who the narrator describes as a ‘loser of a different kind’. When Jonathon (Andrew Paterson) arrives the boys prove to be a team of comic wonderfulness. These guys joined forces and really made the most of the material they had to work with. From geeky disco dancing to talk of girls and fear of bullies these guys had a lot of fun bringing the horrors of the hormonal teenage boy to life.
Bronwyn Turei’s first outing on stage for the night as one of four characters she played was fantastic. She epitomised the overly dramatic, attention seeking, teenage girl showing off in front of boys. It must have been a tough gig to remember which person she was, as she went through multiple costume changes and came out with four very different personas. Sporting a perm, headband , fluorescent clothes and a passion for lip gloss Turei’s depiction of Matt’s love interest Hannah – a petulant teenage girl - was ‘awesome’!
The story takes an unexpected sci-fi turn and you can catch a whiff of many eighties movies in the theme of this play. I spotted some ET, Back to the Future, Gremlins, Smurfs and Care Bears tones to name a few, all ingeniously woven in to a more serious back story. This offers some magic moments from a hilarious and skilful slow mo scene, to an energetic BMX scene. The set designed by Ian Harman is an absolute treat, it is truly remarkable what was hidden away behind an already great set.
With music having the ability to transport you to another time and place School Dance will fill your senses with eighties nostalgia. Wake me up before you go-go, Material Girl, the Magnum PI theme song - I’m going to leave the others for a surprise but trust me- they’re great.
A lot of thought has been put into collecting and using era appropriate props. You’ll see Rubik’s Cubes, plastic jewellery, lots of bright clothing, blue eyeshadow, viewmasters and more. There’s a lot more – but seeing is believing. What was missing, refreshingly, was mobile phones, computers and facebook, a true reflection of the life of a teenager in the eighties.
This production is of exceptional quality: great set, great music, great acting, great lighting, great costumes; all of it working together to produce a great overall experience. It truly was a joy to watch. So how did my teenage daughter like it? She said “it was one of the best shows I’ve ever seen” and “every single part of it was amazing”. This is a production of wide appeal.
I was fortunate to stay afterwards for the Q&A session (something Centrepoint does on the first Wednesday night showing so that you can engage with the actors and director of the show). It felt like a real privilege to get the opportunity to hear how they worked together to produce their unique version of School Dance. Director Darlene Mohekey offered insights into their processes and behind the scenes activities including the incredibly large amount of sound bytes the skilled sound engineer had to juggle.
Sadly I had to go back to the future and leave School Dance behind, but it’s still there at Centrepoint waiting to take you back to the eighties!
The annual collaboration production between PNBHS and PNGHS had its first outing last night at the Property Brokers Final Dress Rehearsal Show. Director Chris Burton welcomed an eager crowd and expressed the excitement and nerves of a large cast and crew of 100+, some of which would be performing in a theatre capacity for the first time. Producing a show from the eighties was always going to be a crowd pleaser for an audience made up of a group that had lived through those awesome days!
Starting with the story of lead male Ren McCormack (Josiah Nevell) moving to the sombre town of Bomont with his Mother (Lisabet Morgan) after his Father deserted them is a necessarily low point. Ren is isolated, bored and trouble seems to follow him around – worst of all he finds out there is a law against dancing in the town.
Scaffolding on the stage provides good height options and allows the Reverend (Kyle Dahl) an excellent pulpit from which to preach his sermons. For a long time during the show I pondered over whether the Reverend was actually a PNBHS student or whether the role was, unusually, being played by an adult. I looked for any sign that he was not an adult but I just couldn’t find it. Referring to the programme confirmed that he is PNBHS student Kyle Dahl. With an impressive acting performance as father of rebellious youth Ariel Moore (Anya Darby), as husband to Vi Moore (Amy McLaren), and Reverend to the town; as well as a rich and perfectly timed vocal performance, Kyle filled some really big boots. It is hard to imagine his role being more perfectly carried out.
Lead actress Anya Darby’s portrayal of Ariel Moore was energetic and entertaining. She managed the tricky playoff between being a sensitive daddy’s girl and a confident boy-crazy teen with great skill. Her ability to portray emotion was delightful and heartfelt. With some big numbers to sing Anya did well to confidently belt some out, while also toning things down to sing an enchanting duet, ‘Paradise’, with love interest Josiah Nevill.
The use of a charming kitchen set created a secluded family setting for the Reverend and his wife Vi Moore (Amy McLaren) to play out their difficulties in agreeing on how to manage their daughter. Amy McLaren did an excellent job of playing the devoted mother and wife, her characterisation was spot on and was backed up by a great vocal performance. Lisabet Morgan playing the other Mother Ethel McCormack, similarly played a strong role and a vocal performance combing the talents of Anya Darby, Lisabet Morgan and Amy McLaren was particularly touching and well performed.
Ariel’s squad of friends played lively and energetic roles and offered excellent support. Rusty (Katie Atkins) played out her troubled relationship with lovable idiot Willard (Chris Dewhurst) with good comedic timing and sang with strength. Riley Booth’s portrayal of Urleen was confident and her vocal performance utterly sublime. Riley lit up the stage and put a passion into her dancing that was enjoyable to watch.
The second half of the show increased in tempo and and Josiah Nevill’s time to really shine came to life. Wow! His dancing is something to behold. Moving with such natural style, such ease and embodying so much life, his dance moves are intoxicating to watch. Combine that with a strong singing performance at the same time, Josiah pulled off an impressive act. Building a relationship over time with supporting act Willard, Josiah and Chris did a nice job of conveying that friendship on stage. With love interest Ariel, Josiah played out a tender role with a naturalness that was surprising in a school production. Josiah’s natural and easy style on stage meant he played a heroic role with modesty.
With a band taking a prominent part of the stage and Musical Director Paul Dredge visible conducting (and playing the harmonica) throughout the show it was a good reminder that there was an active and attentive live band providing the ambiance and delivering a hefty score.
The costuming and make-up departments must be commended for the adult characters they produced. As mentioned the Reverend was spot on, and the other adults in the show were ‘on point’.
‘Footloose’ came to a lively ending and was lavished with great applause by a well entertained crowd. Showcasing some great skills from some very talented students this is an enjoyable show.
Date: 9th March 2017-03-10
Bringing Willy Russell’s Blood Brothers to life in Palmerston North would have been a challenging task for Abbey Musical Theatre. This award-winning musical first played in 1983 about twins separated at birth, has offered big boots to fill.
Barry Jones’ direction of Blood Brothers certainly brought with it some high notes. His choice to embody the narrator in a devilish sinister character invisible to those on stage brought to life the haunting pressure of superstition upon the mothers Mrs Johnstone and Mrs Lyons. Samuel Gordon possessed his role as the narrator with strength, and power, somehow managing to lurk in the shadows of the stage observing the surroundings without interfering with the ‘visible’ action. His role was crucial to delivering the tone and sense of foreboding which grew and grew.
Val Andrew as down on her luck battler Mrs Johnstone expertly delivered a depth of emotion that was endearing. Showing spirit, strength, and powerful love for her children while managing the harsh realities of poverty, Val avoided making a caricature out of her character. When she turned her back as Mrs Lyons snatched away one of her freshly born twins and screamed ‘just take one, don’t tell me which one it is’ (or something similar to that) I was nearly brought to tears. Her musical numbers glided along nicely with her character, confidently delivered and evocative.
How the show came to life when Mickey (Michael Doody) and Edward (Tyrell Beck) hit the stage! Still raw from the heart-wrenching scene of Mrs Johnstone’s baby being snatched away from her and his twin brother by a selfish and manipulative Mrs Lyons (Joanne Sale), Mickey and Edward hit the stage playing their ‘nearly’ eight year old selves. Raucous laughter followed for an audience needing light relief, as these guys played their parts to the hilt! It must have been a tough gig for a couple of adult males to embody such childish traits but they both wriggled into their costumes and transformed themselves into joyous little boys who won the audience over. Vocally these two were harmoniously matched!
Joining them as a partner in crime was lovable Linda played by Lottie Perry. Linda was a tomboyish up for anything tough little girl whose heart led her down a tragic path with the brothers. Lottie carried her performance with grace and charm really shining on stage.
Mrs Lyons played by Joanne Sale, so manipulative that she tricked her husband into thinking that the child she stole was actually their child, put a lot of effort into portraying the slow descent into madness that her lies and secrets had caused. Mr Lyons (Gary Clark) played his solid and dependable, if not slightly naive, husband role with a really natural and believable style.
The joyous interlude provided by the young boys was short lived and left me hoping for a happy resolution to the problem faced by the twins who grew up before our eyes to become young men inhabiting opposite sides of society. This transformation was well performed by Michael Doody and Tyrell Beck with the assistance of the ever present and foreboding narrator who forced the impending sense of doom he knew was inevitable upon the audience.
The ensemble cast sat nicely in the background although the milk-man looked to have been playing around quite a bit! He played many roles from milkman to gynaecologist and everything in between. His distinctive look could not be disguised so the choice to jokingly reveal himself was a good one.
The set was clever and dynamic, with shifts from scene to scene managed fluidly. Little brick houses that opened and closed seamlessly to reveal the hidden intimate interiors, and props turning up on stage as easily as if they had just walked on themselves, meant that the setting was never jarring or confusing.
Barry Jones acting also as Musical Director conducted a band which delivered live music adding an enjoyable ambiance.
Not being a big fan of the musical genre (seriously just say what you mean, don’t make a song and dance out of it) I was delighted that this production was more like a play with some songs.
This rendition of Blood Brothers was enjoyable to watch, and nicely delivered.
For Rachel and Jimi Sarich the locksmith industry has given them the security to grow their family, their business, and their lives. With their business management systems, core values and a loyal and secure team in place they’re ready to pass the baton onto a new generation of entrepreneurial locksmiths who want to take on this exciting, evolving industry and create their own story.
So what’s the story with Armstrong Smarter Security?
It all started as a family locksmith business. Jimi’s dad Jim owned a local locksmith company and eventually Jimi found his interest piqued into checking out the industry. Moving to Wellington to work on his apprenticeship he was given some great advice ‘treat it like a hobby’. Jimi followed this advice, and to this day maintains that attitude to his trade. He really enjoys what he does and the challenge of working through problems. Upon completing his apprenticeship at the age of twenty, Jimi moved back into the family business.
Meanwhile in Foxton, Rachel was working towards her pharmacy diploma and ironically gained her best grades in security. Little did she know that security would become a big part of her life. When an unsuspecting Jimi walked into the pharmacy that she worked in and received a complimentary blue hair streak from energetic pharmacy worker Rachel, I guess you could say their eyes ‘locked on’ to each other and the rest was destiny.
Soon Rachel and Jimi were both working in the family business and bringing their youthful enthusiasm with them. They both laugh and scoff at the memories they have of being so energetic and full of ideas. They took the opportunity when it arose to buy a share of the family business and make their mark. They were more than just full of ideas though. Rachel and Jimi both come from extremely hard-working entrepreneurial families and confess that they just didn’t know any differently. Initially they just worked and worked, attempting to do everything and anything as much as they could. Eventually they learned to push the pause button and identify strengths among their staff allowing them to let others take on roles that they didn’t need to be in control of. Jimi and Rachel are proud of their staff and the fact that they all hold the same core values. In the security industry trust and reliability are essential – and so is hard work.
Joining the Armstrong Franchise was a turning point for Jimi and Rachel as they took the structure that Armstrong had already locked in place and flourished with their guidance. With a strong, secure relationships with large commercial clients and Armstrong’s strong business development and guidelines Jimi and Rachel were able to push their business past barriers that had stood in their way previously.
While Jimi’s focus and passion had been on the locksmith side of the business, they knew that technology was evolving that they needed to keep up with. With the at times serendipitous addition of key staff that brought new skills with them, their Armstrong Smarter Security branch grew to new heights whilst remaining the strong and loyal company their clients had come to depend on.
When it comes to clients Jimi, Rachel and their staff all agree on one thing – great, reliable, service is key. They really care about their customer – that is what secures the core of their business, ‘customers at the heart of it all’ says Charlene from a computer across the room . So who are their customers? Well it’s a diverse group from individuals to businesses, and corporate and high level defence security. Jimi is modest about the importance of his role, and even while Rachel alludes to it she is restrained. It seems that you can count on these two to keep your security secrets safe. What I did gleam though is that Jimi has travelled in order to secure the safety of New Zealand Embassies and is trusted by some extremely high level people in New Zealand. On the day of my visit to their Palmerston North Armstrong branch the staff were delighted to receive morning tea from a thankful customer that they’d gone to great lengths to satisfy.
Rachel and Jimi Sarich have achieved a great deal within their business and on the side have taken on some projects to really see what they’re capable of. For Rachel this was a brief stint trying her hand at some property development of which she was successful – although she downplays the effort this required. They have in recent times purchased the Wellington branch of Armstrong and have enjoyed turning the tables and reinstating the family back in the business by going into partnership with Jimi’s Dad Jim.
After sixteen years and a huge amount of success Rachel and Jimi are ready to spread their wings and see where the wind takes them. They’ve got three kids that they want to spend more time with and a long held desire to travel. They know they’ll be leaving an excellent team of capable staff to continue their strong business ethic into the future, and are excited for a new owner to come in and secure their place in this thriving industry.
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