Break a leg! On with the show

The curtain has risen on the stage of Auckland's new $36 million ASB Waterfront Theatre, with Mayor Len Brown declaring it open this morning.

Cast of the theatre's first show and a band - formed by a group of brass instrument-playing welders - were first on the stage in the main auditorium.

People gathered just after 8am in that 668-seat 'cedar crucible' in the Wynyard Quarter for a powhiri, speeches and an a capella performance from the Billy Elliot the Musical cast, casting lights from their helmets across the theatre in a dramatic first performance.

Tristram takes a walk through the brand new ASB Theatre in Auckland, due to open tomorrow. The stunning new purpose built building will bring new life to the Auckland arts scene.

Then came a fanfare from Southern Steel workers whose talents came to light when they had brought out their instruments during building construction. They had so impressed people that they became part of the opening event.

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Brown performed the waiata Karu Karu, joking that it might be the last time he sang on stage as mayor. The council had backed the theatre because there was a strong business case behind creating such a venue and a home for the Auckland Theatre Company, Brown said.

Barbara Chapman, ASB chief executive, said ASB North Wharf was the theatre's closest neighbour so she had looked up rules for being a good neighbour and said not having late-night parties, not blocking the neighbours' drive and inviting neighbours to your garage sale were three main pieces of advice she had gleaned. She joked that she did expect the theatre to be operating at night, that the bank's driveway had been blocked by construction and when it came to a garage sale, the theatre would probably have more interesting offerings than the bank, she said.

Stephen Wainwright, Creative New Zealand chief executive, said that for 25 years, the Auckland Theatre Company had been "either glamping or camping. A theatre is absolutely vital for the arts in Auckland. This is an essential piece of cultural infrastructure for the city and New Zealand," Wainwright said.

Brown paid tribute to Panuku Development Auckland and its outgoing chief executive John Dalzell for the having the vision to bring people back to the city's waterfront. Brown also scoffed at concerns about parking. The theatre has no carparks and patrons are instead directed to public parks and buildings in the area.

John Dalzell introduces the theatre

Gordon Moller, theatre chairman and one of the new Wynyard Quarter's architects, said after the formalities that Auckland Council had contributed $10 million, ASB $5 million, Foundation North $5 million, AUT $5 million, the Lion Foundation $1 million and Creative New Zealand with Lotto $5 million together.

The cast of Billy Elliot The Musical with the cast of Southern Steel workers. Photo/Doug Sheering.
The cast of Billy Elliot The Musical with the cast of Southern Steel workers. Photo/Doug Sheering.

Before the event, Dalzell told of the genesis for the theatre's creation and how important it was for the Wynyard Quarter.

A free public open day is being held on Saturday from 10am, with back-stage tours, storey telling and performances.

Seating at the ASB Waterfront Theatre. Photo/Simon Devitt
Seating at the ASB Waterfront Theatre. Photo/Simon Devitt