Last night was a triumph for the Kila Kokonut Krew, their creative supporters and their Factory, overhauled since its first Mangere outing in 2011.
Set in 1970s New Zealand, this pitch-perfect musical tells the story of Losa (Milly Grant-Koria) and her father Kavana (Aleni Tufuga) as they work to support their family back home, aiming to be "the cream of the chocolate". But as factory owner Mr Wilkinson (Ross Girven) is villainous and money-grubbing, they don't find it easy to earn the promised milk and honey, even though Mr Wilkinson's son (Edward Laurenson) seems to be on their side.
This Pacific Les Mis tale of race and class is hugely leavened by romance, humour and funky 70s style (thanks to costume designer Seraphina Tausilia and stylist Louina Fifita).
Poulima Salima and Tama Waipara's music is assured, tight and textured with brilliant harmonies. The first a cappella farewell as Losa and Kavana leave Samoa is a moment for goosebumps; the brief duet of the dads (one Palagi, one Samoan) is a nice touch; and Grant-Koria in particular has outstanding vocal range and control.
Of course Lindah Lepou vamps fabulously, while Taofia Pelesasa - as the clear-eyed, wild-eyed labour organiser Mose - gives a magnetic and fiery performance. Both he and Girven make great set-piece speeches, and it's a real pity that Mose doesn't get more credit at the end (particularly as the young rich white guy gets it all).
In a great decision - no long boring solos! - writers and directors Anapela Polataivao and Vela Manusaute put their talented ensemble onstage most of the time, brightening Sean Coyle's deliberately drab factory with big, vigorous numbers.
Amanaki Prescott Faletau's choreography is siva-inflected for the seamstresses, and energetically staccato for the ever-changing group patterns. Jane Hakaraia's lighting design also works well, and is particularly effective for a dream Samoa village scene of tatau and 'ava.
A super opening for the Auckland Festival.
What: The Factory
Where: Q Theatre, Queen St
When: Until Monday