"Where's Lucy?"

That's the question the team behind the 2017 World of Wearable Arts hopes to answer when it holds auditions to find "the cheekiest, most imaginative and heartfelt kids out there".

Auckland-based maverick theatre-maker Kip Chapman is this year's WOW creative director. He's crafting a story about a woman called Lucy who revisits her childhood and rediscovers her imagination.

Eight girls are needed to share the role of young Lucy; four to play her aged 5 and four at age 10. As well as the WOW factor, they must be able to sing and dance, be comfortable with heights and performing in front of crowds of up to 3500 per night.

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Auditions are in Wellington on April 8 and 9 and, given the amount of time the Lucys have to spend in the capital, it will be ideal if the girls can live there for at least a couple of months, especially when rehearsals start in August.

While WOW is world famous as a design competition, it's also New Zealand's biggest stage show. During its 29 years, it has become renowned for staging some of the most spectacular productions in the southern hemisphere.

It's the creative director's job to ensure each show makes all who see it go WOW.
Chapman, who likes to make event theatre, says it's the biggest thing he's ever worked on.

Auckland-based actor and theatre-maker Kip Chapman is the creative director for World of WearableArts.
Auckland-based actor and theatre-maker Kip Chapman is the creative director for World of WearableArts.

He previously co-created and directed the comedy stage play Hudson & Halls Live!, and directed the musical That Bloody Woman. One of his first interactive theatre shows, Apollo 13 Mission Control, has been performed more 200 times in New Zealand, Australia and the United States.

He admits he didn't realise how big WOW is until he was introduced to it by the previous creative directors, Mike Mizrahi and Marie Adams.

"I'd never seen anything like it in New Zealand before," he says. "WOW is about everything that is not the ordinary; it is a roar against the banal."

Entries for this year's WOW competition close on Friday and the show is on from September 21 to October 8.

Chapman will wrangle more than 350 cast - actors, musicians, dancers, models and cirque performers - and crew. He says he's surrounded by an experienced team which includes Don McGlashan as music director and Stephen Blackburn as head of show production.

Having "shadowed" Mizrahi and Adams, he's also got a sound understanding of WOW's inner workings. Despite seeing first hand how big WOW is, he wasn't put off applying for the creative director's job.

"It's just the sort of theatre I like to make so there was no way I was saying no to the opportunity," he says. "I think I've got a good gut; I know what sort of theatre I like to make and I know what an audience wants to feel.

"They want to feel that they are part of the WOW world, to be blown away by the artistry and imagination of all those involved."

•In addition to the annual competition and show, WOW runs an international touring exhibition. It was seen by more than 250,000 people at MoPOP in Seattle and is now at the Peabody Essex Museum in Massachusetts. The National WOW Museum is one of the most visited attractions in Nelson.