Hawke's Bay scores musical first with 'Phantom'

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The Phantom of the Opera, the world's longest-running musical, will be staged in Hawke's Bay.

The Napier Operatic Society would be the first provincial organisation in New Zealand to produce Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber's blockbuster show, president Sharron Pardoe said.

Only New Zealand and Australia had been granted the amateur rights.

"We are thrilled to be able to bring this masterpiece to the Napier Municipal Theatre in September next year," she told a sponsorship launch at the Napier Municipal Theatre last night.

"Phantom is a timeless story of seduction and despair when a beautiful soprano becomes the obsession of a mysterious, disfigured musical genius.

"It will be an amazing year for Napier Operatic and for Hawke's Bay audiences as Phantom will follow on from the musical comedy, Hairspray, which will be staged in April," Mrs Pardoe said.

Napier Operatic has joined forces with seven other societies to form a consortium to build the set and make the costumes for Phantom.

"The consortium has planned a spectacular set which will be built in New Zealand but the size of the set also meant some restraints. Napier Operatic had looked into staging the show in the HB Opera House in Hastings but its smaller backstage area and limited wing space meant it would only be able to use some of the components.

"The Napier Municipal Theatre has been our home theatre for many decades," Mrs Pardoe said. "The Napier City Council has been very supportive of our productions over the years and continues to be so."

Directing Phantom will be Gillian Davies, QSM, whose past shows have included Miss Saigon, Cats, Beauty and the Beast, and the society's first production of Les Miserables, which starred Robert Houston.

"We are delighted Gillian is taking this on," Mrs Pardoe said. "She has an enviable reputation as a director who puts her heart and soul into our productions. She will be assisted by Michael Joel as MD and choreographer Briar Horrocks, who has partnered Gillian for many shows."

For Hairspray, the consortium's set and props were designed by Harold Moot, of Christchurch, and built by the NZ Opera Company in Auckland. The consortium bought the stunning costumes from Melbourne.

"A professional company had just wrapped up its season in Australia and we managed to secure all the costumes, and more than 70 wigs," Mrs Pardoe said.

The society had appointed Wendy Revell to direct Hairspray, Mark Oldershaw is the MD and Diana Shand the choreographer.

"Wendy and Diana have just finished a sellout season of Chicago and are a great team," Mrs Pardoe said.

The two shows were a huge commitment for the society.

"Together they will cost nearly $800,000 to stage. We need our community's help with this and have several sponsorship packages available. This is a chance to really make some musical theatre history in Hawke's Bay."

Auditions for Hairspray will be held in November.

- HAWKES BAY TODAY

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