Apollo show huge hit in US

By Tim Wakely

Hawke's Bay theatre producer Bruce Mactaggart's production Apollo 13: Mission Control is taking off in the United States - with five shows being added to its Winston-Salem run in North Carolina.

The play, the product of Mr Mactaggart's late wife Robyn, made its debut in the United States last December and has gone on to receive rave reviews and strong ticket sales throughout that country.

The interactive show, based on the original Apollo 13 event, relies on audience participation to make critical decisions to help bring the astronauts home.

"We are all pleased that we were able to sustain her [Robyn's] vision fairly and, as the production is on the threshold of international success, it will just become a part of her legacy," he said.

Throughout its 5-year-run, Apollo 13: Mission Control has received awards, including the Chapman Tripp Theatre Award for Most Original Production in 2008.

Mr Mactaggart, the man behind the Walking with Dinosaurs show, said the response to the interactive play had been overwhelming.

"There have been so many highlights, such as meeting Jerry Bostick - one of the original Apollo 13 team members - and performing the show in front of him.

"The next day we were both interviewed on morning TV and he was asked by the presenter if he liked the show.

"He said he was delighted with it and gave it two thumbs up.

"He also said that it should be played in all major cities in the United States."

Mr Mactaggart believed the show's success lay with its antipodean production and stage crew.

"New Zealanders and Australians just know how to get on with it and get the job done," he said.

"With this production we created a new level of freshness and innovation.

"My whole career has been about creating shows which are high-risk.

"We are probably about four to five years ahead when it comes to interactive theatre. Apollo 13 is all about leading the way."

Mr Mactaggart is back in the Bay and plans to relaunch the show by creating an exact replica of the Apollo 13 mission control centre station, which will cost $10 million to $15 million.

"I'm quite happy to be back: The blue sky is nice compared with the weather in Seattle at the moment.

"We plan on bringing the stage production team here to work on the show's new format."

- Hawkes Bay Today

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