Natural born entertainer, Darlene Mohekey

A chat with Darlene Mohekey is like a private skit show and while her face may not be familiar to many people, her voice is.

The zany singer/actor/voice-over artist and impersonator, who hails from Levin but now lives in Rotorua, played the part of former Prime Minister Helen Clark and others in the Kiwi television skit show Facelift.

Mohekey shifts easily between voices - there's Ms Clark of course, Michael Jackson, Marilyn Monroe, Brit Spears and many more.

As a high school student she liked to mimic her teachers, celebrities, exotic rainforest dwelling animals ... whatever came to her head.

She perfected the sounds of seagulls and kittens, playing tricks on teachers and fellow students.

Mohekey has been on stage since she was about 9, appearing in school plays and community theatre productions, and she was opera-trained from the age of 7 although she soon discovered it wasn't her thing.

"I had good technique because I could do different things with my voice, but I didn't find it entirely satisfying - and then I found out I was funny.

"I've always loved impersonating people, it's my main love and I've made a career out of it - that and musical comedy."

It's the latter which currently occupies her time.

Mohekey co-wrote 1958 - The Musical, now showing at Rotorua's Blue Baths, with fellow actor and friend Dena Kennedy. The pair have pulled together a talented ensemble of young actors from around the country and local dancers for the show which showcases the fun, colour and music of the 1950s.

Mohekey, who has been working in the industry for 16 years, loves being part of the show, in which she plays "Pearl, the mother".

"My character in this musical is hilarious to play ... she's completely wacky. She's always where she's not meant to be."

As one of the experienced members of the cast Mohekey is also enjoying helping the younger actors develop their craft. Giving up and coming talent professional experience is one of the philosophies behind the production.

"It usually takes quite a while to get into the professional scene and there aren't many opportunities to get professional exposure in New Zealand. The crew we have for this show is really great."

It's so enjoyable to share the stage with so many young, talented professionals."

Mohekey spends most of her time in Rotorua these days.

"Life is great," she says.

She performs as Monroe, Barbra Streisand and other characters at corporate events and regularly heads for Wellington to do voiceovers for television and radio advertisements. She's also appeared in various community theatre productions around the country, is a regular street theatre performer at Nelson's Busker's Festival and co-hosts the annual Arts Festival lip-sync competition.

In 2010 she won the award for Best Supporting Actress at the Chapman Tripp Theatre Awards for her role in the Circa production of Shipwrecked! An Entertainment.

Mohekey aspires to have her voice heard in animated movies and cartoons and still has a hankering for sketch comedy.

"I'd like to do that again but I'm not destined to be a dramatic actor. I'm too wacky."

Right now, all of Mohekey's time is taken up with the musical 1958 which will run at the Blue Baths until February 15.

The Rotorua-based company behind the show is Blue Baths Emerge Entertainment, formed by Blue Baths managing director Jo Romanes to foster and develop emerging Kiwi talent.

The show, directed by Kennedy, is based around a group of actors working on a New Zealand movie and alternates between the making of the movie and the tumultuous lives going on behind the scenes.

Shows are Tuesday to Friday at 8pm with matinees on Sundays at 4pm. Audiences will be able to enjoy food platters and drinks (served by roller-skating waitresses) while they watch the show, being staged in the Lido Lounge, which was once the adult pool at the Blue Baths.

- Rotorua Daily Post

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