He's a familiar face on Kiwi TV screens, but next month Rotorua fans will get to experience the talent of Shane Cortese live on stage.

Cortese is returning to the Bay of Plenty during his nationwide tour performing in a New Zealand original rock opera.

State Highway 48, directed by Nick Wilkinson, tracks the life and times of an everyday family and their friends as they navigate the treacherous road of middle age.

Changes in the family, workplace, and friendship are set against the backdrop of the recession and brought to life by 26 original songs.

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Cortese told the Rotorua Daily Post he was looking forward to coming back to the Bay for his latest show.

"I'm a Bay of Plenty boy, I grew up in Tauranga, Vegas is a great place to visit."

Although a lot of Kiwis know Cortese from TV shows such as Dancing with the Stars, Outrageous Fortune, Almighty Johnsons and Nothing Trival, he started as a theatre actor and spent a long time performing in musicals in London.

"This is my bread and butter, it's a beautiful piece of musical theatre. It's a love story."

He said State Highway 48 was a story relevant to all audiences as, even though it was New Zealand-based, it wasn't really based anywhere.

"It could be anywhere in the world. The main characters are at a stage where they have disconnected with each other, they have fallen out of love."

Cortese said his character, 48 year-old Dave, lost his job and fell into depression.

"It's a very real play, people have been openly sobbing in earlier performances."

He said he could somewhat relate to the character he was playing as he turned 48 during rehearsals for the show, although he hadn't ever fallen into a depression as deep as his character.

"The thing that made me sign the dotted line to do the show was that Delia Hannah would be playing my wife. She is one of our best ever musical performers, come to see her."

He said the other thing that made the musical particularly special for him was that it was his own role - he was the first to portray it.

"I've done many other shows where thousands of other actors have done them thousands of other times. This is just me."

State Highway 48 will be held in the Rotorua Civic Theatre on Thursday October 13 at 7.30pm. Tickets are available through Ticketmaster.