Gregory Shepherd has been cast as Admiral Boom in Rotorua Musical Theatre's upcoming production Mary Poppins.

But it wasn't any ordinary audition for the former Rotorua man.

Shepherd, 65, did not make up his mind about auditioning until the night before and drove through the night from Auckland.

He said Rotorua Musical Theatre was just like home and he had been back to watch shows and support them since his last performance with the society in 1980, 37 years ago.

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"It's a wonderful society, it's the best theatre I've been involved with."

He said this would be a career highlight.

Rehearsals started last Sunday and Shepherd was coming down from Auckland every weekend.

Closer to the performances in March next year he would stay in Rotorua for about a month.

Shepherd said as well as being the crazy, eccentric Admiral Boom, he had another small cameo in Mary Poppins.

"There's an appearance by Queen Victoria. I was asked to do her and of course I said 'sure'."

He has to learn a little dance for his Queen Victoria cameo.

Shepherd was born in Matamata and moved to Rotorua in 1962.

He started at Rotorua Musical Theatre in 1976, when he auditioned for Viva Mexico.

His last show with Rotorua Musical Theatre was Godspell in 1980.

Eventually he went to Hamilton and did many shows there before moving to Auckland in the 1980s.

He was walking around Aotea Centre when it was being built and said to himself "I'm going to work there".

His first show there was 30 years ago - Anything Goes.

Shepherd had worked on many of the big shows, such as Mary Poppins, Cats and Singing in the Rain.

He has also worked with Opera New Zealand and on events such as Christmas in the Park as stage manager.

"I've loved it and it's been amazing."

His advice to people doing auditions was to stand tall, smile and know their lines.

He said the support of Rotorua had been amazing over the years and the Mary Poppins show was going to be a great journey.