Affable TV star in kitchen sink musical

By Dan Jackson

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Shane Cortese is appearing in State Highway 48 at the Wanganui Royal Opera House on October 8. It's a musical carved from day to day Kiwi life.
Shane Cortese is appearing in State Highway 48 at the Wanganui Royal Opera House on October 8. It's a musical carved from day to day Kiwi life.

I don't know Shane Cortese from a bar of soap.

But, when I mentioned to my missus that I had been tasked with interviewing him she got a sudden interest.

"Can I come too?" She asked.

"No dear, it will be a phone interview" I replied.

"Oh that's a shame. He's lovely..."

I immediately took a dislike to him.

I continued this dislike while doing research on him and his latest theatrical effort State Highway 48 which will play at the Wanganui Royal Opera House on October 8.

Cortese, who's a Shorty St alumni (I've never watched it, I swear) as well as numerous other Kiwi shows like The Almighty Johnsons and Outrageous Fortune, plays one of the main characters - "Dave".

Dave is a middle aged Kiwi caught up in the stresses of raising kids and paying mortgages and working too much.

Anywho, I organise an interview for a Monday morning and his publicist rings me - "are you ready to talk to Shane?"

But, after I reply yes, the phone goes on hold for nearly two minutes and confirms my initial suspicion that he's a Prima Donna.

When he does answer, he's slightly out of breath and informs me he's just been putting on a Spider-Man costume.

My journalistic hackles are raised - perhaps he's padding his income doing street performance? A weird fetish? Something nefarious is up that's for sure.

"Why are you wearing a spider man costume on a Monday morning?" I ask.

"I didn't say I was wearing it," he replies. "It's my five year old son." Then he adds "why aren't you wearing one?"

Funny beggar.

Right oh, enough of this dilly-dallying, down to the hard journalism - "um, why are you doing this show?"

"Errr," he scrambles for an answer to my hard hitting question "because I wanted to do a musical?..."

Apart from his TV shows he has played characters in Chicago, Guys n Dolls, Cats and other West End and major productions but he liked the State Highway 48 character because it was new.

"No one has done this character before. I get to make my own decisions about him".

He said the character and himself were similar in that they were both 48, married and with kids.

But his character is a nine-to-fiver and faced a different set of issues to Cortese.
"I can relate to him though through our similarities and through the eyes of other people I know".

State Highway 48 is essentially a love story where Cortese's character finds himself disconnected from his wife after 18 years of marriage.

"They're working all the time, the kids are at school, they're restructuring his job and the reason they fell in love with each other has gone missing."

"He then makes some decisions in the first half and we see the consequences of that in the second".

Cortese said the show was funny and had 26 original songs but it wasn't a "jazz hands" sort of musical.

"It hits a real note with people. Having done the show in Hamilton, people come up and say 'have you been looking through my bedroom window?'".

The cast of 12 is reasonably large and Cortese said the talent pool kept him on his toes.
The leading lady is Delia Hannah, a New Zealand actress and singer who has been cast in lead roles by Andrew Lloyd Webber and has serious talent.

She was one of the main reasons Cortese decided to do the part.

"She is special. I was in Australia when I heard Delia was going to do the show and she really is the reason I signed the dotted line".

As for Cortese's singing - "oh mate, it's sh#t".

When pressed further "well, I've done a few musicals now so it must be ok".

Cortese said the show's writer and producer Chris Williams had almost single handedly taken it from an idea to a full blown professional production.

"He told his mates he was going to write a musical and then he had to do it".
Williams had plans to take show through the country and finish in the main cities in 2017 before taking it to Australia and Edinburgh and beyond.

I finish the interview by telling Cortese he's better go look after Spider man.

"Oh yeah, he's climbing the walls now " and then... "Hey, I'll make sure there's a couple of tickets for you and you can come along. Maybe afterwards you can come back stage with us and we can have a couple of beers. That'd be good".

I must admit, despite my best efforts, it's pretty hard to dislike Shane Cortese - and my missus is already trying to decide on what to wear...

- Wanganui Chronicle

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