The show poignantly explores the uncanny influence that chance encounters, both directly and indirectly, play in our lives.


Singer and actress Ali Harper plays five superstars and their adoring fans when "nobodies" meet "somebodies" in her one-woman show.

And there's a little lesson in happiness too.

Songs for Nobodies starring Ali Harper is about five ordinary people who meet their idols from yesteryear. The nobodies meet Judy Garland, Patsy Cline, Edith Piaf, Billie Holiday and Maria Callas, and after some interaction come to the realisation that maybe their lives are pretty good.

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Harper believes the show has a strong message about recognising happiness or what we perceive happiness to be.

For example, character Bea Appleton is a ladies lavatory assistant in 1961 in Manhattan and her idol Judy Garland walks in after performing at Carnegie Hall.

"They have this beautiful conversation and Judy touches Bea emotionally," Harper says.

"The tragic lives of the stars are touched on in a subtle way, but Songs for Nobodies doesn't give a history lesson as much, a lot of people who will come to the show will know of their fate, but it is subtly touched upon. And these nobodies outlive the somebodies."

Harper says the show has been physically tiring for her, but emotionally tiring as well.

"I have researched these stars — and I was told we are not going to impersonate these women — but what has happened is the more you do it, the more you grasp their pain and hardship."

Harper still thinks of Patsy Cline every time she travels away from her own family (Cline died in an aeroplane crash in bad weather, choosing to fly because she wanted to return home to her young children). Harper feels the sadness for child stars such as Judy Garland who were given diet and sleeping pills by the studios who employed them.

"What does come through is these stars are famous for being amazing singers and actresses, not for what they wear or how many Twitter or Instagram followers they have.

"It's for pure talent and that's why people watched them. That is why the show is important — it makes us never forget them and we are reminded that we are inspired by meeting these somebodies. That was the time of good old-fashioned talent."

Harper uses her varied talents to play the wide-eyed nobodies as well as the stars who are vocally very different from each other. Harper went back for singing lessons to nail the vocal range of Maria Callas.

The show is written by Melbourne playwright Joanna Murray-Smith.

"In my 25-year career, there have been a handful of scripts that have come my way and have felt like a gift. Songs for Nobodies is one of those gifts," Harper says.

"I love the way the show poignantly explores the uncanny influence that chance encounters, both directly and indirectly, play in our lives."

The event includes songs such as Crazy, Come Rain or Come Shine and Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien.

Harper, from Christchurch, has performed the show more than 80 times. She is touring New Zealand and will be taking Songs for Nobodies to the United Solo Festival in New York.

Harper has starred in several musicals and plays throughout her career. Highlights include Mary Poppins, Blood Brothers, Mamma Mia, Legally Blond, My Fair Lady, The Sound of Music, Guys and Dolls, South Pacific, A Shortcut to Happiness, Side by Side by Sondheim, Jacques Brel is alive and well and living in Paris, Jerry's Girls, The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Tell Me on a Sunday.


The fine print
What: Songs for Nobodies
Where: Baycourt
When: Sunday, September 9, 7.30pm.