Glittering cardboard dollar sign headpieces and the ingenious use of four concealed rugby boys powering a rotating casino saw Bethlehem College win top honours in a national stage competition last night.
Year 13 student Mikyla Thompson directed a team of more than 100 schoolmates to a win the local Subway Stage Challenge at Baycourt.
"It feels amazing," said Mikyla. "So much hard work and it's finally paid off. I didn't think I could feel this happy."
Their winning act explored the theme of money in the world and the contrast between rich and poor - an appropriate choice for the week of the G8 meetings.
More than 400 students from Bethlehem College, Tauranga Girls' College, Katikati College, Aquinas College, Thames High School and Opotiki College competed in the event.
Each school staged an eight minute-long dance and drama performance set to music.
The acts were all based on themes developed by the students which ranged from a modern day Beauty and the Beast to Te Matenga o Volkner (The Death of Volkner) - a story based on the history of Opotiki - ageing toys, violence in gangs and society pressures on teenagers.
Local judges Toni Henderson, Ben Hambling and Merv Beets said Bethlehem College presented a "thought provoking performance" with "strong dramatisation" and an "entertaining finale".
Tauranga Girls College was awarded second place and Katikati College was third.
Last year's winners, Mount Maunganui College, opted to travel north this year to pit themselves against 11 Auckland schools instead.
The Stage Challenge competition is divided into regions but teams can enter any show in the country.
Mount College's top-class performance last month was inspired by human burial sites and resulted in another triumph.
The college's winning dance and music extravaganza involved more than 100 students who depicted the discovery of the terracotta warriors of China.
The judges said their production was like "watching a film".
Performing arts coordinator John Pringle noted the judges comments: "Mount Maunganui College took on a big, brave and epic story and did it so well. There were so many strong characters.
"The story was magical, evolving on so many levels. The costuming and the set was fantastic encapsulating the enormous theme."
All performances were filmed for a six-week Stage Challenge television series that will screen on TV2 in September.