Jack Grace grew up in a humble family in Ōwhata, on the outskirts of Rotorua.

But what's he's done with that childhood is anything but ordinary ... rallying together his whānau and putting them and their stories on stage for two nights over the weekend.

"I've sacrificed nothing - I would do it again. My role in this has only been to put a spotlight on a family growing up in this town," Grace said.

The production was called 8 Scott Ave, a tribute to the home he grew up in. Grace is the director and all of the actors are members of his family.


"I thought about the musical part of my family. Let's have a crack at piecing some little bits of history together, combine it with music that we all love," Grace said.

While the whānau don't have much acting experience, there is undeniably plenty of natural talent. Getting the show to the stage was no mean feat, with endless hours of rehearsals.

The show ran for two nights at the Blue Baths Theatre, and was a huge success. The final show on Saturday saw extra tickets put on sale, as well as the audience dancing and singing along with the cast.

"If we look at our local Māori culture, we start with our singing township. It's well known for its performance, kapa haka. In terms of Māori theatre we're only beginning to step onto that platform of creativeness."

And this isn't your average Phantom of the Opera type of performance either. Grace designed the show to have lots of audience interaction, from the placement of audience members within the set to the way they engaged with the songs.

"When I put this musical together, I really tried to stay outside of the theatre lane. You could say it breaks some theatre rules," Grace said. "It just enlarges and gives bigger capacity on what theatre could be. We really encourage people to sing with us, all the songs are very well known and real humdinger sing-alongs, it won't be hard to get our audiences involved in that."

While the production was specifically about his childhood, Grace says it has much broader relevance.

"My story is just one. We have many brilliant writers in Rotorua. We are all culturally identifying ourselves in our cultureness - our people, our towns."


"If we start to press into Māori stories being told, I think it will be very interesting because we've got some great stories to tell."

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