In exactly one month, we will be packing picnic blankets, preparing snacks and getting ready for Rotorua's biggest and most adored night out.

Plans are coming together for Lakeside 2019 - Waiata Mai #pastpresentfuture, and the show's co-artistic directors Rewa Ututaonga and Leon Wharekura are promising big things.

Rehearsals are about to start for the show that's been carefully mapped out months before by Ututaonga and Wharekura.

Leon Wharekura and Rewa Ututaonga are the artistic directors for Lakeside Waiata Mai #pastpresentfuture. Photo / Supplied
Leon Wharekura and Rewa Ututaonga are the artistic directors for Lakeside Waiata Mai #pastpresentfuture. Photo / Supplied

Put the pair together and there's truckloads of experience, knowledge and expertise that has selected every song and perfectly matched every artist.


Ututaonga, a seasoned performer in her own right, said the show will tell the story of Rotorua's entertainment history, paying homage to past and pre-loved musicians through to today.

Part of the show will look ahead to the city's rising stars and Ututaonga has spent the past year talent scouting to hand-pick who she wanted to slot in those roles.

Lakeside Waiata Mai co-artistic director Rewa Ututaonga. Photo / Supplied
Lakeside Waiata Mai co-artistic director Rewa Ututaonga. Photo / Supplied

"There are so many emerging artists it was hard to pick just two. I wanted 12 but there wasn't enough time on the show," she said.

In the end the pair settled on Atutahi Potaka-Dewes who starred in Rotorua's production of Dream Girls and rising pop artist Hinerongonui Kingi (aka Hi-Nes).

"We saw Dream Girls and I said straight away 'I want her in the show' and I have been watching Hinerongonui for a very long time and she needs a break."

Rotorua's Hinerongonui Kingi. Photo / File
Rotorua's Hinerongonui Kingi. Photo / File

This year is Ututaonga's big chance to prove she's got what it takes to be the artistic director, having knocked on the door for the job a few times before.

Lakeside has been going for 23 years, Ututaonga has performed in about 15 of those shows and she estimates she's unsuccessfully submitted proposals to be artistic director six or seven times.

Not one to take no for an answer, she went back again this year alongside Wharekura with the winning formula and was given the job.


Rotorua Lakeside Charitable Trust member Sue Gunn, who is in charge of the nuts and bolts behind the scenes, said Ututaonga and her team had been a dream to work with and everyone was excited about the show.

Last year's Lakeside concert. Photo / File
Last year's Lakeside concert. Photo / File

She said it would follow on from last year's Whenua #it'sabouthome concert which for the first time focused on local performers.

"We had this big realisation a few years ago that we have all this talent here in Rotorua and it was time we brought it home."

Gunn said there was something about Rotorua that made the city enriched with amazing performers.

"It is part of our Manaakitanga. We have always been entertaining people but somehow we can take it to another level."

Ututaonga won't give too much away about the show, except to say the crowd will be kept entertained, not only during the songs but between them as well, with the funny man of God Reverend Tom Poata taking the role of MC alongside home-town hero Howie Morrison Jnr.

Mark Williams. Photo / File
Mark Williams. Photo / File
Suzanne Lynch. Photo / File
Suzanne Lynch. Photo / File

Having the expertise of the likes of Mark Williams - now lead singer of Dragon - and Suzanne Lynch also ensured a great night.

She said under the choreography skills of Rotorua's Turanga Merito, there would be dancers alongside most singers, so three dance troupes were part of the line-up.

This year's show is running two weeks later than normal because of production issues getting staging and sound equipment with Te Matatini - the national kapa haka championships - being held in Wellington in February.

However, Ututaonga was confident, as well as hopeful, the weather would play ball on Saturday March 9.

She said they had done hours of homework putting the show into decades to tell the musical story of Rotorua.

"We have got a to celebrate. Please come and join us."

Leon Wharekura is the co-artistic director for Lakeside 2019. Photo / Supplied
Leon Wharekura is the co-artistic director for Lakeside 2019. Photo / Supplied

Wharekura, who is from Huntly but regularly performs in Rotorua with Ututaonga, said it was a thrill to get notice they had been successful in their bid to direct Lakeside.

"We knew that we could draw on all our knowledge to create a show that would celebrate and honour the wealth of talent that came through the decades of Rotorua's music landscape."

Wharekura, a recording artist who spent time touring the world performing, said the fact he and Ututaonga had performed at Lakeside previously, gave them the benefit of hindsight and ability to see through the eyes of the audience.

"The concept of past, present and future came first and once we had the theme, the songs were carefully selected. This took some time and we didn't want to rush it. Finally the songs told us who the performers would be, and lucky for Rewa and I, we were visualising the same performers, many of whom we count as our music whānau.

"I have no doubt that Rotorua is going to be blown away with this night of nostalgia and memorable hits. In fact, I think people are going to find it hard to stay in their seats - and I'm willing to bet on it."

The line-up

Leon Wharekura - artistic director

Rewa Ututaonga - artistic director

Turanga Merito - choreographer

Howie Morrison - MC/artist

Tom Poata - MC

Dixon Nacey - musical director

Andy Cochrane - keyboards

Ernie Semu - keyboards

Richard Anaru - lead guitar

Karika Turua - base guitar

Neville Grenfell - trumpet

Steve Sheriff - saxophone

Grant Sinclair -trombone

Mickey Ututaonga - drums

Mark Williams - artist

Jack Grace - artist

Suzanne Lynch - artist

Yandall Sisters: Adele Paris - artist

Cherie Mathieson - backing vocalist

Gail Tipene - backing vocalist

Sharon Small - backing vocalist

Daniel Nathan - artist

Krissie Knap - artist

Jamey Ferguson - artist

Elisha Hulton - artist

Atutahi Potaka-Dewes - emerging artist

Hinerongonui Kingi - emerging artist

Drury Lane - dance troupe

Dance Central - dance troupe

Lakes Performing Arts Company - dance troupe