This year's Napier Operatic Society production of Grease was supposed to hit The Tabard Theatre stage in Napier, but four days before opening, the production came to a halt as the country went into lockdown.

The cast had been rehearsing since September 2019, Grease production manager and Napier Operatic Society secretary Sonya Aifai said.

"The costumes were done, the stage set and the cast ready to rock'n'roll for a sold-out season that had been extended by public demand. It was a hard decision to postpone or even worse cancel Grease."

it came on the heels of the cancellation of the MTNZ conference hosted by Napier Operatic.


Sonya said an executive meeting with the directing team, stage manager and herself as production manager was held to discuss the options while looking at finances, theatre availability, commitment from the directors to carry on and "a great deal of crystal ball gazing as to what may happen in the future".

"The decision became clear when an uplifting letter of support and commitment was presented to the executive by the cast themselves. It was confirming and uplifting at a time where we were uncertain."

With support form the rights holders, they were able to postpone the show until the end of August, while holding onto to hope that the health of New Zealand was going to get better, Sonya said.

"Postponement also meant a change in direction for myself in the dual role of Grease production manager and the society secretary. I was hurled into a new direction of publicity informing and encouraging our patrons, members and show company that we were full steam ahead with the show and that we will have a positive experience for everyone when our heads lifted out of lockdown and into normal life."

Feedback on social media, from members of the public and heads of department showed support for the decision.

"At the same time we were working with iTicket, who were not only dealing with their own Covid-19 crisis, to re-book a sold-out season. This was largely done by iTicket in an incredibly professional manner."

The rebooking process has allowed the Grease season to be extended by one more night, which is selling well.

"In the meantime, we are holding on to the hope that we can continue to financially survive until the new season hits."


Grease is not the only show to be affected. Its changed dates meant they then had to reschedule other upcoming productions, moving Seussical Jr from July to October and Sister Act from November 2020 to March 2021.

"The show we had pencilled in for March 2021, The Producers, has now been put on the backburner."

Sonya says Covid-19 has affected everyone in theatre across Australia and New Zealand, but believes theatre can also be a great vehicle for bringing people together once the doors open again.

"In a strange way this has bought people together. The Grease cast communicate frequently on our group page, sharing what is going on in their lives, posting jokes, cartoons and music. And of course practising their lines as well. Napier Operatic is in good heart."

■ Rehearsals resumed recently and bookings for Grease are available from or at the Tabard Costume Hire.