June 16, 2022

The Wedding Singer

The essentials are the same but The Wedding Singer musical is different from it's source material. Slight plot changes culminate in a hilarious Vegas scene as Robbie "collects" impersonators - perhaps something better handled on stage than on screen where it might have ruined the heart of the movie. That's what's missing in this show; heart. There are bad wigs, big musical numbers and awful accents, but no heart. 

A fundamental flaw in the concept is that the two main characters, Robbie and Julia, aren't flashy enough to carry a musical. You'll find the side characters are pumped up and any of them are more than capable of having their own show. In fact I'd pay good money to watch Linda's (Ashlee Hammerin) musical, she could carry four. Also of note was Romy Vuksan as Holly, Julia's cousin, when she was wasn't overacting but had a solo and a Madonna inspired outfit she was unmissable. Give Linda and Holly free rein and the show would be 100% better...though it should be noted that both characters were overly sexualised. The rapping grandmother (Susan-Ann Walker) deserves a mention, but only for that one song.

Christian Charisiou is much hotter than Adam Sandler but where Sandler's Robbie is innocent and charming, Charisiou's Robbie comes across as arrogant, obnoxious and, as George notes, in need of an anti-psychotic. Elise McCann's Julia Sullivan was irritating rather than innocent, skipping the wide eyed ingénue they were aiming for. There's an innocence to the leads in the movie that comes across as stupidity in this production. I couldn't care about them or their romance, though part way through the second half I almost felt it when they had a duet about the love they were hiding from each other.

The cast sings original songs rather than 80's classics so there are scarce chances to sing along, a huge disappointment. It was so over produced that I almost walked out after the first song. The second act opens with the most annoying genre convention of a very long pointless song.

The audience was older than expected, heavily 60+ rather than 40+ and often unmasked as masking was not a requirement of the venue (another reason to skip this one).

This is all cheese and cringe but no charm. If you loved the movie, don't see the musical.

Tickets: $79+

Performances: 10-19 June (Wellington, show then moves to Auckland)

June 15, 2022

Body of Work

Body of Work offers a range of services such as naturopathy, chiropractic, yoga and massage. It's located in central Lower Hutt and although they do not offer parking the War Memorial Library is a short walk away - if you aren't up for the short walk I suggest you try elsewhere as they are also up a flight of stairs. The premises and atmosphere are nice but the walls are thin.

Booking is easy to do online and, based on this, it appears they open for massage on Monday-Thursday and Saturday; with slightly longer hours on Monday and Thursday and an earlier closing on Wednesday and Saturday. The website lists a therapist who no longer works there and not all the links work, you need to look around to find the bios. They offer 10 trips for 30 or 60 minute massages saving you $50-100. There are four well qualified therapists to choose from, I was randomly allocated to Trina. 

My history wasn't really taken, which isn't a bad thing as it means more time on the table. A short form was included with the appointment confirmation though the therapist didn't mention this I assume she had accessed and read it. In response to the questions I was asked I indicated where I would like massaged and the pressure I preferred. So far, so good.

Unfortunately what comes next will, however I word it, sound like a list of complaints. The table was very high and I am not tall, getting on and off was difficult. The massage that followed could only be described as frustrating. Not all of the area I requested was treated though other areas were. Though I did ask for more pressure that only lasted for a short time. Some parts of treatment were good but no one wants to be constantly barking orders when you're meant to be relaxing. My goals were not met, areas were not fully or sufficiently treated, I walked away feeling as though I hadn't had a massage.

As a therapist it's important to keep in mind the power dynamics; clients often don't feel as if they can speak up, so ask for feedback and listen. If they seem uncertain striking up a conversation can help to ease them into answering your questions honestly. Watch for body language, do they tense or twitch? then pull back on your pressure. Adapt your table (or use a stool), draping, bolstering and treatment to your client. 

June 8, 2022

Presenting…The Tiwhas!

It's pride month, not that NZ tends to do it like the Americans - we scatter events throughout the year and regions. It's a time for supporting queer business and queer creatives. Should you feel the need to engage in pride, this is the event to do it. 

The Tiwhas (rhymes with divas) are exactly what it says on the packet; Māori drag queens. But they're so much more. There's the traditional lip syncs but most of the night is actual singing from the ladies and their back up singers, with choreography and a little, ok a lot, of attitude thrown in. It's an evening of poi, pukana and pop songs - heavy on the latter.

I ask you, is this what you expect your drag queens to look like?

No? Then you'll understand why the audience was raw from screaming by the end of the very first song when they appeared dressed as they are above. The screaming intensified as the performance progressed. I cannot express how much fun this was and also, in small doses, moving.

There are classic girl group hits, modern classics and a bit of te reo too. It's a beautiful mix of cultures representing who so many of us are; modern, Māori and queer.

Performances: 7-11 June, 7:30pm

Tickets: $35

May 21, 2022

Cringeworthy - The 80s

Cringeworthy is part concert, part history lesson with a side of comedy thrown in. It started slow with a song I didn't recognise, perhaps because as a country we still want to believe "there is no depression in New Zealand" so this song has dropped off rotation. The performers were constantly moving, the choreography was simple but effective, it was exhausting to watch them bounce around the stage. I don't know how they had the endurance to survive one song let alone the whole night, nor the memory for the steps.

The first half focused on local music and events; the second was more international and somehow more energetic with bigger wigs and brighter costumes. The audience seemed more relaxed too and responded with cheers and singing along.

Three of the four performers weren't born in the 80's which, as I was, I found mildly insulting. Harmonies weren't always great and backup vocals could have benefited from mic volume being reduced. But only a couple of the songs didn't quite match the singers voice.

This is a hilarious nostalgic piece that anyone who lived through the 80's can enjoy.

Andrea Sanders is not only the creator, she's also the director and one of the cast; she has done a phenomenal job and is a phenomenal performer. I wish I'd seen the 70's version and look forward to a 90's show that was hinted at.

Performances: 21 May - 11 June (times vary)

Tickets: $54

May 13, 2022

Surprise! Goodbye!

Imagine this: you're an improviser, you meet another improviser, you fall in love, you decide to move together. How would you farewell your friends and City?

Ben Jardine and Liz Butler are throwing themselves a surprise party. Each night they are surprised by fellow improvisers who come armed with an improvisational style for them all to perform together on stage.

The outcome? Spectacular. 

Geared up with party hats and treat bags the audience rolicked their way through a 90's soap opera of a Wellington comic book dynasty, featuring am unknown twin, an illiterate heir and a pole dancing grandmother.

It's clear the performers are having an excellent time as they attempt to stop themselves crying with laughter from the sidelines. As with all improv they adore painting their compatriots into metaphorical corners as much as collaborating.

Stand out performance was Claire as the stripper grandmother and rival comic book store owner, she also seemed to be doing a bit of managing the show. Noticeable in a not so great way was the person on the lights, who missed cues from performers even when everyone on stage was signaling.

You never know what you're going to get but it's worth the risk.

March 28, 2022

Another Universe by Miss Leading

Miss Leading curates her universe and it's many histories in this thought provoking piece. We are constrained to a single place and time, unable to investigate all the possibilities of what and who we could have been; the universe is limitless but life is finite.

She examines the paths she might have taken, the people she might have been through the use of artefacts. Which path would you choose - travel, career, family? Different choices mean different relationships, perhaps even different sexual identities. In none of her options is it possible to be unaffected by her past, her whakapapa or external events, nor is her choice ever free of others opinions of the right way to do it.

Blending acting and spoken word poetry to beautifully express things like "romance resides in held held device" to describe a long distance relationship that is an apt descriptor for many aspects of our lives these days. Covid has granted us introspection we've never allowed time for, take this gift. 

Performances: Online till 3 April

Tickets: Pay what you can

March 24, 2022

Miss Brontë

We all know the story of the Brontë's; literary, secluded, perhaps insular. What is fact? What is fiction? What is the result of historians or literary stalwarts motivations? It's little known that Charlotte married (to a controlling man who wanted her friend Ellen to burn her intimate letters, many of which are quoted in this play) or that the family weren't always tied to home.

Charlotte Brontë is a woman clawing a life of her own out of her limited options, the rosy family life we were sold is a lie - she and her sisters hid their writing from the male members of their family. But is this the lie at the centre of the play? Alongside the indignities of being a woman in a world that sees you as lesser, Charlotte endures the pain of witnessing her family die, one by one, their coughs haunting her dreams - a fate we were lucky enough to narrowly avoid.

What's the big secret that Miss Bronte is hiding? It isn't catastrophic, but that may be from a modern perspective. More surprising was the revelation that their life was more than the parsonage on the moors, all the sisters (and brother) left home but inevitably found their way back there. There was even time spent in Europe!

This play shows us that humans don't change over the course of 200 years. Our desires are the same; so are our mistakes or missteps. Family, respect, impact, individuality, creativity, these things remain even if all we have as evidence is writing.

Tickets: $22 (Sold Out)

Performances: 7pm 22-26 March

March 12, 2022

Imagining Rachel

Rachel Carson and Elise Robertson were born 12 miles and 6 decades apart. Rachel was a trail blazing woman scientist, writer and activist who you've probably never heard of. She pointed out that pesticides were damaging and the more correct label was biocides. Elise is a modern storyteller, she performs on the stage and here, in front of the camera. Rachel and Elise's lives intertwine in this inventive performance where an office is transformed into a hospital, a cabin, a creek, and even under the sea via projections, props, split screens, and stop motion imagery.

In some ways the choices we make as women now may seem small in comparison to those that Rachel made. But we have those very choices because women who came before us made it possible. Yet still we struggle. My mother wasn't believed 30 odd years ago when her water broke and no doctor witnessed it. A friend recently was complaining that younger women are using birth control incorrectly; it was to give them a choice, not to buckle down to male pressure. I argued that, we had no role models to learn this from. We are still learning to understand our independence, our choices. Though she never married or gave birth Rachel mothered 3 children, 2 nieces and a great nephew, managing to fulfil the more traditional female role while maintaining her independence and drive in a society that viewed women narrowly. Female support in it's many forms was also highlighted, we need each other to succeed.

This film is historical as well as personal, an act of performance and activism.

Tickets: $9

Performances: online, anytime (till 19 March)

March 6, 2022

CHANSONS – French Song & Stories from Piaf, Brel & Me

 Another Covid blessing is Chansons, an award winning online one woman cabaret show. Stefanie Rummel takes you on a tour around Europe (not just France) with a recorded Zoom show interspersed with videos from live shows - there may also be puppets. She is from Germany, speaks in English, and sings in French, but has travelled and performed extensively. Seeing her in person must be an electric performance as she manages to shine through the screen. I sincerely hope that this new medium will help her grow her audience to get the recognition she deserves. Lovers of music and culture won't want to miss this show.

Tickets: $9

Performances: online, anytime (till March 19)

February 27, 2022

Disenchanted: A Cabaret of Twisted Fairy Tales

There's a plague going on and the only way to connect with others is through a magic mirror. Sound familiar? Except this plague is 300 (ish) years ago and the person is a French noblewoman trying to contact characters from fairy tales to tell their side of the story.

This award winning, one woman, show will turn your perception of fairy tales on their head. Our Disney soaked view is clean and sparkling compared to the dark and often disturbing originals. This piece gives often overlooked characters the stage (or the screen) to sing their own tales of the truth; abuse, sex, murder and consent issues are all covered. These are not your childhood fairy tales, but they are very entertaining.

There are morals to be found here "beware of heroes" and "don't be swayed by jewels." With excellent characterisation and voice these stories are told in a way that may be closer to their archetypical intention.

Performances: online, anytime (till 19 March)

Tickets: $9