The show may be called Dreamgirls but three Queenstown schoolboys also have starring roles.
Sam Maxwell and Josh Mehrtens, both 17, together with 15-year-old John Manulea, are singled out for special mention by Kate Moetaua, Wakatipu High drama teacher and director of its annual musical.
Dreamgirls, a Broadway show from the early 1980s made into a film about three years ago, follows three female singers as they rise to the top and become famous – with all the trials and tributions along the way.
Sam Maxwell, already locally known as lead singer and bass player of rock band The Fletcherz, plays ‘Curtis’, a part with “a really good balance of acting and singing”, Moetaua says.
Curtis manages the three songstresses “and wants to make lots of money from them – he’s very suave and a bit manipulative”.
Moetaua says: “Curtis falls in love with Effie, the lead singer, and then he falls for one of the backing girls – so he kicks Effie out of the lead singer spot and she gets shunted to the back.”
The dominant music of Dreamgirls is the Motown sound of the 1960s and early 1970s – which is where Josh Mehrtens comes in, playing soul artist ‘Jimmy Thunder Early’.
“Jimmy is a real character,” Moetaua chuckles.
“He really loves himself but his popularity dies out towards the end and he can’t understand why no one loves him anymore.”
The youngest Wakatipu High male lead, John Manulea, plays what Moetaua calls “a gentle, kind character” called ‘C.C’, the group’s songwriter and lead singer’s brother.
“When [lead singer] Effie gets pushed out of the band, that’s really upsetting for him because they’re quite close,” Moetaua says.
The drama teacher/director has a special word for her youngest male star.
“John is a very talented singer who has a lot of potential,” she says. “He had a minor role last year [in Footloose] so this is a really big jump for him.”
Dreamgirls is no small-time production – there’s a cast of 50, a band of 15 musicians and a backstage crew of 30.
The show runs from June 11-14 at Queenstown Memorial Centre.