Fiona’s Brit-hit parade

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With just a month to learn dozens of classic British pop songs, Queenstown Fiona Stephen­son has been singing eight days a week. 

The Queenstown Primary teacher has joined the cast of Wakatipu-born musical London Calling as a late replacement. 

The musical recounts the global cultural domination of British music from the 60s to the early 80s – and the turbulent social history that drove it. 

The Underground Pro­ductions show, first staged in Arrowtown in August, now begins a whistlestop tour of the South Island tomorrow. 

Given just a few weeks to memorise lyrics and hit the right notes before rehearsals began, Stephenson has been belting out rock and punk anthems at every opportunity. 

“My parents used to play The Beatles and T-Rex,” she says. 

“The music is so well known that sometimes I think I don’t know the lyrics but I open my mouth and they just come out. 

“They’re classics but I still do everything to learn them fully. 

“I sing in the car – I even sing to my horse Casper. 

“He flicks his ears back and doesn’t seem to mind, although he ran off around the field the other day when I hit a high note.” 

Her main number will be Elton John’s Bennie and the Jets in the production originally created for Queenstown’s Winter Festival. 

The show was due to visit Wanaka but had to be cancelled due to snow. 

Stephen­son, 31, stepped in when an original cast member had to pull out due to work commitments. 

“Bennie and the Jets is going to be quite over the top and fun, a bit Lady GaGa, a bit Las Vegas,” she says. 

“I’m thrilled to be involved. The cast is awesome.” 

London Calling: From the Beatles to Punk – The British Invasion features 22 numbers from artists including The Clash, The Jam, Led Zeppelin, Queen and Pink Floyd. 

Writer-director Margaret O’Hanlon says: “I’ve taken a repertoire of songs that represent a particular social history of Britain – 1964-1984. 

“It’s fascinating how the genre changes the course of popular music around the world. 

“It is distinctly British – from the sounds created by Lennon and McCartney, The Rolling Stones and The Zombies to the glam rock era. 

“They’re a great music hall influence that doesn’t play a part in American music, artists like Bowie, Kate Bush and Queen, it’s very unabashed. 

“Then finally there’s punk, which grew out of the repressive social conditions.” 

The cast features 10 local performers. 

London Calling opens in Wanaka tomorrow before travelling to Invercargill and Gore next week. 

Next Thursday and Friday, it’s on in the Arrowtown Hall. Tickets are $35 and available from iSite Queenstown and Lakes District Museum.