Raising roof and dough

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Queenstown entertainer Simon Green promised to produce a show to raise $10,000 for the $2.5 million Memorial Hall upgrade. 

Green – on the original working party – honours that pledge this Saturday with his “Reach out for the Memorial Hall” concert. 

Cabaret seating has sold out but mezzanine seats are available on the door for $59. 

“It’s about giving back to the hall,” he says. 

“As somebody who has spent – ask my wife – too much of my life in there over the last 15 years, I’m getting to the end of how much performing I’m going to do in there, so I want to make sure it’s upgraded for the next generation.” 

Green, best known as director of Queenstown’s Winter Festival, says he’s met some of his dearest friends during shows in the hall – including his wife. 

One show also proved a springboard for a stint in professional theatre. 

“Everything I’m doing for Saturday is for free, and I’m contributing my own money on other levels. 

“But the biggest investment is time – I’m one of the busiest people I know, but you can always find time for a big cause.” 

Saturday’s concert consists of a big band show, an award-winning comedy act and a Motown-inspired set. 

Performers include Green and fellow soloists Doug Kamo of Dunedin, Chris Powley of Auckland and Russell Harrison of Rotorua, Auckland comedians Chris and Chet, plus a nine-piece “cream of the crop” band from Dunedin under musical director Stuart Walker. 

Green says the performers are charging about a quarter of their normal corporate rates. 

The band includes trombonist Ted Pheloung. 

Green: “I’m crediting him on the night as the man who discovered me, who gave me my first gig as a singer, and he’s taken credit for everything I’ve done ever since.” 

Green says the hall upgrade is about a lot of little things like tiered seating, heating and ventilation, that add up to a lot.
“Regardless of the [proposed] conference centre, regardless if we get a grand performing arts centre, the hall is still going to be a very important part of the community and the performing arts.” 

That view’s echoed by local businessman Sir Eion Edgar in a hard-hitting column in today’s Mountain Scene

Edgar – who chairs the Central Lakes Trust which has given $1m to the upgrade – says the community can’t currently afford a top-quality performance venue. 

But the upgrade, he argues, is a realistic, sustainable, doable project that resolves nearly all of the problems with the hall. 

The upgrade takes place between August and the end of the year.