Just like stage character Rolf, Queenstown teen Stelios Yiakmis was 17 going on 18 in 1982’s The Sound of Music.
Thirty years later, the former Queenstowner has a long list of acting credits to his name – including starring roles on Shortland Street, hit Aussie series McLeod’s Daughters and most recently Underbelly NZ.
Yiakmis returns to the resort next week to join a special 30-year reunion of Showbiz Queenstown’s popular production.
In the 1982 version, Yiakmis, 46, played a messenger boy turned Nazi Party member alongside his on-stage love interest Liesl, played by Diana Hinterleitner.
“I was singing Rolf’s song, I am 17, going on 18, I’ll take care of you, to Liesl on my 17th birthday,” Yiakmis recalls.
Born “in the backpackers on Stanley Street” – Queenstown’s old maternity home – Yiakmis grew up in the historic Stone House on Hallenstein St with his father, the then-well-known hospitality personality Taki, his mother and two sisters.
He developed his taste for acting at an early age and remembers taking part in primary school productions.
“It was just something that I’d always done and that I’d always loved to do,” Yiakmis says.
“I was in The Pohutukawa Tree at Wakatipu High, lots of things like that. I have loads of memories.”
He became a well-known face on TV screens as Dr Johnny Marinovich on Shortland Street in the mid-1990s, before moving to Australia where he lived for 10 years.
In between roles on shows like McLeod’s Daughters and Aussie film Jindabyne, Yiakmis became a builder.
He returned to Auckland just over a year ago and almost immediately picked up the role of drug-dealing gangster Big Ari the Greek in Underbelly NZ: The Land of the Long Green Cloud.
“I just channelled my dad, to be honest, although I haven’t told him that,” Yiakmis laughs, referring to his Greek heritage – his father wasn’t a drug dealer.
“I piled heaps of interesting stuff into the character. All the Greek swearing, I threw it all in, ad libbing Greek abuse.”
Nowadays he’s still in construction, whilst also pursuing acting roles in Auckland.
Yiakmis is looking forward to returning to Queenstown to catch up with old faces – he’ll even be staying at the Stone House, where he grew up.
“I’ve always wanted to work in Queenstown. There’s stuff going on there now, I had a look at [Jane Campion’s] Top of the Lake but my agent said, ‘There’s nothing for a 10-foot Greek’.
“So the whole notion of coming back home after a 30-year timeframe of a madcap career of highs and lows, in different countries, is a really lovely feeling.”
This year’s The Sound of Music opens next Thursday.
The reunion, to be held next Saturday, will also be attended by the original Maria, played by Erin Farrant, the original Captain von Trapp (Simon Mullins) and drummer Peter Doyle, who returns to the house band this year.