Conan’s no barbarian


Conan Wilcox says playing in iconic Kiwi band Salmonella Dub was a walk in the park compared to taking the male lead in Showbiz Queenstown’s Annie.

The popular musical based on orphan Annie — opening a 10-show season at the Queenstown Memorial Centre tonight — is Wilcox’s first theatrical experience as an adult.

The son of an actress, he appeared in two productions during his Christchurch high school years, before starting a 15-year career as a sax player, percussionist and singer with Salmonella Dub, touring Europe and Australia as well as New Zealand.

He shifted to Queenstown in 2003 after meeting his wife-to-be Sara Gutzewitz during a gig in the resort.

The 44-year-old says he’d been thinking of doing a musical for a few years when Annie came along.

“I thought of my [10-year-old] daughter Ivy and how she’s about Annie’s age and I thought, ‘bugger it, I’ll have a go’.

“I kind of went for quite a minor role and I ended up getting slammed with [billionaire] ‘Daddy’ Warbucks — I think he’s got more dialogue than Annie.

“He talks a lot, I tell you — I’ve had to memorise it.”

Along with dialogue, dancing’s also been challenging, he says: “I’ve got about nine left feet.” 

Not unnaturally, the singing’s come a lot easier: “I’ve done quite a bit of singing with Salmonella — a lot of back-up vocals and a couple of songs myself.”

Wilcox says his character Oliver Warbucks is “a kind of a surly old character but he has a heart of gold”.

He adds that’s he’s blown away by the quality of the cast: “They’re all really cool people, there’s not really a weak link among them.”

Meanwhile, also making his Showbiz Queenstown debut, at 69, is well-known Queenstowner Lyall McGregor, who’s also been a long-time musician.

McGregor got his first taste of acting two summers ago, when he took three roles in Remarkable Theatre’s Queenstown Gardens show.

When he got the part of wheelchair-bound US president Franklin D. Roosevelt, he says “I read the script and thought, ‘this is just built for me, I’m sitting on my bum’”.

Presidential roles seem to suit McGregor — he’s also president of the local Returned and Services’ Association branch, which also meets in the Queenstown Memorial Centre.

In fact he’s had a very long association with the venue, having first played on its stage 45 years ago with local band Cord 3.

McGregor says he’s in awe of the children performing in Annie.

“They remember everything, they know all their words whereas the older ones in the cast, they miss a line here or there.”

Tickets for Annie are on sale at Queenstown i-SITE Visitor Information Centre, the Events Centre and via

Annie runs at the Queenstown Memorial Centre till next Saturday