Homegrown talent: The Shows Must Go On is taking advantage of Covid-19 returning some of NZ's brightest talent by putting them on a national tour


Its title couldn’t be more apt.

The Touring Company’s production of The Shows Must Go On, which hits the Queenstown Memorial Centre stage this coming Monday, was born of a determination to revive musical theatre after March’s lockdown brought it to a screaming halt.

Christchurch freelance director Stephen Robertson, a musical theatre veteran whose resume includes the staging of Grease and Oliver! for Showbiz Queenstown, says it’s the brainchild of Christchurch video and lighting designer Dave Spark and Auckland sound engineer Glen Ruske.

‘‘Nobody had worked during lockdown, and we were thinking ‘where’s our next job coming from?’’’ Robertson says.

‘‘These two guys put their heads together and knew some of the talent that’s home in New Zealand, and they thought there’s an opportunity to bring it together and put a show on.

‘‘They phoned me, we got talking, and it’s all happened very fast.’’

The Shows Must Go On opened in Christchurch on September 24, after only 10 days of rehearsals, but its performers were working on its music and lyrics long before that.

Robertson says a peculiar consequence of the pandemic is the wave of Kiwi talent it’s brought back home.

This show’s talent — Queenstowner Emily Burns, Hayden Tee, Akina Edmonds, Paul Ross, Verity Burgess and Jack Fraser — are all professionals with careers overseas.

Queenstowner Emily Burns

‘‘NZ doesn’t know about these people because we don’t celebrate them, but they’re all Kiwi talents, and they’re all having fantastic musical theatre careers in New York, London and Australia.

‘‘There’s nothing lucky about Covid, but if there’s a plus from it, it’s brought them home to their families and home soil.

‘‘It’s an incredible opportunity to put the six of them in one room and have them perform.

‘‘So we’re not only celebrating the songs and the shows the songs come from, but celebrating this amazing homegrown talent.’’

When the shackles on international travel are eventually thrown off, they’ll resume their international careers and Kiwis won’t get to see them again, he says.

The show has a song list of favourites from many of the world’s most popular musicals from stage and screen, including The Phantom of the Opera, Les Misérables, Hairspray, Dreamgirls, The Greatest Showman, We Will Rock You and Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.

Director Stephen Robertson

Robertson says choosing the material was his biggest challenge, but he was determined to have music the audience will be familiar with.

The performers and producers contributed their ideas before he made the final selection to get a balance of song types that best showcased the performers’ talents.

The producers are determined the show will go on regardless of restrictions caused by sudden changes of Covid alert levels, but Level 1 ‘‘makes it easier for everybody’’, he says.

‘‘Dave and Glen are quite determined this is going to happen, so they’ll find a way even if it’s a smaller audience.

‘‘There’s just too much work gone into it.’’

Although smaller audiences caused by Covid restrictions would hit the show’s revenue, making money isn’t a priority in such unique circumstances, he says.

‘‘It’s just being able to bring to life the work we’ve all done.’’

The Shows Must Go On, Queenstown Memorial Centre, October 5, 7:30pm-9:30pm, tickets from Eventfinda