Arrowtowner Nicole McLean’s highly-regarded for her acting and singing roles in Queenstown theatre shows.

But when Showbiz Queenstown’s newest production, Spamalot, opens tonight, she’ll be in the audience nervously watching her students.

McLean, 53, is in charge of all the choreography in the show and says it’s been a thrill to be coaching the cast.

Dance is in her blood.

She started classical ballet at age 6 and continued till she was 21 in her home town of Ashburton.

‘‘I was quite serious about it.’’

After moving to Arrowtown, McLean was enticed to join adult jazz ballet classes run by Anna Stuart, which reignited her interest in performing.

She also took singing lessons with local chanteuse Margaret O’Hanlon who encouraged her to audition for the role of Velma
Kelly in another Showbiz Queenstown production, Chicago.

Audiences loved her in that show and since then she hasn’t looked back, starring in a variety of musicals.

‘‘I always say don’t pigeon-hole yourself.

‘‘I always saw myself as a dancer, not a performer — you’re never too late to start something new.’’

McLean admits Spamalot has been a challenge.

‘‘It has lots of different dance styles in it.

‘‘It’s been amazing teaching and doing choreography for it; it’s a thrill to see the cast doing your moves.’’

Magic makers: Spamalot choreographer Nicole McLean, left, and vocal director Natasha Wilson

For the role, she researched every thing from Scandanavian dancing to Vegas-style showgirl routines, ballet, tap and disco.

‘‘Spamalot has so many dance genres, it draws on lots of different references.

‘‘[The cast] have all been so enthusiastic and risen to the challenge — I’m so proud.

‘‘Before I started this, I would’ve said nothing can beat being on stage, but, hand on heart, this role gives just as much joy.

‘‘It’s a real buzz to see the actors nail the dance sequences.’’

Of course, the singing is just as important as the dance in Spamalot and that’s where Natasha Wilson steps in as vocal director.

She only arrived in Queenstown from Surrey, in the UK, six years ago, but has become heavily involved in choirs and performance.

Like McLean, she started performing at a young age, and then went on to do a drama degree.

Now a primary teacher, Wilson worked variously with children’s and teachers’ choirs and studied vocal science with the Estill model, looking into the anatomy of the voice.

She says Spamalot is her biggest undertaking yet.

‘‘The cast has been amazing.

‘‘They’ve worked so hard, recording parts and practising after rehearsals.

‘‘The thing that makes me tick is harmony, that feeling it gives you, it gives you chills.

‘‘That’s my passion, creating those sounds.’’

As to what’s in store for the audience, she reckons even non-Monty Python fans will love the show.

‘‘I have to admit, I wasn’t brought up on Monty Python but there’s so much in this production that will appeal to a broad range of people.’’

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A taste of ‘Spamalot’

PICTURE: TAMSIN BROWNE

Ghost horses, cheerleaders, Vegas showgirls, the Lady of the Lake — but not as you know her — and migrating coconuts.

It’s just a taste of Spamalot, which opens tonight at the Queenstown Memorial Centre, a show in which nothing really makes sense, yet somehow it does.


The talent on stage is astounding, led by Justin Abbiss (King Arthur, above right), Caleb Dawson-Swale (Patsy, above left), Andy Bell (Sir Robin), Pol Nicholson (Sir Lancealot), Jake Hansen (Sir Galahad), Tim McCormick (Sir Bedevere) and Jack Speedy (Prince Herbert/Not Dead Fred).

Chanteuse Emma Pullar, who’s Spamalot’s Lady of the Lake, will give you tingles, even when she’s just singing a song about a song,
while you’ll see more of Showbiz chairman Marty Newell than you ever needed to.

Chuck in a couple of flesh wounds, a trojan rabbit and the almighty quest for the holy grail and you have a recipe for a side-splitting show, one which you’ll struggle to get through without laughing so hard you cry — and one which reminds us to always look on the bright side of life.

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Showbiz Queenstown’s Spamalot, tonight till May 25, Queenstown Memorial Centre. Tickets via eventfinda

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