Reviewed by Jules Hamilton
As I write this there is a weariness that pervades most of us as our beautiful country once more goes into lockdown; but only a few nights ago I was surrounded by vitality, optimism and the sheer love and joy of musical theatre, when I had the privilege of seeing the last dress rehearsal for Waipawa M&D latest show ‘West End To Waipawa’.
It takes the form a fabulous musical review and gives us musical theatre through the ages – for all ages – from the 1920’s through to the present day.
As I took my seat in the concert chamber of that grand old lady that is the Waipawa Municipal Theatre, I had no idea what to expect; the press for this latest show was enticing but mysterious. The billboards feature snapshots of past M&D shows from the smash hits of ‘Phantom of the Opera’ and “Mama Mia!’ to the unforgettable drama of ‘Next to Normal’.
However it brought to mind how embedded this musical and dramatic club is in our little community. Each year as they stage their productions it seems that everyone knows of someone who is either in the cast, or the crew, the orchestra, the wardrobe designers, the builders, the ticket sellers, the bar staff…the theatrical boughs of this tree reach deep into our community. So as the lights dimmed and I took my seat it felt akin to a family reunion and even though I didn’t know who was about to walk on that stage, I already felt at home.
Under the expert musical direction of Sarah Robinson and Jon Fletcher comes a show like nothing you have seen before. The intimate surrounds of the concert chamber were the perfect setting for a musical review like this; the orchestra shared the stage with the performers and the performers shared the concert chamber with…the audience.
It was symbiotic. There was music all around me and it was wonderful. Clever light tricks and staging moved the drama seamlessly so one never knew what was coming next. And when it did, you felt like you were a part of it. The song selection is fabulous, and the orchestral accompaniment anchors each one with power and life.
I can’t give away the shows songs list, but I can tell you that the harmonies on stage from My Fair Lady, Les Miserables, Wicked and Rent were incomparable. There were too many vocal highlights to name them all but suffice to say that you can not spend a better evening than one that gives you Alex Walker with a heartfelt ballad from Grease and Tony Ironside’s resonate and warm rendition from the musical Showboat that will have you in tears
In the words of one of the final songs from this great musical revue (from the musical ‘Dear Evan Hansen’) “you are not alone, if you only look around you, you will be found.” Words it seems that Waipawa M&D whanau and all that come to find a second home there, live by.
Once this lockdown ends and we can again venture outside don’t miss the chance to to spend a couple of intimate hours with ‘West End To Waipawa’ and you will leave invigorated, singing in the car all the way home and remembering what’s great about life and the power that music and theatre have to transform us all.