BY HAZEL REID
The hotly anticipated Shortland St The Musical (SSTM) is bringing the ol’ favourites to the stage this November in Auckland with a nationwide tour to follow. We caught up with Director Simon Bennett, Chris Parker (who plays Nick Harrison) and Bronwyn Turei (playing Nurse Jaki Manu) to talk about turning the long-running kiwi TV series into a musical theatre show.
You’re currently working on Shortland St: The Musical, which is essentially turning a TV show’s story into theatre… what has that experience been like?
Simon: Well, it’s been a long experience! We’ve been working together for 3 years, and Guy Parker started on the project 3 years before he met me. Finding the right 5 classic stories to tell from Shortland Street the TV show, and weaving them together to give a structure that works as a piece of Musical Theatre has been challenging.
Bronwyn: For me, it’s been a constant giggle with so much fond nostalgia. It’s amazing how we all grew up with these characters in our lives and I’ve surprised even myself at how much I remember.
Guy: We are working with Simon Bennet who has worked on Shortland Street for so long he has it running through his veins, so the job of giving the musical the distinct Shortland Street flavour is actually been very fun and easy.
What can Shortland St fans expect from the musical theatre show?
Simon: Music! Singing! Dancing! If they’re fans from the early years of the show, they will see characters who they know and love, like Lionel & Kirsty, Marj, Chris and Hone – we wanted it to be a nostalgic experience.
Bronwyn: Hilarity, show stopping dance numbers, delicious songs, mind blowing costumes, mischief, mayhem, and other stuff you’ll just have to come along to see for yourself.
Guy: I think the most important thing to understand is that, it’s not a musical episode of Shortland Street. It’s a hilarious celebration of Shortland Street over the years. So it’s wildly funny. It has brilliant songs and the dancing is destroying my body because it’s so amazing. It’s going to be the spectacle of the year.
What’s your favourite part of doing musical theatre?
Simon: Working with music and dance and acting on a grand scale. With musical theatre you get to work in a bigger and more complex way; it’s got a big cast, a live band. Like Shakespeare, musical theatre is an epic thing to work on.
Bronwyn: The people. It’s a pretty magic group of humans to work with. I learn so much every time I get the chance to surround myself with such extraordinary talent.
Guy: I really don’t do musical theatre a lot, but I really enjoy the camaraderie amongst the cast. There is this shared anxiety of “oh my god, we have a lot of work to do” and everyone just knuckles down to make it happen. I love that. It’s like working on a very fun yet tricky project with all your friends.
What does an average day entail for you?
Simon: Currently, we start at the very civilised hour 10am with rehearsals for SSTM. So I get up, have breakfast, have a look at the work we’ll be covering that day, then head into rehearsal. I’m in rehearsals till 5pm, then get home, answer publicity questions and interviews like this, get my head around the following day’s work, have meetings and work on the upcoming nationwide tour of SSTM that we’ll be heading off on after the Auckland season.
Bronwyn: At the moment I start my morning sitting in traffic, get to work, stretch, warm up vocally, hug everyone good morning (one of my favourite parts), then we launch into learning the amazing songs and dances. I get goosebumps listening to these people sing, I just adore it, and after the choreography sessions I am feeling muscles I forgot I had. By the end of the day I look like a drowned rat, but a super happy one!
Guy: Wake up, check twitter to see if the world is still in one piece. Exercise. Eat and have 2 coffees! Then it’s off to work. Which is always different, it could be rehearsals, writing at THREE, doing a podcast or writing my own stuff or filming. I very rarely have days off, but when I do, I like to have breakfast and walk around Auckland with my hot boyfriend.
Best piece of life advice that you’ve been given?
Bronwyn: Trust your gut – in all things. Your instincts are the truest indication of everything.
Guy: I think it’s important to remember every time you do a show, that the audience, have paid a ticket price, car parking, babysitting, drinks. They have done a lot to come out and have a good night, the least you can do is give them the night of their life. So that a little thing a say to myself every time I go out stage now “Don’t waste this time, milk every moment for what it’s worth.”
If you were to describe the show in 10 words or less to someone who was wanting to come along, what would you say?
Simon: High energy, fun, irreverent musical comedy with broad appeal.
Bronwyn: You. will. pee. your. pants. laughing. Bring. extra. underwear.
Guy: Big! Loud! Funny! Kiwi! Joyful! Bright! Vibrant! Self Aware! Nostalgic! Guatemala!
The Shortland St Musical begins at the ASB Waterfront Theatre on November 14th for a limited season, it will then tour nationwide in early 2019. Check the details out here!
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