Rehearsals are in full swing for this year’s combined Sacred Heart College and St. John’s College production set to hit Theatre Hawke’s Bay next week.
Thirty-five talented students will take to the stage for their rendition of award-winning musical Aotearoa.
Written by Jamie Lawrence, there is a fraction too much friction when a developer threatens the endangered Rowi (Okarito brown) Kiwi found in the forests of Westland on the South Island.
The musical is part-love-story, part-eco-awareness, wrapped around some of the great New Zealand rock songs of all time.
Stage Director and Choreographer Edina McFarland, from Sacred Heart College, and Musical Director and Co-Producer Christopher Wilson, of St. John’s College, relish the opportunity to guide and mentor students to their full potential.
“It’s always been a passion of mine. As a teacher, I do it for the students and it is lovely to see the young boys and girls have that experience,” Mrs McFarland says.
She says it is lovely to have a larger contingent of younger students getting involved this year as well. “We’re very open and encouraging of all year levels getting involved”.
And it is more than just those on stage. The cast will be supported by 25 students involved in the band, as well as backstage (hair, makeup, costumes, technical crew etc).
They believe the band is integral to their school shows and is student-driven. “They are all amazing and passionate musicians, and they really bring the script alive. I think they're indispensable.”
Seeing each student grow in confidence is reward enough for Mrs McFarland, who along with Mr Wilson, spend hundreds of hours perfecting the performance.
“By the final night, the energy level is super high, and you just know that the journey was worth it.”
For lead actors Noah Kaio (Dan) and Iriaka Peri (Maxine), performing on stage is something they never thought they would do, but now they could not imagine not doing.
Noah, who is in year 12, previously held a lead role in 2019’s Bugsy Malone. “It was really fun the first time and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do it that first time but since it was so fun, I wanted to do it again this time.”
As for Iriaka, in year 11, it is her first time taking to the stage. She has found comfort in learning from those more experienced than her and has loved bringing her character to life.
“I’ve found it very fun because my character is very much not me so it’s really fun to play someone who is different than I am,” Noah said.
In the lead up to next week’s string of public performances, the students have been putting in at least six hours of practice, all outside of school time.
“Generally, we don’t give ourselves much time, but we seem to get just as much if not more out of the experience than other schools,” Noah says.
However, the journey to the final curtain call is as much fun, as the performance itself.
“The practices leading up to it and the whole experience is really fun and that has a lot to do with interacting with people, and new people,” Iriaka says.
Their first performance will be in front of both college’s feeder schools on Monday. The significance of the performance is not lost on Noah, who, when in year 8 himself, first became interested in performing when he watched that year’s combined production.
“I encourage other people at school to do it because not as many people as there should be are doing it and I don’t think people realise how much fun it can be.”
They are both looking forward to seeing as many people in the audience as possible.
Aotearoa runs from April 12 -15 at Theatre Hawke's Bay, Hastings from 7-9pm.
Tickets are $16 and available now via https://www.trybooking.com/nz/events/landing?eid=4474& or directly from both schools' offices.