A new trust that will see the return of major musical theater productions to Wellington is launched today.
At an event at the Opera this evening, the Capital Theater Trust plans to tease its first major musical theater performance, which will be performed next year at the St James Theater. He will officially announce the show publicly in the near future.
The trust was created by President Sandy Brewer and three other directors – Sue Windsor, Carol Reed and Paul Gadd – to fill what Brewer has said is a major musical theater void in the capital.
“There has been a drought,” Brewer said, adding that the current hit musical series Jersey Boys at the Opera had broken the drought.
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Brewer said Wellington missed big productions like Wretched, who were drawn to other centers around Aotearoa. There was a pent-up demand for such productions, both among the audience and those involved in their creation.
The latest large-scale, locally produced shows have been Evita in 2015 and Sister act in 2016.
The trust had a desire to defend theater and music in Wellington, but was aware that it would also need a business sense to ensure its longevity.
“We have to make sure we’re not a one-shot wonder. [We want to be] part of the landscape for a considerable number of years in the future. … It is also very important that this is a Wellington initiative, led by the people of Wellington.
Brewer, who has been involved in musical theater production for over 30 years, said knowing the theatrical landscape meant confidence would be able to capitalize on the “perfect storm” that had seen it set in.
With the St James Theater – which is currently being bolstered and refurbished against earthquakes – likely coming back online within the next year or so, the Trust saw this as a particularly fitting time to stage its first production.
Brewer said there were world-class theater and performance education institutions in Wellington, including Te Auaha and Toi Whakaari, but after years of training, graduates had virtually no local opportunity to put implementing a musical theater experience in a real environment.
The trust would aim to put on big shows with big budgets in major venues in the capital, for full scale, “full experience” musical theater productions, Brewer said.
He would also work on developing a long-term strategy to support young theater practitioners in the region, including high school students.
As well as significant support from G&T Productions, which produced Jersey Boys, the trust was actively seeking sponsorship and other local grants to ensure its sustainability.
The cost of hosting shows in Wellington – particularly the price of venues – was “almost excessive,” Brewer said, so support would be needed for the trust to survive.
While there were rumors the trust would take over the disused Hannah Playhouse at the end of Courtenay Place, Brewer said no deal was in place. However, she said being empty was “kind of a crime.”
“We’re here for everyone – for the audience, for the artists, for the musicians, for the tech,” Brewer said. “These shows bypassed Wellington… It’s crazy that people haven’t had an opportunity here. People deserve to be able to see them. You shouldn’t have to travel overseas or to Auckland to see great shows.
After its debut, the trust would aim to show at least one major production per year, Brewer said.
“Ambitious? Yes. But anything is doable. People want to be a part of these great shows that have endless possibilities… We [just need] the support of the public and the artistic community to make this a reality.