Garnet Station Café, 85 Garnet Rd, Westmere, Auckland

24/11/2016 - 27/11/2016

The Riverbank Centre, 71 Reyburn House Lane, Whangarei

03/12/2016 - 03/12/2016

Howick Little Theatre, Auckland

10/12/2016 - 11/12/2016

Production Details

“An unbeatable gem of a comic character” – Dominion Post

“The sparkling piano accompaniment of Tim Bridgewater” – NZ Herald

Featuring: The Return of a Legend, (And a Farewell to her Adoring Public) A New Accompanist, Dazzling Arias, Some Really High Notes, Beautiful Piano Music, A Newly Commissioned Opera for the 2019 International Rugby Contest in Japan, a Courageous Attempt at a Speed Record and the Distinct Possibility of Chaos!

With  music by Gounod, Mozart, Verdi, Humperdinck, Elgar, Puccini, Schubert and Miss Fortitude herself!

Musical arrangements by Michael Vinten

“A guaranteed pleasure” – Theatreview

Audience Feedback so far!
A clever and witty show – Jill, Waipu
Fabulous fun and lovely music – Victoria, Waipu
I laughed till my cheeks hurt – Lisa, Waipu
A tremendous show. Beautifully honed performances – John, Waipu

Garnet Station Little Theatre, 85 Garnet Rd, Westmere, Auckland 
Thur 24 Nov – Sat 26 Nov 8pm Sun 27 Nov 4pm 
$25, $20 (Conc) Book: or 360 3397  
You can have a meal at this cafe before the show!

The Riverbank Centre, Whangarei
Sat 3 Dec 7.30pm
Tickets: $25, $20 (Seniors) Book:  

Howick Little Theatre, Howick
Sat 10 Dec 7.30pm & Sunday 11 Dec 2pm
$26 Book:
(09) 534 1406 (Mon – Fri 9.30am – 1.30pm)


Helen Moulder has had her delightful musical clown, Cynthia Fortitude, for nearly 30 years, performing originally with the Wellington women’s comedy troupe Hens’ Teeth, then in the show The Legend Returns with Rose Beauchamp and in two other shows A Vote for Cynthia and Cynthia Fortitude’s Farewell – her first with the Wellington Chamber Orchestra. Cynthia Fortitude’ Farewell – her second,  with Tim Bridgewater, is a reworking of the first farewell, without the orchestra!

Helen Moulder – writer, performer

An award winning actor based in Nelson, Helen has been working in the theatre for 40 years in the UK, New Zealand and Australia. Major roles have been as Virginia Voolf in Vita and Virginia, Vivian Bearing in Wit, the eccentric opera singer Cynthia Fortitude, in her own show The Legend Returns, Miss Shepherd in Lady in the Van, Madame Giry in Ken Hill’s Phantom of the Opera (3 tours of Japan), Sylvia in Meeting Karpovsky (devised with Sue Rider and Sir Jon Trimmer), Sister Aloysius in Doubt and Lady Churchill in Meet the Churchills. Helen’s solo shows, Playing Miss Havisham and Gloria’s Handbag play in living rooms, art galleries, libraries, community halls and small theatres, touring NZ and Australia. Helen’s film and television credits include Pictures, Close to Home, Country GP, Erebus – the Aftermath, Abberation, The Wall, The Dark Knight, Sweet As, Rest for the Wicked and Food for Thought.

Timothy Bridgewater – writer, performer

Tim’s first ever professional show was Circa Theatre’s 1978 production of A Toast to Melba, with Helen Moulder.  Since then he has been MD for many musicals including The Biograph Girl, Full Marx, Cabaret, Chicago, Little Shop of Horrors, Jerry’s Girls,West Side Story, Les Miserables and a national tour of Cats. He has written and arranged music throughout his career, including the score for John Reid’s 1982 film Carry Me Back. Tim has also acted professionally, a highlight being  the Circa production of  Masterclass, in which he played the composer Shostakovich alongside Ray Henwood’s portrayal of Stalin. Since returning to NZ three years ago after a 14 year stint in Singapore as Dean of Performing Arts at an international school, Tim has been MD for three national tours; Oklahoma, South Pacific and HMS Pinafore. He was also MD for Wellington Music Theatre’s production of Mamma Mia and played keyboards for their production of Phantom of the Opera. Most recently he MD’d the 2016 tour of Menopause the Musical and still gets night sweats thinking about it.He enjoys teaching piano when not involved  in theatre work. 

Theatre , Musical ,

Ms Moulder should be a household name

Review by David Stevens 04th Dec 2016

In every way, this show defies criticism. It is designed as a crowd pleaser for a loyal audience and it delivers on every level. The small but ardent audience in the Hatea Room at the Riverbank Centre loved it and gave it rapturous applause. “Bravo!” they cried.

And even there I’m being cynical when I say “small” because the audience filled just about all the available seats.

So I’m not sure where this leaves me, because this show isn’t designed for people like me. Helen Moulder knows both her character and her target audience like the back of her hand and gives ’em what they want – she makes sure they get their money’s worth. I felt quite churlish as I walk out because I have a few reservations about it yet all around me are singing her praises.

Who is “her”? In this case, Ms Moulder and Ms Fortitude seem indivisible, and if having a go is an essential of the Kiwi character, Ms. Moulder/Cynthia have a considerable go. What I do understand, with crystal clarity, is that the character (and thus the show) encapsulates an important and often ignored aspect of Kiwi culture.

It stems from the colonial days when all that was available, especially to Kiwi women (I call them ‘Kiwi-esses’), was what came in on the boats and when that was sold they had to either wait for the next boat – or make their own. So Kiwi-esses became adept at adapting recipes based on things they’d heard, even these days (Tiramisu in Tutukaka is delicious but bears only a passing resemblance to its Italian origins). It applied to arts and crafts, to needlework and embroidery, to books and to entertainment. Wanting more than just keeping house, Kiwi-esses became the stalwarts of libraries and theatre – most amateur theatrics rested on the shoulders of women. 

Then again, I could claim (and have) that the British Empire was only possible because of its women – such as my mother. The men may have conquered the territory but it was the women who kept house, making life bearable in exotic and alien places. “Pay, pack and follow,” the men said as they set off for other sometimes hostile territories, and the women paid and packed and followed, unsung heroines, coping with every vicissitude the new territory could bring. My mother paid, packed and followed my father, who had gone ahead, travelling with two young daughters and an infant son through Egypt when Rommel was a hundred miles away.

So Ms Moulder comes from a long line of unsung but determined, stubborn and achieving women, and here I have nothing but praise for her. Rather than bemoaning the lack of opportunities for women of her talent and calibre, she has created her own opportunities and I can only stand on the sidelines and cheer.

Knowing nothing about Cynthia Fortitude, I assume the antecedents of the character are Anna Russell and ‘Hinge and Bracket’, but Cynthia is enough of an original to withstand comparisons. I also assume from the title that this is not her first farewell tour, and I find a certain delicious irony in that. Great stars are reluctant to let go – how many ‘farewell appearances’ did Nellie Melba give? So Cynthia isn’t ‘letting go’. She sings, and sings with gusto, but it is all cleverly designed for comic effect, because perhaps Ms. Moulder’s voice is not what it once was, but this adds to the fun and no one can deny the energy and enthusiasm she brings, the charm and the sheer talent, sweeping the audience along and into her dotty world.

That Cynthia is a known and loved character is suggested to me by the enthusiasm of the audience, a participating audience who knows exactly what is expected of them and give it their all – with little urging they sing their hearts out.

Being churlish, I could wish that Ms. Moulder had better writers. A lot of the jokes are pretty corny, but that very corniness is what the audience loves, so maybe I’m just being picky. I could wish there was a slightly stronger plot, but the plot that there is sustains what she wants to do, so again, why quibble? Nominally, it is about the new opera she has written for rugby and the All Blacks – with a sub plot of the fastest Mozart competition along the way – and it is enough.

If I wanted to be really rough, I could say that Tim Bridgewater, as her accompanist, may not be the best actor in town, but he is much better than adequate, he plays the piano beautifully and the great relationship between himself and the tatty diva is palpable. And then again, perhaps I’m being condescending, because my ideal of theatre is as a participant event rather than as a spectator and Mr. Bridgewater establishes a great relationship with the audience, who love him.

I can say that it isn’t for me, yet Ms. Moulder understands that – she doesn’t intend it for me – and, in the end, I am swept along by the sheer brio (vigour, vivacity, verve) of it. I can either sit there alone in my grumpiness or join in the fun of the rugby choruses with the rest of the audience.

Cynthia’s victory was complete, because I join in.

I won’t rush to see Cynthia again (we are promised another farewell tour) but I am darn glad to have seen this one and I would greet any other show Ms. Moulder is in with some anticipation.  I have been, for an hour, in the presence of a genuine Kiwi original who is somehow able to encapsulate some of the unwritten history of New Zealand women in that hour.

Ms Moulder should be a household name, and it is to the shame of NZ TV that she isn’t.  


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