Basement Theatre, Lower Greys Ave, Auckland

18/09/2012 - 29/09/2012

Production Details

Theatre of Love presents the premiere of Day After Night, a new original pop-rock Musical written and composed by Benjamin Cleaver.

Harry has a dream. He wants a BABY. His partner David can’t think of anything worse. He’s more interested in the cute guy who serves him coffee. Blanche is an earth mother with performance ambitions. They’re searching for love in all the wrong places.

Featuring a catchy and poignant original musical score, camp flair and lots of heart, Day After Night is about the quest for love expressed through the sometimes impractical desire for marriage and a baby.

Supported by Auckland Council Arts Alive, Get it on! & PledgeMe supporters.

The Basement Theatre 
18 – 29th September, 8pm (No shows Sunday/Monday)
Tickets from iTICKET  

Harry: Kinloch Anstiss
David: Paul Harrop
Blanche: Jess Bates
Esquires Boy: Greg Padoa
Pretties: Alexandra McKellar, Romy Hooper, Kate Riegel

Costume Design: Alan Parata
Set Design: Carrie Dressler
Lighting Design: Sam Mence
Makeup: Sarah Baker

Publicist: Kristina Hard – Little Miss Publicist
Promotional Photography: Anil Dumasia 

Genuinely cheesy

Review by Nik Smythe 22nd Sep 2012

Playwright and composer Benjamin Cleaver, with the manifest assistance of director James Wenley and musical director Paul Barrett, has produced an impressively ambitious two-act musical on a shoestring budget. 

Kinloch Anstiss is Harry, a cross-dressing cabaret diva whose most treasured wish is to have a child of his own.  Paul Harrop plays David, Harry’s long-suffering partner, definitively less keen on the baby idea.  This dichotomy is the central issue, leading Harry to attempt illegal adoptions with his best friend Blanche the prostitute (Jess Holly Bates), while David is drawn into the arms of local café barista known only as ‘Esquires Boy’ (Greg Padoa). 

In classic Broadway style, the play is underpinned by the harmonising styles of Harry’s back-up trio The Pretties, outstandingly executed by Alexandra McKellar, Romy Hooper and Kate Riegel. 

David’s resistance to Harry’s maternal ambition is understandable enough, given the alarming obsession he has with ‘babies babies babies’ (I don’t recall whether anyone ever points out to Harry that they don’t remain babies forever). But David’s general attitude lacks enough warmth to really believe the relationship, especially his seeming disapproval of Harry’s integral and defining flamboyance. 

Evidently the main factor holding them together is Harry’s tendency to concoct idealistic fantasies in his mind, and then bloody-mindedly strive to make them come true. David’s surly reticence seems more about self-centred commitment-phobia than the very valid concern that the extreme nature of Harry’s enthusiasm borders on pathological delusion. 

This central storyline is festooned with a number of subplots, particularly looking deeper into the lives and thoughts of the supporting characters Blanche and Esquires Boy: her with her hazardous lifestyle as a streetwalking sexworker; him with his burgeoning youthful romanticism. 

Mr Cleaver’s script gives the cast a strong base from which to express their distinctive characters, seasoned throughout with numerous references for those-in-the-know to beloved glamorous and/or trashy pop culture icons such as MJ, Tom Selleck, and Whitney-before-the-crack. Meanwhile, his compositions are brought to life through the accomplished musical direction of Paul Barret, who leads the diminutive band on electric piano, with Aaron Coddel on double bass and Cleaver on synth.

The cast gives a solid collective performance under Wenley’s capable stage direction, as well as sufficiently nailing the myriad vocal melodies and harmonies with just a handful of noticeable bum notes. 

Overall the 16-odd songs give a richness and clarity to the characters’ respective agendas. The all-live score defies simple genrefication; a little bit pop, a little bit showtune, a little bit rock ‘n roll. The strength of Harrop’s and Bates’ voices are a highlight, my personal favourite being Blanche’s delightfully expressive showpiece ‘Earth Mother’, sung wearing her quite odd planet earth costume with a giant New Zealand.

Suffice to say the music plays out as a stylistically eclectic labour of love, arguably undermined at times by earnest lyrics.  Lydia Zanetti’s commensurate choreography completes the genuinely cheesy performance package.

The balance of song-and-dance and drama seems about right, although in both cases they occasionally feel unnecessarily protracted, particularly when Harry goes on one of his numerous repetitive gushing baby rants. The conclusion is one of self-realisation and personal growth, eschewing the happy-ever-after and keeping it as real as such a music-driven spectacle can be.

The simplicity and functionality of the staging neither dazzles nor detracts – a good thing considering the interplay of all the production’s elements. Carrie Dressler’s minimal set, ably lit by Sam Mance, has most of the action play out in the bare polished concrete centre-stage area, with space for dancing. The band is upstage right, behind David’s bed by the lavender-coloured feature wall. A curtain drawn diagonally across stage left opens occasionally to reveal Harry and the Pretties’ dingy revue bar dressing room, incorporating the theatre’s back steps (up to its real dressing room).

As one might expect, another prominent feature of the work is Alan Parata’s ostentatious costume design. In typical diva fashion, Harry’s florid frocks and pseudo-glamorous gowns dominate the senses, from his opening number panto-style drag outfit (think Widow Twanky meets Bo Peep) to the gauche purple flowers and heart-shaped leaves number. Even his non-drag ensembles are a visual overload. 

David and Esquires Boy (someone really should give that character a name!) are, by comparison, very conservatively attired.  Meanwhile, the Pretties’ range of pretty frocks are pretty much what the tailor ordered, whilst Blanche’s eclectic wardrobe ranges from the aforementioned globe through tight, saucy working outfits and scruffy casuals, to more tastefully feminine garb. 

The subject of gay adoption is a topical one, but given Harry’s alarming exuberance and David’s selfish reticence, this is hardly the pro-rights soapbox parable it might have been. The varying scenarios are clearly drawn from the recognisable world, and the honesty and passion with which the company delivers their fledgling mini-extravaganza are its greatest gift. Theatre of love, indeed.


Make a comment

Execution sadly lacking in bold venture

Review by Paul Simei-Barton 22nd Sep 2012

It is difficult not to admire the bold ambition of a small independent company launching an original full-length musical with a live band – especially when the venture is largely dependent on crowd funding.

The gestation period for this notorious difficult art form usually involves years of workshopping and while Day After Night has all the key elements in place, the show still feels like a work in progress.

The topical story examines the meltdown of a gay relationship when one partner has his heart set on having a baby while the other is unwilling to give up the pleasures of promiscuity. [More


Make a comment

Wellingon City Council
Aotearoa Gaming Trust
Creative NZ
Auckland City Council