Centrepoint, Palmerston North

10/07/2010 - 21/08/2010

Circa Two, Circa Theatre, 1 Taranaki St, Waterfront, Wellington

22/11/2014 - 21/12/2014

Production Details

Just when you thought it was safe to go back to the theatre…

Dead Tragic, the cult musical of the 90s returns with the original cast.

Who shot who at the Copacabana?

What did they do to Maria? (When they did what they did to Maria!)

Why did Billy Joe MacAllister jump off the Tallahatchie Bridge?

These, and many other mysteries of pop music may be answered by Dead Tragic.

Featuring more than 20 hits (and misses) from the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s, Dead Tragic includes favourites such asDelilah, Running Bear, Copacabana, Seasons in the Sun, Billy Don’t be a Hero and Leader of the Pack. 

Dead Tragic was born in the rehearsal room of Centrepoint theatre during a vocal warm-up with the cast of Sex Tips For Modern Girls in 1988. “I used to bring old songbooks with me and after the vocal exercises we’d pick a couple of songs to sing for fun.” says writer and musical director Michael Nicholas Williams.

“One night I chose Bobby Goldsboro’s Honey and at the end one of the cast was in tears, totally gutted, and wanting to know what had happened to the unfortunate Honey. One of the others then called out she preferred songs with a bit of guts like Delilah (Tom Jones). And so we started listing all our favourite cheesy songs where people met unfortunate ends.” 

A few years later when the national tour of Aunt Daisy! ended abruptly, several of the cast got together and staged  Dead Tragic – initially at The Depot (Taki Rua) and then by popular demand a return season at Bats. The Centrepoint season was held in 1992 and they thought that was that. 

…a video of the show from the Arts on Sunday programme emerged and was posted on Facebook recently. The response was huge with people who’d seen the show saying how much they’d loved it and people who hadn’t saying they really wanted to see it. One of these commenters was Kate-Louise Elliott, Artistic Director at Centrepoint Theatre. And it was through Facebook that most of the original cast was able to be tracked down. 

The only non-original cast member in the show is local favourite Jeff Kingsford-Brown. However, this won’t be the only change from the original. Some of the songs have changed and the costumes and set will be completely different. And with 4 weeks of choreography with Ian Harman, singing rehearsal with Michael Nicholas Williams and taking pointers from director Kate Louise Elliott this run of Dead Tragic is sure to take it to another level. 

“I’m really looking forward to Dark Lady (Cher) but am a little anxious that my hard-earned reputation as a serious mature musical director is going to be shattered. But what a way to go.” says Michael Nicholas Williams. 

Dead Tragic
10 July – 21 August
Sponsored by Naylor Lawrence & Associates and Audit Link
Centrepoint’s Principal Sponsor: BNZ

Show Times:
Wednesday 6.30pm, Thursday – Saturday 8 pm,
Sunday 5pm. There will be no Sunday performance on 11 July.

$35 Adults, $30 Senior Citizens, $25 Under 30s,
$20 Community Service Card Holders,
$20 Senior Gold Card Holders, $12 Students,
$60 Dinner & Show.

Special Performances:

Preview Night – Friday 9July, tickets $20
$12 Tuesday – Tuesday13 July, 6.30pm.
Bookings for $12 Tuesday open at 9am Monday 12 July.

Phone 06 354 5740, online at, email, visit 280 Church Street.   

2014 season – Wellington

Newest cast member Lyndee-Jane Rutherford is excited to power ballad some songs to die for: “I have seen this show twice! It was so much fun. Both times I sat there wishing I could be in it. Now I am! Yay!” 

Dead Tragic is the most fun I’ve ever had doing a show,” says writer, musician and performer Michael Nicholas Williams. “Since our first production in 1991, we’ve included extra songs and evolved with new Music Licensing rules (bye-bye Bee Gees!) and we can’t wait to . . . kill you not-so-softly with our song!

“A brilliant show and a must-see”Palmerston North Tribune
“Gloriously gratuitous and giddy”Palmerston North Guardian
“Manic, black-comic zest” Theatreview

Featuring songs by: Tom Jones, Barry Manilow, Dolly Parton, Cher, Queen, Paul Anka, The Shangri-Las, Elvis and many more!

22 November – 21 December
Tues – Sat 7.30pm, Sun 4.30pm (no show Mon)
TICKETS: $46 / 38 / 25
BOOKINGS: 04 801 799204 801 7992  


CENTREPOINT 2010 season:

Emma Kinane
Katherine Mitchell
Jeff Kingsford-Brown
Darren Young
Michael Nicholas Wiliams.

Costumes and choreography by Ian Harman
Set by John Hodgkins
Lighting by Graham Slater

CIRCA 2014 season:
Emma Kinane
Jon Pheloung
Lyndee-Jane Rutherford
Darren Young
Michael Nicholas Wiliams.

 Jacques Brel, Rod Mckuen

Dead Tragic anything but

Review by Laurie Atkinson [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] 01st Dec 2014

Circa has another hit show suitable for the pre-Christmas season despite Michael Nicolas Williams’ gloomy title. Let me hasten to add the title is ironic and this musical revue is anything but gloomy. 

How could it not be when he has two of the funniest female comedy actors in town on stage (Emma Kinane and Lyndee-Jane Rutherford), supported by two excellent comic singing actors (Jon Pheloung, Darren Young)?

Not only did he choose the songs (mostly American from the 50s, 60s and 70s) but he also directs the singing and plays the keyboard with his usual infectious enthusiasm, and on occasion joins his fellow performers centre stage.

It has to be admitted though that he has a slightly quirky musical taste at times. He once wrote a dark comic musical (certainly not a musical comedy), Lonely Heart Killers which is based on the movie of the same name.

And though Dead Tragic is not about murder, it is a show that takes twenty-seven well-known pretty crappy songs and has fun with them by sending them up affectionately. One of the songs, the programme tells us, is a fake, a parody from a film and we are challenged to guess which one. And there’s one song they haven’t a clue what it is about but they perform it anyway.

Jon Pheloung starts the show off with a dagger in his hand in an OTT version of Tom Jones’ already way OTT Delilah. And from then on any song that even whiffs of sentimentality, teenage love, a death row, war, and motorbike gangs is fair game.

The appallingly rhymed Angelo, Teen Angel (pronounced An-GEL), and Billy don’t be a Hero, which in this version the young woman immediately finds solace when Billy ignores her warning, are typical of the songs that get the comic doing-over.

The cast take it in turns to be the lead singer and when not they are a slick backing group as they perform on Barnaby Kinane Williams’ excellent and appropriate setting of an old-fashioned record player. The audience roared its approval throughout its 95 minutes.

[Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media]


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Bound to make you feel better about your own lot in life

Review by John Smythe 24th Nov 2014

This must be Michael Nicholas Williams month. He has musically directed Mama Mia, currently playing at the St James (with co-MD Timothy Bridgewater in charge on the night), musically directed and programmed the keyboard for Red Riding Hood, currently gracing Circa One, and now he is live onstage as musical director, musician and sometime singer with a new production of his own conception: Dead Tragic. What’s more, Mamma Mia director Lyndee-Jane Rutherford is in the line-up too.

It is fitting we find ourselves sitting behind a row of undertakers, delighted at this opportunity to “put the fun back in funerals”. And it’s Tom Jones’ ‘Delilah’ that opens the show. Why not? 

The set, designed by Barnaby Kinane-Williams, represents the portable plastic record players teenagers used to take to beach parties and picnics. Its open top frames translucent curtains, the floor is a disc ready to spin, and its articulated arm is put to excellent use throughout.

As the two dozen-strong playlist rolls out – displayed in two halves like juke-box selection charts – it’s surprising to realise how familiar the often long-forgotten songs, and even ones we’ve never heard, are. We’ve hummed along with those tunes so many times … 

Even more startling is the darkness of the pop-tuned lyrics, clearly articulated by Emma Kinane, Jon Pheloung, Lyndee-Jane Rutherford, Darren Young and Williams, in their separately hued bright silk shirts tamed with tight-fitting black waistcoats and flares (designed by Maryanne Cathro): so very 60s. Each singer gets to lead more than once, playing to their undoubted strengths, and all back each other beautifully.

Rendered with great sincerity and delight, their piss-takes are subtle and all-the-funnier for it. Sublime harmonies are augmented by simple enactments wherein the pathos descends inexorably to amusing bathos by virtue of family mealtimes, selfie-taking, white canes, wheelchairs, casket-dwelling and the like.

The show recalls, for out delectations, the tragic fates of Lola at Barry Manilow’s ‘Copacabana’, Brotherhood of Man’s ‘Angelo’, Tony Christie’s ‘Maria’ (for whom ‘I did what I did’), Paper Lace’s ‘Billy’ begged not to be a hero, Bobbie Gentry’s ode-iferous ‘Billie-Joe’, Bobby Goldsboro’s ‘Honey’, Karen Young’s nameless ‘Nobody’s Child’, Kenny Roger’s ‘Ruby’ who is asked not to take her love to town, and Henry Gross’s dog called ‘Shannon’, amid Tom Jones’ ‘Green Green Grass of Home’ and Westlife’s version of Jaques Brel and Rod Mckuen’s ‘Seasons in the Sun’. And that’s just side one.

Johnny Preston’s ‘Running Bear’ brings them on to side two then the concept of torch song is redefined with Queen’s musically splendid but lyrically impenetrable ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’. Cher’s prophetic ‘Dark Lady’ sends Paul Anka’s ‘Teen Angel’ aloft before bad weather at sea provokes John D Laudermilk’s eye-watering rhymes with ‘Darling Jane’. Commemorations continue via ‘Goodbye Eddie Goodbye’ (The Juicy Fruits) and ‘Tell Laura I Love Her’ (Creation) then motorbikes are lethally mixed with teenage love and freight trains, arguments and speed in ‘Black Denim Trousers and Motor Cycle Boots’ (The Cheers), ‘Terry’ (Twinkle) and ‘Leader of the Pack’ (The Shangri-Las).

But nothing is more tragically rendered than Elvis Presley’s ‘In The Ghetto’, which only leaves Maureen McGovern to lead us in her prayer of hope: ‘The Morning After’.

The undertakers are over the moon, the audience is clapping and stamping … and what, no encore? How about something from one of Circa’s memorable Paul Jenden/Gareth Farr musicals – or is there a suitable lament in Michael Nicholas Williams’ very own Lonely Heart – the musical?  

Dead Tragic is ideal end-of-year fare, bound to make you feel better about your own lot in life and send you humming into the night.


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Revealing the morbidity of Americans’ fantasy-lives

Review by John C Ross 12th Jul 2010

Knifings, shootings, hangings, drownings (suicidal or accidental), being run over by a train, fatal stock car or motor bike crashes, other miscellaneous or less specified modes of untimely dying – they all seem to have had a macabre yet undeniable fascination in the realm of popular song writing and reception. Add to the mix dollops of cheesie sentimentality …

Back in 1988, Michael Williams, who figures in this new production on keyboards, together with his colleagues at Centrepoint at the time, picked the general theme up, and compiled this musical revue of snuff songs. It’s all weirdly entertaining.

The songs are nearly all American, which makes one wonder about the morbidity of Americans’ fantasy-lives, such that the daft gun-nutters of the National Rifle Association have just succeeded in winning a Supreme Court verdict to strike down any sensible local gun-control laws, that might constrain their ability to shoot dead each other, which they do all-too-often already.

The lyrics of some of the songs, such as ‘Darling Jane,’ would be well worthy of the esteemed Scottish bard William McGonagall.

An earlier production of the show in this theatre took place back in 1992, and several of the original cast are fronting up again, including Michael Williams himself on keyboards. Some songs are added, or changed.

Insofar as I can remember it well enough to make comparisons, its main tendency was to deliver appalling stories with some kind of manic, black-comic zest. This production is technically much more lavish, and sometimes the singing and immediate role-playing are relatively straight, albeit full-on, with the ironic counterpointing provided by the stage-business surrounding them.

For example, with ‘Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town,’ the singing of Jeff Kingsford-Brown as a crippled war-veteran in his wheelchair is grim and bitter enough; yet alongside him, Katherine Mitchell as Ruby is dancing away in a fashion that proclaims her flighty delight in scoring some time out from attending upon her grumpy husband. And whatever he may be presuming, from the look of things she’s heading off to nothing more promiscuous than an evening of line-dancing.

In ‘Black Denim Trousers and Motorcycle Boots,’ the ‘hot rod cycle’ gets ridden on to the stage cunningly disguised as a scooter.

Generally, the cooperation between the director, Kate Louise Elliott, and the choreographer, Ian Harman, generates a rich mix of stage business, lively and witty. Mitchell, Kingsford-Brown, Emma Kinane, and Darren Young all sing and act very well, in their many different roles, and wigs. Katherine Mitchell stands out, for the sheer quality of her voice and of her role-playings, but they are all fine.

The one number that didn’t work well on the first night was ‘Shannon,’ about a run-over family dog, as the singer, Michael Williams himself, adopted a high-pitched voice that rendered the words incomprehensible, when using his natural voice would have been fine.

Otherwise (and this one glitch is easily fixed), the show works extremely well, and offers a great night out.


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