Destiny’s Cousin: The Reunion Spectacular

Gryphon Theatre, 22 Ghuznee Street, Wellington

20/06/2023 - 24/06/2023

Production Details

Creators and writers - Cassandra Tse, Renée Iosefa, Catherine Gavigan and Ellie Stewart
Director - Karen Anslow

The Wellington Footlights Society and Destiny’s Cousin

Destiny’s Cousin, the beloved a cappella pop superstar group, haven’t performed together since parting ways in the mid-00s. Each of the members has been off to pursuing independent projects: Renata with her solo party hits (and party lifestyle); Catriona with her reality TV show and ill-fated attempt at a Hollywood career; Estella with her lavish life as the trophy wife of the UK’s third richest man; and Cassidy as the She-EO of the femme-trepreneurial lifestyle brand, Soop. But the gals have fallen on hard times, and they’ve decided to put the band back together and go back to where it all began: Wellington, New Zealand. Join your favourite pop starlet supergroup in the concert of a lifetime: all the hits, none of the instruments.

Destiny’s Cousin: The Reunion Spectacular is a one-act concert event devised and performed by Cassandra Tse, Ellie Stewart, Renée Iosefa and Catherine Gavigan-Binnie. Pushing both comedy and musicianship to the forefront of the experience, you’ll get to know the beloved personalities of New Zealand’s most successful a cappella pop group as they perform the 80s, 90s and 00s hits you may have first heard from the likes of Britney Spears, Lady Gaga, the Spice Girls and Destiny’s Child.

This show is a love letter to the magic of a cappella singing, the unifying force of the music we grew up dancing to and the power of four-part friendship.

Gryphon Theatre
20-24 June 2023
Time 6.30pm
Price $25/$30
Tickets at

Cast - Cassandra Tse, Renée Iosefa, Catherine Gavigan and Ellie Stewart
Videography and editing - James Cain
Production design - Patrick Barnes
Photography and poster design - Aimée Sullivan
Choreography - Mel Heaphy
Publicity - Siobhan Raisbeck, Ellie Stewart and the cast

Comedy , Music , Spectacle , Theatre ,

60 minutes

A big show on a tiny stage that the estimable cast can be well proud of

Review by Dave Smith 21st Jun 2023

Cards-on-table time. I know a lot more about a cappella singing than I do about the musical era of Destiny’s Child (coupled here with Britney Spears, Lady Gaga and dozens of Spice women). That actually gives me a better head start than you might imagine.

A cappella singing (no musical instruments, other than air guitars, getting in the way of the deep emotion of the voice) is almost the antithesis of most pop music. I was in enough rock bands to know that all too often the instrumental aspect was the core business and most of the collective effort went into that. Actual singing was up for grabs for anyone who wanted it. I’m not aware of any real pop superstar groups that used the a cappella method. Eponymous group Destiny’s Cousin (we are into fairly rudimentary satire here) eponymously did.

They became superstars by sticking with the unaccompanied format before breaking up about 20 years ago. And thereby hangs a tale we are all very much familiar with. All the big combos are known to have parallel lives. There’s the songs-and-lust-filled one that supports the glossy mags and there’s the more spiritual one that binds groups against the world, especially on long tours; their own real love of their special music and each other. (John Lennon once put a rock through Paul McCartney’s upper middle class window during the Beatles breakup while their love of basic skiffle tunes and the character-building memories of Hamburg stayed unaffected.)

But ‘making up again’ after 20 hard years apart is, as the song once nearly said, hard to do. The ladies do try though and for much-needed money; as you do when you’ve goofed bigtime. What the audience gets is a one-act concert that is authored and performed by the hugely gifted Cassandra Tse, Ellie Stewart, Renée Iosefa and Catherine Gavigan-Binnie. They cram a lot of creative stuff into this clever one-act team effort.

The 21st century is one huge debris field from the pop acts of the 20th. There are more books about the debris than there are cataloguing the triumphs. Gods and goddesses are brought low for public enjoyment. So our four women find diverting and comedic drama in what they have been up to these punishing years. They tried everything from a reality TV show, marginal Hollywood, marrying the wrong guy for money and a cringe-making ‘legitimate business’ in the unspeakable form of something dubbed Soop. In between all this they each fiddle in their bras for a barbershop pitch pipe to help them sing the Britney era songs in unaccompanied four-part harmony, often while prowling the stage.

The sad, though well scripted, tales of their real lives are acted out on a circular video screen at the rear. Our disillusioned singers seem to be asking the screen-cum-mirror on the wall “who was the dumbest one of all?” There is a quite appealing element of wilful self-deprecation.

The public humiliations via fellow cot cases TV3 and TV2 (oh the horror!!) have a slightly MAD magazine feel to them. They are, though, mainly clever and instructive in visual play within a play. James Cain’s videography gets it bang on.  

We learn that one member left the group in the most muddle-headed way possible, akin to Sullivan splitting with Gilbert over a bill for a carpet. Here the truth emerges, hearts are repaired and we have the members of Destiny’s Cousin doing a sisterly hug with their old time lady roadie/manager. (It reminds me of the All Blacks’ team hug after they were eliminated from the RWC quarter finals in 2007. You can’t get more authentic or heartfelt than that.) 

This show is a great and imaginative effort. Patrick Barnes’ production design is a masterclass in using little to produce much. 

On the sound side though I must say I have a small niggle that bothers me through the show. A cappella’s top quartets are usually lightly amplified so as to preserve the most natural voice sound. When the singers here go full on, each toting a mic, some vocal intimacy is lost in this unique harmony. Maybe it is a loss we must bear in the name of ‘a cappella pop’. In the small space at Gryphon the overall sound across an hour becomes a tad overbearing at times, unaccompanied or not. I do realise that sometimes (in theatre) one has to compromise between what is desirable and what is affordable or doable.

I can’t leave without paying due homage to the unique mixture of choreography and natural beat that the women (with the help of Mel Heaphy) easily sustain. It’s often a backside slapping and stamping style that intensifies the stage action and makes you swear there must be bongo drums in there that aren’t. A big show on a tiny stage. Most impressive.

A good show, one that the estimable cast can be well proud of. If you are from the precise demographic (and most of the immensely appreciative audience are) you will get evermore tons of splendid vibes out of it.  


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