Basement Theatre, Lower Greys Ave, Auckland

07/05/2013 - 11/05/2013

Foxglove Queens Wharf Ballroom, 33 Queens Wharf, Wellington

14/05/2013 - 18/05/2013

NZ International Comedy Festival 2007-09, 2013

Production Details


When Vance Fontaine unlimbers his licorice love larynx at The Basement in Auckland on May 7th, as well as Wellington’s Foxglove Ballroom on the 14th of May, he guarantees love will fill the air.

New Zealand’s favourite singing superstar returns for a night of romance, sweet ballads and baby-makin’ music. Vance Fontaine and his band The Peculiar Sensations want their audience to find love. And to help do that he’ll go through his back catalogue of hits and hand out advice from his own conquest studded romantic career. 

Vance Fontaine is the alter ego of Wellington improviser Greg Ellis and made his first outing in “Command Performance” at last year’s NZ International Comedy Festival. During five sold-out nights at BATS Theatre as well as a season in The Basement in Auckland audiences got to meet Vance and his band (Thom McGrath, Takumi Motokawa, Matiu Whiting and Tane Upjohn-Beatson). The show was so successful it leads to a return season and earned Greg and the band the 2012 Chapman Tripp Theatre Awards Critics’ Wildcard, the first improv comedy show in the award’s 25 year history to do so.

This year “Vance Fontaine for Lovers” will build on the successful improv comedy cabaret formula. It will feature Vance answering questions posed by the audience about his love life and romantic advice as well as Vance and His Peculiar Sensations’ trademark songs. These are completely improvised from audience suggestions and have ranged in style from Jazz standards, to dubstep, and Peking Opera to bluegrass in the past.

This is a one of a kind show that features a singer and four musicians creating stories and improvised songs so good that one critic said, “I’d have bought the CD if it had been on sale” and another described as having “…layers of pleasure too numerous to mention.” Each show will be unique and will deliver a shot of comedy aphrodisiac for those who love comedy, love music and love love.

As part of the 2013 NZ International Comedy Festival

Date: Tue 7 April – Sat 11  May, 7.15 pm
Venue: The Basement, Lower Greys Ave

Date: Tue 14 – Sat 18 May, 7pm
Foxglove Ballroom, 57 Customhouse Quay, Queens Wharf

Tickets: $18 – $50 (booking fees may apply)
Bookings: 0800Ticketek

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The beauty of improv …

Review by Hannah Smith 15th May 2013

Would you take love advice from a man in a sequinned shirt with glitter gel in his hair?  If yes, this is the show for you. 

Vance Fontaine for Lovers is a musical seminar of love advice, in the form of improvised songs based on crowd-sourced romantic situations.

The format is tried and tested – Vance and ‘His Peculiar Sensations’ were a hit at last year’s comedy fest, and they have just come off a successful run in Auckland.  All the performers are extremely talented: Greg Ellis, as Vance, is a virtuoso improvisor; he is quick-witted, his singing voice is strong and his knowledge of musical forms and permutations – from K-Pop to classical – is impressive. 

Similarly, there is no denying the awesomeness of the band. L Ron Beattie on drums, John Doe on bass, Tony Fork on guitar and Errol Flanagan on keyboard – ‘His Peculiar Sensations’ are skilled musicians, able to leapfrog from genre to genre: calypso, heavy metal, ska, reggae, classical, disco, and have no problem keeping it pacey and identifiable. 

Some songs really managed to fly, like the exercise in delivering pick-up lines with sincerity: ‘Let’s Go Home and Get my Wallet (and Shag)’.  But despite the talent of all involved, on Tuesday night the show felt like less than the sum of its parts. The show lacked structure – and Vance’s banter between songs and musings on the nature of love feel like padding. Perhaps it is the shortcomings of the Foxglove Ballroom as a venue (odd acoustics, and strange configuration of seats and empty space), perhaps the show needs a bigger crowd, or perhaps the performers were just tired; but despite the known and obvious talents of all involved it didn’t really come together.  

However, the beauty of improv is that every show is a fresh shot at making magic, and with the team involved I have no doubt that Vance and ‘His Peculiar Sensations’ will be kicking it the rest of the week.


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Review by James Wenley 10th May 2013

Vance Fontaine is one of the best kept secrets of the Comedy Festival in Auckland. But it is a secret that needs to be let out. 

From the improvisatory genius of Wellington’s Greg Ellis Vance Fontaine is the greatest New Zealand singer you have heard of. I went to his Auckland show Vance Fontaine in Command Performance on a whim last year, where Ellis and his polished live band ‘The Peculiar Sensations’ make up on the spot entries from Fontaine’s back catalogue, in any and every genre of music imaginable. As we discover in Vance Fontaine for Lovers, the Vance is a bit of a romantic – a lover of anything that moves – and he has an extensive number of love songs, and relationship advice, that he has built up over his career. Indeed, we learnt that many of us in the audience were likely conceived during a Vance Fontaine love song. [More]


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Improv’s Lovechild: Lyrical Love Lord extraordinaire

Review by Vanessa Byrnes 08th May 2013

If John Rowles, Barry White and improv guru Keith Johnstone could father a child together, Vance Fontaine might be it. Greg Ellis’s immense skills as an improviser are put to good use in this semi-structured show that tackles the peaks and troughs of amour.

With the delicious use of his ‘licorice love larynx’, Fontaine takes provocations from the audience to journey through his catalogue of essential love tips. Where do you meet the love of your life? How do older women meet younger men? What’s the worst pick-up line you’ve ever heard?

If you’ve ever been kept awake at night by these soul-burning questions, Fontaine will bring them to the stage and suggest some answers. Johnny Cash infamously relied on ‘three chords and the truth’. Fontaine – Improv’s Lovechild – is lubricated by four musos and a (bad white) suit. 

The four-piece backup band – The Peculiar Sensations – provide fantastic support for The Vance as he traverses musical genres, nationalities, cultural cringes. Nothing is off limits for this spontaneous, fornicatory troubadour.

Tonight’s musical offerings included the never-heard-before-and-never-to-be-repeated musical lovin’ gems, ‘Love is a Hurricane’, ‘Rest Home Geisha’, and that old feminist anthem, ‘You’re Better than a Bag of Pony Pooh’.

I love this kind of comedy that pulls an audience together through shared experience.  A bit of Shakespeare was in the room with those rhyming couplets and as Vance reminded us, “Music may be the food of love, but love can be the food of music.” 

The format of Vance Fontaine for Lovers is an apt reminder that just like love and STD’s, you never quite know what you’re going to get. However there is always a cure at hand. The Vance knows this, so he dives headlong into the improvised love abyss with the incredibly adaptable Peculiar Sensations following his lead.

It’s funny, witty, full of rhyming couplets and just plain silly. A comedy outing that won’t change the world but will make you laugh: Vance Fontaine might even make you squirm in places that shouldn’t be touched.

My companion and I left The Basement reminded that sometimes all you need in life is a hot pickup line, a multi-genre backup band and a sequined shirt. Too bad he’s gay, single, twenty years younger and I’m straight and happily attached. Still, you never know… Vance wouldn’t be deterred. Such is the magic of Vance Fontaine, Lyrical Love Lord extraordinaire.


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