H.R. The Musical

Q Theatre, 305 Queen St, Auckland

01/02/2024 - 03/02/2024

Q Theatre, 305 Queen St, Auckland

07/05/2024 - 11/05/2024

Little Andromeda, Level 1/134 Oxford Terrace, Central City, Christchurch

16/05/2024 - 18/05/2024

Te Auaha, Tapere Nui, 65 Dixon Street, Te Aro, Wellington

21/05/2024 - 22/05/2024

NZ International Comedy Festival 2024

Production Details


Written and composed by Amy Mansfield
Choreographed by Mika Austin and Zoe Triggs

Artsense Productions


A performance revue like you’ll never get in an office tower! This cheeky number takes on the ridiculous and objectionable in the modern workplace in the form of the blues, rap, latin plainchant and more to see what meets expectations and what needs improvement.

The songs, written and composed in a wicked range of genres by Amy Mansfield, play with such hot topics as coworker communications (‘Mansplain it to me’) and Uniformity and Exclusion (‘CEO Song: Okay so I’m white’) across the worlds of corporates, public sector and the precarious gig economy.

Drawing on influences as diverse as comedy TV series Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times, Tricia Hersey’s Rest is Resistance and David Graeber’s Bullshit Jobs, H.R. The Musical will have you laughing with despair, and wondering – along with the rest of the world – when the revolution is coming, then putting it on your to-do list.

The cast includes Mika Austin, the critically acclaimed darling of Artsense Productions’ I Didn’t Invite You Here to Lecture Me and you are [not] alone here, along with the madly talented Zoe Triggs and Lizzie Buckton, who’ll sing, dance and play various blowable and plucky instruments throughout.

Gather your co-workers and your boss and get to this work

Q Theatre
1-3 February 2024
$28-55
https://www.qtheatre.co.nz/shows/hr-musical

Audiences from the sold-out premiere season in Auckland said:
“I was laughing so hard I nearly fell out of my seat”
“Loved every moment of it”
“Bloody brilliant”
“Every word cleverly crafted, every song belly-laughingly witty”
“Everyday HR and corporate terms rightly denuded into their ridiculous reality.”
“The full house – regardless of age or background – laughed their cotton socks off” (Theatreview review of Summer at Q season Feb 2024)

Auckland, Q Theatre (as part of NZ Int’l Comedy Festival)
7-11 May 2024
6.30pm
$37-$45
https://www.qtheatre.co.nz/shows/hr-musical

Christchurch – Little Andromeda
16-18 May 2024, 7pm
18 May 4pm
$39
https://littleandromeda.co.nz/show/h-r-the-musical/

Wellington – Te Auaha (as part of NZ Int’l Comedy Festival)
21 & 22 May 2024
6.45pm
$39-$46
https://www.iticket.co.nz/events/2024/may/cf-hr-the-musical?view=info


Main characters:
Narrator 1 – Amy Mansfield
Narrator 2 – Mika Austin
Narrator 3 – Lizzie Buckton
Narrator 4 – Zoe Triggs
Dick, the CEO – Mika Austin
[J], an HR employee – Zoe Triggs
[L], another employee – Lizzie Buckton
Also:
[M], a lover of email – Mika Austin
[B], a resigned paper-pusher – Lizzie Buckton
[T], a middle manager with dreams – Mika Austin
A hawker – Lizzie Buckton

Costumes by Zoe Triggs, Mika and Janet Austin
Backing tracks arranged by Amy Mansfield and Lizzie Buckton and recorded and produced by Lizzie Buckton at Sleeping Moa Productions, Piha

Design:
Lighting – Zane Allen
Artwork, Set, Video – Lizzie Buckton
Photographer – Michelle McLennan

Crew:
Operator – Wren Glover
Live sound operator – Zane Allen
Stage Manager – Simon Todd


Theatre , Comedy , Music , Musical , Political satire ,


60 minutes

Every song and scene is immaculately written, rehearsed and delivered

Review by Talia Carlisle 26th May 2024

Congratulations, salutations and coldest regards to the audience for making it out to the last (and rainy) week of NZ International Comedy Festival, where I would like to start with a joke (Ahem):

Wellington’s HR fleet walk into Te Auaha Bar…

That’s right, it’s all laughs in the sold-out Wellington debut of H.R. The Musical, that fills every seat. But there is no need for hotdesking tonight.

I am ready for a great performance review of this musical, as I recognise an employment lawyer in the audience, and ‘all’ her HR colleagues in the crowd.

Ready for every office character trope, and every stationery joke, Amy Mansfield’s original and un-PC creation is anything but stationary.

H.R. The Musical traverses every musical genre and boss stereotype, with no joke failing to land during this limited touring season that began in Auckland then Christchurch and finally Wellington, with more shows to come I hope.

This creative 1-hour crash course in people pleasing, mansplaining and email etiquette can best be described in music, which is why I hope – no, beg – for a soundtrack recording in our H.R. The Musical future.

I know you will be keen to see the show too, so until they return, you can listen to their banger of a song, ‘Mansplain It To Me’ on Spotify. Make sure you listen on repeat to encourage the team to record the whole album. Please and thank you kindly, ngā mihi and have a great day.

Our astoundingly talented cast includes creator Amy Mansfield, Mika Austin, Zoe Triggs and Lizzie Buckton. Each are well versed in the HR and comedy worlds, bringing the audience together to laugh, ooh, and sing along during our Tuesday team waiata session. The enunciation and sound levels are absolutely crystal clear, allowing us to enjoy every word, every scene and song.

Heavenly and spooky harmonies, choral renditions and tap dancing routines charm us to dance in our seats, sing along to the swear words and open our souls to each ballad and rap number including a haunting caterpillar dance move, that should not be called dancing but can be called iconic.

Technology is cleverly incorporated in the screen as one of the many over-and-above elements nailed in the production. It tells us what each of our job titles REALLY mean.

My only struggle is with watching those words and listening at the same time, so that due to the loud and fast music, and quick screen changes, I miss both.

Perhaps both the titles and definitions could be displayed for each one to help, and the balance adjusted even slightly, as I do not want to miss a single word and I will be returning with all my HR friends for the next show to find out what my job title really means.

There is no way to choose a favourite song, character or most relevant part, as every song and scene is immaculately written, rehearsed and delivered with maximum audience involvement, technical ability and laughs. Add in tap dancing, cabaret and clowns (why not?) … This is just the start of an entertaining evening that I could easily keep watching for another hour.

Just today someone told me, “My work is what I do while planning my next holiday,” while others have jobs planning others’ holidays. In a past life, I was paid to join people’s holidays.

Everyone has a different idea of how work works for them, which Amy Mansfield explores in this show: “Some people’s jobs drive them to drink. Others to religion. My life in work has driven me to write a musical,” she says. Not just that, but she arranged the incredible backing tracks with Lizzie Buckton.

The beautiful music includes piano, guitar, flute, melodica and percussion, with the best use of a cabasa I have seen – which particularly interests my percussionist father in the front row. He was very impressed with the whole production, as was every person I pass from the theatre to my dinner booking, where that same employment lawyer and their HR friends are, STILL raving about the show.

I heard comments like “loved it”, “amazing”, “awesome”, “absolutely brilliant”, “funny”, “clever”, “talented”, and heard the audience laughing out loud all the way out of the theatre.

I hope H.R. The Musical laughs their way back soon, so keep an eye out for their agenda. And please, for God’s sake, make sure you don’t forget the attachment. 

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Riotous send-up of corporate culture.

Review by Sophie Ricketts 17th May 2024

This sharp and biting satire has come to Christchurch hot off the heels of performances in Auckland and Wellington as part of the NZ International Comedy Festival, and I’m glad they decided to venture South and share the show with Ōtautahi audiences too. The absurdity of office nitwittery is on full display in this show and it is a riot.

For me, the show provides (mostly) entertainment and (some) anxiety as some of the vignettes are all too real. My companion and I both find ourselves wondering “do these women work for the same company I do?” The lived experiences truly shine through in the writing of this show. I am howling with laughter and alternating between a smirk and a grimace at the delightful send-up of corporate culture. They nail the use of jargon, the playful possibilities of subtext, and even the projected AI images of modern offices are so bad that they are good. 

Musical highlights for me include the Gregorian chant identifying the subtext of corporate emails, and the Restructure Rap. There are no less than eleven different musical instruments played throughout the show, and it is exciting to see each new one appear and enjoy the diversity they bring to the sound of each song. The four performers on stage (Mika Austin, Zoe Triggs, Lizzie Buckton, and Amy Mansfield) do a wonderful job of navigating scene transitions and character changes within what is a small performance area at Little Andromeda; the intimacy of this venue really enhances the feeling that we were all in it together, especially for the Thursday Waiata Practice which called for some audience participation. 

Upon arrival to the theatre, I watched a large group all enter one after the other as their tickets were checked and heads were counted. I can only hope they were a group booking from an office social club; this show is made for corporate entertainment.

My only regret is that this show does not offer a programme, as I would like to know the names of all the songs and would have also like to know which performers were featured in each one. A digital programme, accessible by QR code, would have been perfect.

If you have ever worked for a corporate entity, this show is for you. You will feel seen, you will feel heard, and you might feel slightly triggered, but you’ll have a great time. Tickets are still available for tonight and tomorrow but, with limited capacity, this show may well sell-out.

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Fine, unblemished work by the whole cast with Mika Austin shining in the lioness' share of the differing personas.

Review by Sandi Hall 15th May 2024

Many writers do not make millions, or even thousands, from the exercise of our craft, and so have to have “a proper job”. This is true for me, your Reviewer, meaning I have personal experience of “HR”, Human Resources, as the humans-for-hire world calls it.  When my dewy-eyed-self got my first job – writing classified ads – HR was the ‘Personnel Department’. The first action a new employee took was to go to the Personnel Department and have all one’s ‘important details’ registered, such as next-of-kin and whether one had had tuberculosis or venereal disease. Having a driver’s license (or not) was also noted, and whether one wore specs.  That’s when I realised, I was ‘a miniscule cog in the great wheels of commerce’, helpful in reducing any head-swelling my copy-writing may achieve.

So I was very much looking forward to HR: the Musical – coming to Christchurch and Wellington next – for its final night at Auckland Q’s Rangatira stage.

I’d just settled into my (excellent) reviewer’s seat when a petite and attractive senior woman popped into the vacant one next to me. She was clearly very much looking forward to the performance, so I asked her, as you do, why she’d come to this particular show.

“I’m Mika’s mum,” she replied. “My name is Janet.” 

She went on to tell me that Mika and Amy have been friends from intermediate school, and both were taught theatre-craft by Selwyn College’s June Renwick, herself something of a name in school theatre productions.

Mika and Amy have created other theatre works, notably I Didn’t Invite You Here to Lecture Me and You are (not) Alone Here, neither of which I’ve seen but which other reviewers’ rate well. 

Janet then revealed that Mika’s ‘real job’ is working in HR. “So, from the horse’s mouth!’’ I thought.  Enriched by this flow of information, I feel a surge of anticipation as the lights dim.  In the hour that follows, I realise that here is a worthy successor to the hilarious all-woman Hens’ Teeth comedy shows, create by Wellington’s Kate JasonSmith and the late Lee Hatherly in the ‘80s, which toured Aotearoa and Oz for 10 years.

H.R.The Musical’s songs are brilliant, and break new ground – surely this is the first time lines like “you’re such a dick, you’re such a cunt” have been sung in public. In a song about the inadequacy and over-confidence of the corporate Person, they make the largely 30s-somethings sold-out audience scream with delight.

Embraced by exquisite vocal harmonies, bullseye lampooning in plainsong, they have us all cheering when ‘fuck you’ is repeated softly as a religious chant.  Equally well-received is the lampooning of corporate Persons so eager to appear as ‘woke’ in indigenous culture terms. “Kia ora, no more culture, I’ve brought my white self tonight”, and the rap number “What do you look like”has audience-appreciation pounded out by our happy feet.

A minimalist set is enlarged by clever lighting, and the use of a kind of subtitle-effect in throwing salient words onto the set’s back wall. I applaud the very amusing number using actor-semaphoring to underline the mechanisation of human industry.

Although Amy Mansfield (writer/singer), Zoe Triggs (singer/performer) and Lizzie Buckton (singer/performer) all delivered fine, unblemished work, the stage is owned by Mika Austin. Her singing voice is a fraction more rounded than her colleagues, and she had the lioness’ share of the differing personas. It could be that her ‘paid work’ in HR gives extra oomph when delivering the sweetly cutting lines that ably dissect the Human Resources world.

“Corporate anthropology, champion of the can-do” is exposed as neatly as slices of bread.  It drives the point home with the “See Room for Improvement” finale song.

Certainly, all four sang with utter conviction about wanting that improvement ‘Now!”           

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The full house laughed their cotton socks off, a sign the season will do well.

Review by Cushla Matheson 03rd Feb 2024

It’s always satisfying to sit in a theatre and watch the seats fill up until the house is full, so this opening night was hugely reassuring for everyone – there wasn’t an empty seat in the Q Loft house and comedy always works best when there are plenty of willing patrons. It’s a big plus to be packed before the lights even dim.

The set is wonderfully simple: downstage there are four chairs and four microphones on stands. Upstage there is a suggestion of office cubicles, plants, and ‘motivational’ posters, just enough to spark the imagination. It feels familiar because it’s meant to, anyone who’s worked in a modern office will find it relatable in the extreme – satire and parody at its best.

I’ve done my homework, so I know already that H.R. The Musical is a “performance revue” the like of which you’ll ‘never get in an office tower’. It’s a fantastic concept, and it never lets up.

The Q website elaborates with ‘this cheeky number takes on the ridiculous and objectionable in the modern workplace in the form of the blues, rap, Latin plainchant and more, to see what meets expectations and what needs improvement’. Yes, a performance review like no other.

Four actors dressed in clown collars and hats enter and take their seats. True to the sideshow that unfolds they present a parody of the open-mouthed, head-turning sideshow clowns that we all know and love but, unlike those at the Easter Show, these clown heads spout HR interview clichés. The mostly ensemble singing presents narrative songs in many styles with sundry shining solo moments in which flautist Lizzie Buckton excels. Costumes consist of a base of bland, but never boring, office attire with occasional eruptions of clown collar, monk’s habit, and the classic image of the corporate high-flyer from the waist up and, when working from home, PJ pants covering the nether regions.  

Having worked in exactly this environment myself, the comedy was suitably cutting (and deeply satisfying), the characters were finely drawn and painfully recognisable.

Yes, it’s a musical and it’s designed to stretch the stylistic talents of the performers, and this is mostly successful. The songs, written and composed by Amy Mansfield in an expansive range of genres, tinker with topics as comprehensive as co-worker communications (‘Mansplain it to me’) and ‘uniformity and exclusion’ in the corporate world, in the public sector (‘CEO Song: Okay so I’m white’), and the precarious ‘gig economy’, a labour market that relies on temporary and part-time positions filled by independent contractors and freelancers rather than full-time permanent employees – in other words, a life of elasticity and individuality but one that has absolutely no job security.

The Q Theatre website further tells us that the show ‘draws on influences as diverse as comedy TV series Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times, Tricia Hersey’s Rest is Resistance and David Graeber’s Bullshit Jobs’ and that ‘H.R. The Musical will have you laughing with despair, and wondering – along with the rest of the world – when the revolution is coming, and then putting it on your to-do list.’ Just watch ‘Question Time’ in Pāremete Parliament on any given day and you’ll see a real-life version of H.R. The Musical playing out before your very eyes, a modern-day satire on a satire on a satire as worker’s rights are ruthlessly decimated by the Coalition of Chaos but without mitigating joy of music. Art imitating life – or is it the other way around.

The talents cast is made up of Artsense Productions regulars Amy Mansfield, Mika Austin, Zoe Triggs and Lizzie Buckton who sing, dance and play ‘various blowable and plucky instruments’ throughout. Occasionally the harmonies wobble as the actors settle into the songs but this balances out as the evening progresses and is never really an issue.

The concept is great and avoids the pitfall of being a one-line joke which ensures that the audience remains completely engaged throughout.

There’s the eternal question of ‘what do those emails really mean’, a section that was especially well developed and beautifully performed. Stage manager Simon Todd revels in his cameos and makes the most of his cue card schtick and the audience rolls in the aisles. Richard the Dick CEO ‘onboards’ the team – with vigorous audience participation – for Thursday’s ‘waiata’ practice, drinking the KoolAid of a team culture that is stripped completely bare of anything vaguely representing a culture of any sort at all. This is an additional very special rowdy treasure, and the audience responds accordingly.

There is the definite feeling in the house that this is an experience we all recognise, a shared experience that is strangely cathartic, alongside the HR speak, the Agile and Scrum Immersion Training – that trendy Six Sigma medium that enables teams to work together – before everything falls apart and any shortcomings get blamed on the consultant anyway.

H.R. The Musical is the ultimate in recognition theatre and the full house – regardless of age or background – laughed their cotton socks off, a sign that the season will undoubtably do well.

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