Raye Freedman Arts Centre, Gillies Avenue (Cnr Silver Road) Epsom, Auckland

11/05/2013 - 11/05/2013

Production Details

How did a butcher’s daughter from Cornwall get to be one of New Zealand’s much-loved divas…? Want to find out…? Then grab the phone or boot up the computer and get a ticket to the national tour of Operatunity’s Evening Concert, Hell on Wheels …! 

Singer and actress, Helen Medlyn – with her long-time collaborator, Penny Dodd on piano – regales us with the tale of how she got into the crazy game called show business. She shares all the fun, the failures, the fumbles, the frivolity from her years of treading the boards. 

Busting with story and song, Hell on Wheels mixes opera, jazz, musical theatre and comic ditty in that delightful cocktail for which these two cabaret artistes have become well-known. Not only is it a story of Helen’s stage life from go to whoa, it’s nigh on a “best of”… full of those songs that we love to hear these women deliver time and time again, because no-one does them quite like them.

The songs run the gamut…from Richard Wagner to Roger Hall… and everyone inbetween…! Ross and Rossini; Mahler and Marriott; Loewe and Lehrer; Hart and Hammerstein II; Grieg and Gilbert; Rückert and Rice. A bag of licorice allsorts…just like Helen…!

A self-described “Jill Of All Trades”, Helen has been – at one time or another – a jazz chanteuse, a dancer, an actress, a musical theatre performer, a narrator, a classical concert singer, a voice-over artiste, an opera diva and a cabaret entertainer…and, sometimes, all in the same performance! With her innate sense of fun, her musicality and her love of language, she’s been acclaimed both here and overseas for stamping her own style on all that she does! Whether she’s standing serenely, statue-like, on the concert platform singing the major classical repertoire with a symphony orchestra or she’s slithering, bosoms akimbo, over a grand piano and steaming up a few spectacles with a torch song or two, Helen loves to be up there.

Penny Dodd is another artist with many strings to her bow. Having cut her musical teeth as musical director and pianist for many leading shows on London’s West End, she returned to New Zealand to find herself in constant demand as an orchestral arranger, conductor, vocal coach and accompanist, as well as being sought after as the music director and conductor for many top national and international entertainers. She is now known and respected as one of New Zealand’s leading music directors working in all fields of the performing arts – theatre, opera, radio, television, cabaret and concert. Not only will Penny’s accompanying skills be on show in “Hell on Wheels”, we hear she’s going to sing too…!

Tour Director John Cameron says “We are absolutely delighted to present such a talented, warm, vibrant singer on this nationwide tour; an artist of international calibre and charm who I know audiences will simply fall in love with.” 

The Evening Concert Series is presented by Operatunity, a company which presents over two hundred and fifty concerts each year in twenty-four venues throughout New Zealand. From its humble beginnings, eleven years ago, Operatunity Entertainment Ltd has gained an enviable position in the calendar of tens of thousands of concert-goers throughout New Zealand who enjoy the experience that Operatunity offers – professional quality shows with light-hearted fun and laughter mixed in. Operatunity has become the largest employer of professional singers and artists of its type in New Zealand.

The concerts presented in the Evening Concert Series are an eclectic mixture of shows ranging, this year, from Rock & Roll to Cabaret to An Evening at the Opera.

Opening performance:
Cnr Gillies Ave & Silver Rd Epsom, Auckland, 7.30pm

Concerts commence at 7.30pm and tickets are $45 with concessions available & discounts for group bookings. 

Please contact us for any enquiries, bookings, or to request a free brochure:
P: 0508 266 237 (toll-free)
E: concertsadmin@operatunity.co.nz

(No booking or postage fees apply)

The Evening Concert Series tour will be visiting 17 venues across NZ in April and May – View dates and locations here.

Act 1

Ride of the Valkyries
(by Wilhelm Richard Wagner)

With Cat-like Tread
(by Sir William Schwenk Gilbert/Sir Arthur Seymour Sullivan)

The Lion and Albert
(by Marriott Edgar)

One Day In A Merry Mood
(by Hans Christian Andersen/Edvard Hagerup Grieg/Winifred Palmer/Cedric King Palmer)

Honey Bun
(by Richard Rodgers/Oscar Hammerstein II)

Liber Scriptus
(by Giuseppe Fortunino Francesco Verdi)

Moonshine Lullaby
(by Irving Berlin)

Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen
(by Friedrich Rückert/ Gustav Mahler)

Cockeyed Optimist
(by Richard Rodgers/Oscar Hammerstein II)

My Funny Valentine
(by Richard Rodgers/Lorenz Hart)

Buenos Aires
(by Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber, Baron of Sydmonton/ Sir Timothy Miles Bindon Rice)

(by Annie Ross/Wardell Gray)


Act 2

Mon Coeur
(by Charles-Camille Saint-Saëns/Ferdinand Lemaire)

I don’t know how to love him
(by Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber, Baron of Sydmonton/ Sir Timothy Miles Bindon Rice)

Irish Ballad
(by Thomas Andrew Lehrer)

Hey, Big Spender
(by Cy Coleman/Dorothy Fields)

Una voce poco fa
(by Gioachino Antonio Rossini/Cesare Sterbini)

Dieci mille anni
(by Giacomo Antonio Domenico Michele Secondo Maria Puccini/Giuseppe Adami/Renato Simoni)

Show Me
(by Alan Jay Lerner/Frederick Loewe)

Bella figlia
(by Giuseppe Fortunino Francesco Verdi/Francesco Maria Piave)

Prima Donna
(by Roger Hall/John Drummond)

Fresh, slick, well timed and endearing

Review by Patrick Kelly 13th May 2013

A standing ovation for the Kiwi Queen of Cabaret marked the completion of a night of theatrical genius. 

Helen Medlyn has proved to be one of New Zealand’s most diverse performers, cajoling, sauntering, self-effacingly and cheekily combining anecdote with song.  Medlyn has the audience in the palm of her hand from the tremendous outset of Hell on Wheels

The genius of the performance is laid out in the design of the evening’s program, balancing opera, musical theatre and jazz repertoire with Medlyn’s exquisite execution of comedic and dramatic timing. The program moves smoothly between musical styles under the emotive, cleverly timed underscoring and assured accompaniment of Penny Dodd. 

In the first half, Medlyn’s sublime voice and character warms the audience throughout. Her generous spirit quickly welcomes the audience into her very intimate journey through her career.

Dramatically opening the show with ‘Ride of the Valkaries’ and then seamlessly transitioning from Wagner to Gilbert and Sullivan’s ‘With Cat like Tread’ is the ideal introduction to the juxtaposition-filled evening of storytelling that invites the audience on the journey through Helen Medlyn’s career and life story; from 8 year old pirate to opera diva. 

Medlyn’s heart is laid bare and open to the audience with her intimate and open approach to performance.

The first half highlights include ‘Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen’ by Friedrich Rückert/ Gustav Mahler; ‘My Funny Valentine’, plays as a heartfelt appeal to a not forgotten lover, which truly takes the audience in hand and leads us on a journey of trust. With Andrew Lloyd Webber’s ‘Buenos Aires’, she breathes a passion into the work that holds the audience across the interval.  

Act Two opens with an inspiring and remarkable performance of ‘I Don’t Know How To Love Him,’ in one the best performances of this piece I’ve heard, whilst Medlyn’s anecdote offers young performers insight into the nature of gifting their own voice into songs. Singing a song not for imitation but interpretation is certainly appreciated by one younger audience member who comments of the evening, “She was utterly inspiring!” 

The evening’s dramatic highlight is undoubtedly ‘Una voce poco fa’ (from Rossini’s The Barber of Seville). It is sublime, showing amazing control and power; an economical but utterly expressive performance and a great showcase of the diva’s technical mastery. Medlyn cheekily juxtaposes this with Tom Lehrer’s classic ‘Irish ballad’ which is a treat.

Hell on Wheels is a remarkable show from two remarkable performers. Coming to the end of a national tour (they play Dunedin tonight and Christchurch on Wednesday), the show is fresh, slick, well timed and endearing; and has the quality of a family reunion of sorts, with Raymond Hawthorne and Janice Webb (in attendance) honoured during this Auckland performance. A touching moment is the standing ovation that completes the evening after the beautifully crafted encore of ‘Send in the Clowns’. 

Apart from one distracting flickering light throughout, Operatunity Entertainment provided an incredible evening of entertainment. 


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