Herald Theatre, Aotea Centre, The Edge, Auckland

16/05/2013 - 24/05/2013

Production Details

New Kiwi musical I WISH I LEARNED at the Herald Theatre, Aotea Centre in May, features Michael Murphy of NZ Idol fame but get in quick as it’s a limited season!

I WISH I LEARNED has been shortlisted for the New York Musical Theatre Festival 2013, a huge coup for a homegrown show from NZ. If successful the NZ cast will travel over to perform a season in an off Broadway Theatre, putting NZ and its talent in the international spotlight.

I WISH I LEARNED tells the story of four former classmates who meet as adults at their primary school reunion. Set in their old classroom the show progresses through life’s lessons using the Alphabet and the musical scale, as the characters explore the things they wish they’d learned about work and money, fear and faith, heartache and love.

The show is universally appealing and prompts the audience to ask the question “What do you wish you had learned in school?”

Book, music and lyrics are by Kiwi writer/composer Vicki Millar, who has a musical theatre Masters degree from the University of London and over a decade’s experience producing her original musicals in Australia. The cast features Michael Murphy, Shaan Antunovich, Alexandra McKellar and Nathaniel Ta’ase.

The show will run at The Herald Theatre, Aotea Centre, THE EDGE from Thursday 16 May til Fri 24 May.

You can view a trailer for  I WISH I LEARNED here.

Tickets are on sale at The Edge.

1 hr 30 MINS

Some things you can’t learn in school

Review by Matt Baker 20th May 2013

Composer, lyricist, and musical director Vicki Millar has a Masters Degree in Musical Theatre (specialising in Writing), so I am surprised that I Wish I Learned came across as such a primary level production. The story is devoid of plot and is instead driven by the characters, who, by themselves, are simply not interesting enough to carry a show.

Until a specific series of consequential events are kneaded into the script as opposed to characters switching their thought track to fulfil the sound track, and until the dialogue is (heavily) edited, the story, and consequentially the show itself, remains incomplete.

The show’s narrative is structured via the musical scale and the songs’ titles are not without their charm. [More]


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Lots of humour and heart

Review by Samantha Chardin 16th May 2013

I Wish I Learned is a charming original musical about four adults returning to their primary school classroom for a jubilee re-union and finding that the nostalgia is making them question some of their life choices. 

The main story centres on the characters of Daveena (Shaan Antunovich) and Cody (Michael Murphy) possibly giving their failed relationship another chance, whilst Abigail (Alexandra McKellar) and Bryce (Nathaniel Ta’ase) form a different sort of life couple by cheering each other on.

These four characters represent different personality types and they quickly discover that they have complementary qualities yet similar – universal – fears.

Creator Vicki Millar has penned a sweet story that examines human failings and frailty through lively, original pop tunes. Matthew Grice directs the young cast to frequently great effect, with the only stumbles due to the framing device for the musical numbers themselves and some technical issues. 

The framing device around the story of four very different people is also a means to showcase the musical scale. For example, when the characters are singing in the key of B Flat they sing a song called The Be Flat Blues. The show is particularly effective when the characters make full physical use of their classroom setting. And the songs are most memorable when the emotional resonance of the moment flows organically from the situation, rather than being thrust on the audience by the convention of using the notes of the musical scale to depict crisis moments in the characters’ lives.

More could be done with the musical scale idea. It’s somehow not clear how the musical scale ties into the frame of the school re-union as this is a primary school and not a music classroom. The only tenuous link we have to music is that Cody and Daveena were both music students at university and still work in related fields, but this leaves Bryce and Abigail outside of the framing device. This is a pity as the writing is good at making the audience care about all four characters equally.

The cast is terrific navigating the music, choreography and occasionally quick-turn mouthfuls of lyrics and sudden emotional shifts. McKellar’s outstanding projection and enunciation is showcased in the opening solo Awareness, also one of the funniest songs of the show. It is a pity then that the electronic piano is so loud, while the cast is not amplified, as some of their very fine solo work is drowned out by the music. The vocal strain is particularly apparent for the male singers who struggle to make lower notes heard over the piano. The Be Flat Blues is a sad and funny song, but in a lower key it is nearly impossible to hear the two male voices singing above the amplified piano. 

McKellar is also the cast member with the best natural physicality in her role, despite playing a pregnant character. The others have physical tics – perpetual actors’ problem of what to do with your hands! – that disappear when they are choreographed in a specific way. Fortunately, director Grice gives them plenty to do and they’re up to the task.

There is lots of humour and heart in this show and the four actors sing with heaps of energy. There is a youthful quality to the music yet on occasion the story references seemed strangely anachronistic. They’re thirty years old, yet talk about working in an office in the song Freedom and how they find the noise from the fax machines irritating. Perhaps some of the songs were written a while ago and need refreshing for a more contemporary feel.

Be forewarned that this is a pleasurable and brisk ninety-minute show but there is no interval. One of the characters is meant to be heavily pregnant and this audience member does find the idea of a pregnant woman going that long without a pee break a bit too much for credulity. The audience may not be singing and dancing, but they need a break, too.


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