BATS Theatre, The Stage, 1 Kent Tce, Wellington

06/12/2022 - 10/12/2022

Production Details

Presented by The Pāua Ballads

You’ve heard of “Jingle Bells”
You’ve heard of “White Christmas”
But have you heard of “Santa Slay-by”?

Watch out New World, you’re getting a new playlist!

The Pāua Ballads embark on a musical adventure in an exclusive 4 night Christmas season of Jingle Elves: The Muscial. The North Pole’s inhabitants bring you the magic of song, a splash of inter-elf drama, and maybe even something to stuff your stocking. 😊

All completely improvised, this show will be the Christmas gift you never saw coming!

“The Pāua Ballads look after their audience and really engage them to create a full experience… If you’d like to be uplifted in these weird times, catch these creative joyful players.” – Abby Rainbow (Art Murmurs)

The Pāua Ballads is a 7 person collection of Pōneke’s most talented musical improvisers. The troupe debuted their sold out hit The Musical: The Musical at NZ Improv Fest 2020 (a ridiculous show within a show, nominated for Most Joyous Moment), which was remounted successfully in NZ Fringe 2021. The Pāua Ballads can’t wait to return to BATS this December with a brand new, improvised Christmas musical, Jingle Elves: The Musical! – prepare for joy, hilarity and possibly a few late night innuendos.

BATS Theatre, The Stage
Tuesday 6 – Saturday 7 December 2022 
$22 – $40


Bethany Miller
Megan Connolly
Wiremu Tuhiwai
Austin Harrison
Malcolm Morrison
Matt Hutton

Isaac Thomas - Music
Scott Maxim - Lights

Improv , Musical , Theatre ,

1 hr

Feelings, relationships and connection to the fore

Review by Cordy Black 07th Dec 2022

What should a late night, Christmas-themed show be? Should it be naughty? Should it be nice? Jingle Elves: The Musical is an improv show presented by a troupe that focuses on joy, interaction and warm fuzzies in their other work. Jingle Elves bills itself as an irreverent show, complete with a little R13 content disclaimer at the door, but it doesn’t quite deliver on its promise of naughtiness.

Our performers are a close and trusting unit. Those bonds are essential because the cast must unpack a show format that, like a too-small Christmas stocking, is overstuffed with input. Each of the performing elves, in character, solicits suggestions from the audience before the show. The format then adds the baggage of a North Pole setting, dense set-dressing complete with a Tannenbaum, gift boxes and some nifty festive gobo lighting.

Adding to this awkward gift pile is an intrusive, randomly timed ‘present drop’ which acts as yet another plot suggestion. All the characters are also forced to sing about their individual desires – a great way to incorporate song quickly into the mix, but a trick that gets repetitive and that means someone’s plot thread will almost certainly get neglected later. These players are entirely capable of weaving more from less.

All the technical improv skills are there to keep the show rolling, however. Our players’ willingness to ride out a chaotic scene or lean right into a ridiculous monologue have the audience in absolute stitches at times. Megan Connolly is an emotionally raw goblin of a character among all the sweet elves; a great counterpoint to the cutesy holiday vibe. Bethany Miller and Wiremu Tuhiwai do excellent mime work, and Malcolm Morrison’s ecstatic ice dance scene is a delight to watch.

All the singers’ bravery is commendable. Nobody hesitates to jump in with a musical idea whenever the emotional landscape suggests that it’s time for a song. Musician Isaac Thomas, who also book-ends the show with mellifluous narration, is a great listener. He manages to pull together scattered chorus lines across the BATS Stage’s challenging sight-lines, encouraging group numbers to eventually find their harmonic feet.

The heart of any music-centred show is feelings and relationships. Pāua Ballads have this priority absolutely spot on. Each one of the improvised dialogues is about connection, each scene progresses or deepens a relationship and human – or elven? – behaviour is always the main theme. The best moments have nothing to do with Christmas. Instead they speak to relatable emotions, like a parent’s concern for their child, the pain of being excluded from fun occasions or the struggle to make and keep friends.

This was an opening night, and knowing the adaptability and trust among this cast, they will almost certainly come together, trim the unnecessary wrapping and tinsel from the show’s format and together, find the true meaning of Christmas musicals.


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