Ladies For Hire

Centrepoint, Palmerston North

07/11/2009 - 19/12/2009

Production Details

These women have sung it all! Christenings, weddings, funerals, they’ve seen them all come and go – the good, the bad and the downright ugly. But then a new priest is introduced to the parish. He wants a new choir – he wants something to impress the Bishop… and these gals aren’t it.

Centrepoint Theatre is topping off a wonderful 2009 season with Manawatu’s favourite playwright, Shortland Street star Alison Quigan’s new play: Ladies For Hire.

Alison Quigan has written a number of best selling plays for Centrepoint Theatre and Ladies For Hire is proving to be no different, with many nights already sold out. Centrepoint Theatre’s Business Manager, Julie Barnes, has been with the theatre for 11 years and says, "I have never seen so many sold out nights before we have even opened. I urge people to pick up the phone straight away and make bookings to avoid disappointment."

This will be the 12th Alison has written / co-written for Centrepoint. A familiar and trusted playwright from the region, Alison Quigan is known for telling "our" stories. She’s back with a formidable cast that are sure to rock us through Christmas with this outrageous new comedy! There will be singing, dancing and most of all plenty of laughs.

Although Ladies For Hire does not see the return of Alison Quigan herself to the Centrepoint stage, the theatre is very excited to have Alison’s daughter Sarah Graham making her Centrepoint Theatre debut, and Alison’s husband Bruce Graham designing the set for the show. This will be the 67th set Bruce has designed for the theatre. 

Starring alongside Sarah Graham is Centrepoint’s Artistic Director, Kate Louise Elliott, David McKenzie who appeared on stage earlier in the year in Roger Hall’s Who Wants to be 100?; as well as Lyndee-Jane Rutherford, Jennifer Ludlam, Helen Moulder and Josh Harriman. 

Alison’s previous shows at Centrepoint include:

1994   Five Go Barmy in Palmy – Quigan / Ross Gumbley
1995   Biggles on Top – Quigan / Gumbley
1997   Boys at the Beach – Quigan / Gumbley
1998   Shop till you Drop – Quigan / Gumbley
1999   Newbury Hall Dances – Quigan / Gumbley
2000  The Big OE – Quigan / Gumbley
2001   Sisters – Quigan / Lucy Schmidt
2002  Netballers – Quigan / Schmidt
2003  The School Ball – Quigan
2004  Mum’s Choir – Quigan
2004  Girls Weekend Escape – Quigan
2009  Ladies For Hire – Quigan

Show Times:
Wednesday 6.30pm, Thursday – Saturday 8 pm, Sunday 5pm. Tickets are selling fast!
$35 Adults, $30 Senior Citizens, $20 Community Service Card Holders, $20 Senior Gold Card Holders, $12 Students, $20 under 30’s, Group discounts available for 10+.

Special Performances:
Te Manawa short preview – Thursday 5 November 12.30pm at the Te Manawa Art Gallery, entry free.
Preview Night – Friday 6 November 8pm. Tickets $20.
$12 Tuesday – Tuesday 10 November 6.30pm. Bookings open Monday 9 November 9am!

Phone 06 354 5740, online at, email , visit 280 Church Street.

Helen Moulder - Harriet
Jennifer Ludlam - Mary McIntyre

Kate Louise Elliott - Mary O'Donnell

Lyndee-Jane Rutherford - Marijke Johannson

Sarah Graham - Shelley

David McKenzie - Father Peter & Police Man

Josh Harriman - Father Paul & Trent


Production Team

Alison Quigan  - Playwright

Jeff Kingsford-Brown - Director

Bruce Graham  - Set Designer

Clinton Poole - Lighting Designer

Roger Buchanan - Musical Director

Sally Darby - Costume Stylist

Harvey Taylor - Set Builder

Ian Harman - Choreographer

Laurie Dean - Production Manager

John Lepper - Stage Manager

The ghost of Christmas present

Review by Richard Mays 11th Nov 2009

On the surface, Ladies For Hire is a characteristic Alison Quigan seasonal celebration. It’s almost as if she never left Centrepoint. The play has appealing characters entwined in an easily identifiable and understood situation, an obstacle to overcome with a feel-good resolution, some frivolity, a little froth, and a cherry on the top. As popular and as entertaining as this may have proved in the past, five years on Shortland Street have surely and inevitably had an influence.

In Quigan’s twelfth play for the theatre and the first since 2004’s watershed 30th anniversary season, there is harder social undercurrent. It’s a restless unkind world that intrudes via employment and health uncertainty, petty ambition, manipulation, dishonesty, bullying, and sociopathic (P-fuelled?) violence.

With their elder patron away on retreat, members of the happy-go-lucky ladies’ church choir at St Mary’s parish come up against the new order in Father Paul – young, ambitious and uncompromising.

They may be volunteers but he unceremoniously sacks them for their disrespectful attitude. However, the girls aren’t quite ready to be sacked. Shelley, a young hairdressing student from Waipukurau has only just joined, and they’ll really miss Marijke’s Dutch home baking.

Mary Mac, veteran chain-smoker and teacher, gets the singers some private gigs courtesy of a misleading poster – so there they are outside their comfort zones, performing at a stag do, singing gorillagrams in Woodville, and providing seasonal in-store entertainment.

But Mary O’s husband and partner in their wrecking company suffers a stroke; choirmaster Harriet is made redundant under stressful circumstances; Father Peter is accused of unspecified impropriety, while Marijke’s sullen and increasingly belligerent teenage son Trent is becoming more and more of a handful, and disturbed by the insinuating allegations against Father Peter, she drops away. The approaching Christmas is looking anything but merry.

The strands supporting this play are its believable characters and the relationships that bind them, even if a couple of the story’s climactic situations and contrivances test the boundaries of that belief. There’s a cleverly constructed encounter with a cop in the Manawatu Gorge, but a bit of a makeshift feel about the Carols in The Square scene, with its shocking and tragic act that doesn’t allow enough time to properly react or to fully register its much wider implications.

However, the play’s dialogue sparkles, laced with quick earthy and ironic wit, especially when delivered by Jennifer Ludlam’s wisecracking Mary Mac – "Marriage is like the Middle East: there is no solution!" And there’s the lovingly constructed character, poise and accent of Lyndee-Jane Rutherford’s Marijke to appreciate.

And through it all, they sing – from high choral to pop ditties and carols – in harmonious expressions of hope, friendship and love on the beautifully finished two-tier choir loft-crowned set by Bruce Graham and Harvey Taylor. 

Thought provoking as well as fun, Ladies For Hire is entertainment as in tune with the season as it is with the times.
For more production details, click on the title above. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News. 


Make a comment

Hits the spot

Review by John C Ross 09th Nov 2009

A bunch of people turning up to sing in a choir, voluntarily, whenever needed, week after week, year after year, is in itself quite impressive. There may well be the pleasures of the singing, of contributing to harmonies, and big choral sounds, of relatings, and the meanings tied up with being part of something larger than the sum of its individuals; even so, it is genuinely impressive. Much would similarly be true for sundry groups of musos.

The `Ladies for Hire’ complication comes about in this show when a small Catholic church’s small, all-female choir gets heaved out by a stroppy, ambitious, control-freak junior priest, while the senior priest is away on a retreat, and they have to find other ways of carrying on, preferably paid. An injudiciously-worded poster, with this heading, gets them into several tricky situations, as you might guess.

For years, Alison Quigan, usually with a collaborator (Ross Gumbley, Lucy Schmidt, or whoever), used to write and create Christmas season shows for Centrepoint, some of which went on to applauded productions in other theatres around the country. She’s now based elsewhere, and yet here’s another that certainly deserves to do well. (Incidentally, for this premiere, local production, many of the performances between now and Christmas are reputedly already heavily booked.)

It’s well-crafted, has plenty of strong and amusing lines (some of them laugh-out-loud), and adequately differentiated characters, each with their own lesser stories. It moves along effectively, with sufficient incident and interesting twists.

It’s great to see much of the old team working together again, with Kingsford-Brown directing, and Alison’s partner Bruce Graham designing the set, both very capably. And, curiously, the youngest choir-member Shelley is played by their daughter Sarah Graham, with plenty of vivacity and in good voice; clearly a promising trouper.

Even more of a Centrepoint veteran, David McKenzie plays the senior priest, Father Peter – benign, wise, yet absurdly impractical – who becomes, for a time, the target of a bevy of baseless-but-hard-to-disprove Doubt-type allegations promoted by his junior, Father Paul. McKenzie also doubles as a kind-hearted cop.

Josh Harriman, a newcomer, is suitably obnoxious as Father Paul, and as Trent, the increasingly toxic son of one of the choristers, but is allowed to make up for this at the end as another character again, Shelley’s amiable new boyfriend, and Father Christmas.

Still, much of the life of the show is in its singers and its singing, with Harriet the choir-mistress (Helen Moulder), Mary McIntyre (Jennifer Ludlam), Marijke Van Demon (Lyndee-Jane Rutherford) and Mary O’Donnell (Kate Louise Elliott), plus of course Shelley:  a cast who sing, act, and – where necessary – dance their socks off. It’s grand-quality singing, with plenty of variety, heart-warming and enjoyable. 

Bruce Graham’s versatile two-level set serves as a church with a choir-loft, or whatever else it needs to be, with effective reinforcement from Clinton Poole’s lighting.

Obviously, I reckon Ladies for Hire hits the spot for a Christmas-season show rather well. 
For more production details, click on the title above. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News. 


Make a comment

Wellingon City Council
Aotearoa Gaming Trust
Creative NZ
Auckland City Council