Ladies Night

Glenroy Auditorium, The Dunedin Centre, 1 Harrop Street, Dunedin

26/09/2023 - 26/09/2023

James Hay Theatre, Christchurch

30/09/2023 - 30/09/2023

Opera House, Wellington

06/10/2023 - 06/10/2023

Bruce Mason Centre, Auckland

19/10/2023 - 19/10/2023

Production Details

Writers Stephen Sinclair and Anthony McCarten
Director: Ross McKellar
Choreographer: Sonia Hems

Ben McDonald Presents

Barry, Gavin, Norman, Craig and Wes find themselves down on their luck outside the pub on Saturday night. What starts as a drunken joke, rapidly becomes a challenge they can’t back out of… an all-male strip show. Will they have the bravery, the bods and the balls to follow through?

Sep 25 Rangiora Town Hall
Sep 26 Dunedin Glenroy Auditorium
Sep 27 Invercargill Civic Theatre
Sep 28 Gore St James Theatre
Sep 29 Oamaru Opera House
Sep 30 Christchurch James Hay
Oct 3 Ashburton Event Centre
Oct 4 Nelson Theatre Royal
Oct 5 Blenheim ASB Theatre
Oct 6 Wellington Opera House
Oct 7 Kapiti Te Raukura
Oct 8 Napier Municipal Theatre
Oct 11 Tauranga Baycourt
Oct 12 Rotorua Sir Howard Morrison
Oct 13 Carterton Event Centre
Oct 14 Palm North Regent on Broadway
Oct 15 Wanganui RWOH
Oct 17 Kerikeri Turner Centre
Oct 18 Whangarei Forum North
Oct 19 Auckland Bruce Mason Centre
Oct 20 N Plymouth TSB Showplace
Oct 21 Manukau Due Drop Event Centre
Oct 22 Hamilton Clarence St Theatre
Times: various
Prices: From $49

Barry: Mike Edward
Bernie: Mark Wright
Craig: Jono Kenyon
Gavin: Andrew Ford
Norman: Reid McGowan
Wes: Andrew Cornish
Glenda: Julia Guthrey
Swing: David Ladderman

Set design and construction: Chris Reddington
Sound: Peter Van Gent
Lighting: Simeon Hoggan
Costumes: Chantelle Gerrard

Comedy , Theatre ,

Two hours 10 minutes

Deeply funny, fabulous choreography and music, skilled charismatic actors ...

Review by Emma Maguire 08th Oct 2023

Ladies Night is New Zealand’s most successful play. It’s been toured across the world and was also part of a contentious lawsuit (Google Ladies Night lawsuit if you want a rabbit hole to go down). It’s also currently touring across the entirety of New Zealand in a one-month rapid fire scramble from Invercargill to Whangārei. 

The premise is simple – you might have seen it in several other more recent forms of media which I shall not name: several down on their luck Kiwi blokes reckon they can do the male stripper thing much better than the professionals and embark on an odyssey of dance-learning, which leads to them spending the last forty minutes of the show performing their skills to an adoring public (us).

If you’re a woman of a ‘certain age’ this’ll likely be a show for you, at least judging by the crowd at Wellington’s Opera House on Friday night. This, however, is very specifically a play, not just a cabaret or a strip show. The distinction is important, especially when coming to the latter part of this review.

Bad boy Barry (Mike Edward) has just broken up with his wife and is really going through it. Wes (Andrew Cornish) has his rugby-loving persona to maintain, Gavin (Andrew Ford) a flair for dramatics and Norman (Reid McGowan) a need to get out of his shell. All four of them are wrangled into performing in this strip show by entrepreneur Craig (Jono Kenyon), via a drunken idea gone wrong – or right? Up to you.

Dance coach Glenda (Julie Guthrey) provides some needed backbone and teaching skill, while loutish Grahame (Mark Wright) dips in and out of the narrative, mostly just to call the men slurs (in so many words) and run away.

Every actor in this show is deeply talented, playing their roles with a lot of joy and a boatload of charisma. Even Norman, who is definitely the shyest of the bunch, manages to win over our hearts when he comes out dressed as a catboy, in cat ears, collar and tail (wonder if that particular costuming was in the script as written in the ’80s!). Their stage personas blossom as we wander into Act Two, with the majority of the act being the boys getting their strip on.

Gavin, who has been earmarked as not particularly heterosexual for the duration of the play returns in a wonderful glittering number as Eta Pavlova – a fabulous drag queen, who acts as MC for the rest of the night, fluttering about, flirting with the audience, causing havoc.

Craig opens the show, emerging to the Top Gun theme, in a pilot-themed act, followed by Norman; whose incredible strength is amazing to watch as he hangs off a pole, high above the stage, wearing angel wings – before stripping off his costume and descending to the stage floor as a devil.

Wes brings the heat, coming onto stage wearing a Hawaiian shirt, dazzling with his sick, angular moves and a chair dance with a lucky member of the audience; before being followed by the one that people have been baying for all night, Barry, who stuns with excellent bodily control and athleticism.

In the end, the lads bare all, stripping off completely, with their backs to the audience as they stride off stage, arses exposed.

It is a deeply funny play, matched with some fabulous choreography, music choices and implicit skill from the actors. Everyone here is at the top of their game, and the audience loves it, nearly unanimously rising up at the end of the show for a standing ovation.

However. It seems a bit reductive to rag on the writing of a play written in 1987, and especially one with this kind of content, but I do find it challenging that the most successful play in all of New Zealand’s history leaves so much unfinished. Hey, if you’re here solely for hot dudes stripping it off in spades, like most of the women there on Friday night seemed to be (judging by my deafened ears), you’ve got it!

But if your satisfaction requires something a little more cerebral, there is a sour end to this show – which is that, on a whole, the dudes don’t grow. Sure, they might learn to dance, but most of ’em have pretty suss thoughts on women, and even themselves, throughout the course of the play and very little of that is resolved with satisfaction.

It is challenging to market a play as having a critique on Kiwi masculinity when, in reality, 90 percent of the second act is just dudes getting their kit off with no further exploration into why they’ve suddenly agreed to do so. I understand that as someone who doesn’t find contextless abs all that appealing I am not necessarily in the ideal market for this show, but it’s worth mentioning for those planning to see it for the change in tones between both acts is stark and at points unpleasant.

Are you here predominantly for well-built guys with slick dance moves and actors that have deep wells of charisma? They’re there for you! If you need a slightly better resolution, maybe give it a miss. 


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Multi-talented performers deliver fun, friendship, sexy vibes and good times

Review by Julie McCloy 01st Oct 2023

Its 4pm on a Saturday and I am surrounded by a very large (and soon to be very vocal) local crowd at Christchurch’s James Hay Theatre. It’s a rather glam lot of women (mostly) of differing ages, sipping adult drinks and looking sophisticated for an afternoon at the theatre. That is all about to change.

They’re here with high expectations and energy to match to see New Zealand’s most commercially successful play ever, and one which has scored repeated international sell-out success – Ladies’ Night. Written by Stephen Sinclair and Anthony McCarten in the late 80s, this simple story of six down-on-their-luck Kiwi blokes taking on the world of male stripping has been responsible for many a dignified women morphing into raptures of whoops and applause, and many men (including local Christchurch lads from the gym I frequented in the 90s) deciding they too had what it takes to form a strip troupe.

At 35+ years-old, Ladies’ Night is back, it’s on tour, and it has lost none of its appeal.

I have seen Ladies’ Night twice before – back in the early 1990s when it was new, and more recently in 2021. This touring version, directed by Ross McKellar and choreographed by Sonia Hems, includes some well-known names and faces, Mike Edward and Mark Wright in particular. And it is still a bloody fun outing.

The premise is simple – a group of mates find themselves struggling to get work. They are unimpressed that the local lassies would pay good kiwi coin to see foreign blokes covered in fake tan get their gear off – surely there is a business opportunity here? So thinks entrepreneurial Craig (David Ladderman, in place of Jono Kenyon), but he has his work cut out convincing gruff bad boy Barry (Mike Edward), quiet guy Norman (Reid McGowan), conservative rugby-head Wes (Andrew Cornish), and ‘proper’ but convincible Gavin (Andrew Ford). Beer-loving sceptic Graham (Mark Wright, who also plays nightclub owner Bernie) taps out early, finding the prospect of baby oil and body wax just too much.

Despite their misgivings, some hilarious misfires as they bring their initial offerings to the ‘dance grass’ outside Barry’s house, and the complete lack of understanding of what women actually want, they book a gig. Under the careful eye and stern tutelage of dancer Glenda (Julia Guthrey) in dance, stripping and women, the reluctant Raging Rhinos are born.

The Rhinos are convinced – by Craig, not in themselves – that the regular women who have already chosen guys like them in real life would surely pay to see guys like them on stage and, like their audience in the play, we do. Their characters are certainly relatable because they are everyday blokes and remind us of the local lads we know and love. My friend and I were trying to work out whether the guys we knew where a Barry, a Craig or a Norman.

Along the way the story touches on what it (still) means to be a Kiwi bloke and the expectations and limitations we all put on ourselves. Will Barry, Craig, Norman, Gav and Wes dare to risk their names, bodies and the way others view them?

What if they fail?

But oh, what if they succeed!

Everyone who has ever faced a challenge to their own security or identity can relate to that. And speaking of courage, I am full of admiration not only for the fact that these actors put themselves on the line, as all performers do, in getting on stage for us in the first place, but for all the additional work they have put in physically and their willingness to be even more vulnerable – getting nearly naked on stage in front of a large, loud but supportive and interactive crowd of women!

Edward’s Barry and Ladderman’s Craig are the two characters who hold sway in various directions over the group, whilst Wright cranks the humour up in both his character guises, but each member of the small and tight-knit cast brings life to their character. They complement each other so well, creating a wonderful team effort that allows everyone to shine in differing ways.

Yes, there were funny, laugh-out-loud moments from each character as we explore manhood and friendship, but let’s not forget ‘the show’: the strip tease. The dance routines created by Hems and performed by these actors are incredibly vigorous, physical and Fun. It makes sense to learn that Reid McGowan (Norman) is a gymnast – wow – but the other men give him a run for his money with their moves. It is all pulled off slickly, sexily and creatively.

Ladies’ Night doesn’t ask you to think too deeply. It focusses on bringing together multi-talented performers, and promises fun, friendship, sexy vibes and good times; that is what its audience experiences for themselves. It is no wonder that this classic Kiwi play has resonated cross generations and the world. I don’t see one person leave the theatre without a smile on their face – and I think that is a pretty great gift to give an audience.

Oh, and Barry, #IamDenise!!

Ladies’ Night is currently on tour throughout New Zealand.


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High art or mere titillation? Slickly-produced, agreeably rambunctious show

Review by Terry MacTavish 28th Sep 2023

It’s a teaser all right – Strip Shows: high art or mere titillation? Ladies Night is a legitimate play, but the cacophony of squeals and giggles from the almost totally female audience seems to indicate they are hoping for the latter. Writer McCarten’s own cheeky judgement on Ladies Night, ‘a shocking, appalling piece of art but…a million-dollar idea’, has certainly been borne out by its extraordinary success. A group of ordinary Kiwi blokes, down on their luck, transform to strippers – The Raging Rhinos – to earn a buck, and in the process they somehow find themselves. We know the pattern.

This current nationwide tour has only just begun, but seems comfortably certain to enhance the reputation of the most commercially successful play New Zealand has ever produced. Director Ross McKellar has wisely kept the original 80s setting, which means we can smirk at the sweatbands, pay phones, and clunky cassette players, while sneering at the sexist and homophobic attitudes. If only we were far enough removed from those awful attitudes to laugh without discomfort. Sadly, they are still too common to be all that funny, even as the world shows its disgust with Spanish football chief Rubiales, promiscuous English entertainer Russell Brand, and Christchurch rapists the evil Jaz brothers. And the rest.

The capacity audience does not seem too concerned however, laughing heartily at some pretty dubious lines that have not dated well. My perceptive guest notes that the men of the 80s must now be the fathers rather than the husbands of today’s young women, and it is easier to accept dad jokes and prejudices from dads than partners. The patrons also shriek joyously, welcoming the advances of the actors whenever they invade the auditorium. A safe space, I guess, but it is a bit odd, embracing strangers and waiting eagerly for them to take their clothes off.

The Glenroy is really not a theatre, its stage little more than a raised platform with no wings, but the excellent travelling set, designed and built by Chris Reddington, more than compensates. We are treated first to the realistic exterior of a local pub, later to a lusciously red-curtained proscenium arch, with ingenious multi-use scaffolding. Lighting and sound are a crucial part of the atmosphere, especially for the fabulous nightclub performances to rocking 80s hits, and are competently handled by Simeon Hoggan and Peter Van Gent, and the costumes (by Chantelle Gerrard) are obviously, fantabulous! 

The actors are an extremely hard-working and highly disciplined bunch, required first to perform embarrassingly badly, then turn on brilliantly professional choreographed dance numbers for the big finale. At first I find the formulaic, larger-than-life characters less than convincing, the mic’d voices that would have suited the larger Regent Theatre detracting from their credibility, but as they settle into this new venue, the actors palpably relax. The stereotypes are fleshed out and real relationships emerge.

Mike Edward is the stand-out as Barry, whose relationship with his wife Denise has hit a very rocky patch indeed. Perhaps because he is given this back-story, he quickly wins the audience’s sympathy, even though he is portrayed as an inarticulate, insensitive ‘bad boy’. Edward strips, as they used to say of pugilists, ‘to remarkable advantage’ for any age, let alone nearly fifty, and his final solo performance is jaw-droppingly magnificent. As he struts to Pour Some Sugar on Me the audience drools, then raises the rafters.

The other Rhinos all make the most of their moments to shine. Andrew Ford is a cute Gavin, bravely performing a tangled Seven Veils number as (I presume) a Roman Emperor before to his relief being given a more appropriate role as compere. As sparkly sequinned Eta Pavlova he is hilarious, in fact rather too good for the 80s. RuPaul has taught us so much since then!

Experienced Mark Wright, who played Gavin in Centrepoint’s 2020 production, is confident and bombastic in an outrageous Afro-wig as obnoxious Bernie, the owner of nightclub Lipstick, ‘for chicks and dicks’. The audience enjoy him, but I think I prefer the versions I’ve seen in which Bernie is played as a woman, which mitigates the overtly sexist behaviour, as well as giving work to a female actor, and allowing for some more meaningful moments of conversation with dancer Glenda, while the men ponder what on earth women really want. 

Reid McGowan is sweet as the most malleable of the men, modest and shy with the ladies, but actually a bitchin’ dancer. Choreographer Sonia Hems has given him a beautiful poignant solo to Send Me an Angel – lovely aerial work with huge white feathered wings, before he falls from grace to become a ‘dirty little devil’. 

Andrew Cornish has a harder task to win the hearts of the audience as his character, sportsman Wes, is usually grumpy, and indeed aggressive when he finds he cannot be an anonymous stripper. We forgive him when he too gives of his best for the finale, though I am somewhat uneasy when he grabs a young woman from the front row to give her an onstage lap dance. 

I like the feisty energy of David Ladderman who, as Craig the group’s manager, succeeds in galvanising the audience as well as his reluctant mates. His performance is doubly striking, as Ladderman is actually the Swing, and must understudy the whole cast, quite a feat – though I believe he too was in the Centrepoint production.

It is a particular pleasure to find that the role of the exotic dancer (is that still a term we use?) who undertakes to train the lads is played by Julia Guthrey, recently so impressive in the Barden Party’s Much Ado. Once again, she demonstrates a useful ability to steer the onstage action, and she creates a character and motivation I find more credible than those of the men. “You’re shit”, she tells them crisply, “but I need work.”

The grand finale gives Guthrey as well as the Rhinos a chance to display her talent, and we are charmed by her Dirty Dancing duet with Edward. The promised strip-tease is clearly all the excited Glenroy patrons have dreamed of, the solos smoothly tailored to each man by choreographer Hems, and the final group number appropriately and exuberantly set to It’s Raining Men.

Director McKellar achieves a nice tongue-in-cheek burlesque quality for the captivating strip show itself. He clearly knows his material – indeed in 2014 I reviewed him in Lara Macgregor’s fine production, as Barry, making an unforgettable entry onto the Fortune stage, on a motorbike! Consequently, on the whole he has done a bodacious job of tidying it for such an extensive tour.

After the performance, still brooding over the sexual politics of the proceedings, I seek out the dark-haired maiden who was led onstage for the steamy number with Tropical Island Mystery Man. Turns out it is her birthday, and her very cool mother thought she was buying tickets for daughter Lulu and her friend to a Chippendales-style strip-show. She’d actually apologised to them when she realised it was a scripted play, but now, mum giggles, they have all three absolutely loved it, and having the birthday girl pulled onstage was ‘the icing on the cake’.

And no, a beaming Lulu assures me, the actor whispered what he’d do and asked permission, so she did not feel the least bit offended. “What a birthday!” she exclaims ecstatically.

I will thus stop trying to categorise Ladies Night and simply say the nationwide tour of this slickly-produced, agreeably rambunctious show with many nearly-naked men is going to make a lot of people very happy. In 80s jargon, rad, totally rad!!


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