18/03/2017 - 29/04/2017
Local performers and TV star unite for hilarious theatrical extravaganza
“One of the funniest things I’ve seen on stage in years.” – Sydney Morning Herald
After multiple awards and sell-out performances across the ditch, Australian smash hit School Dance has its New Zealand premiere at Centrepoint Theatre from 18 March-29 April, with a brand new Kiwi cast.
It tells the story of three teenage boys – Matt, Luke and Jonathon. They’re going to a school dance. They’re on a mission. But they are losers. Fuelled by a diet of raging hormones and instant noodles, the trio sets off on a strange and fantastical journey to escape the school bully, impress the girl, and save the world!
Headlining the hilarious cast is Go Girls’ star Bronwyn Turei who makes her Centrepoint Theatre debut alongside Foxton-raised performer Kyle Chuen as Matt, award-winning actor Andrew Paterson (Best Supporting Actor, 2016 Wellington Theatre Awards) as Jonathon, and recent NASDA graduate Chris Symon as Luke.
“School Dance is the perfect mix of modern wit, kooky fantasy and delicious 80s nostalgia,” enthuses Turei. “It’s my first time working at the iconic Centrepoint Theatre and I’m so excited to be a part of the stellar team bringing this production to life. Break out the glitter, dust off those shoulder pads, and come for a night you’ll never forget!”
A group of local favourites make up the creative team including director Darlene Mohekey, who hails from the mighty Horowhenua and has a varied career as an entertainer, comedian and actress, award-winning designer Ian Harman,who last wowed audiences with his scenic design for Midsummer, and Feilding-based Talya Pilcher (Boys at the Beach, Golf: A Love Story)who takes charge of lighting.
Inspired by old-school cartoons and John Hughes films, School Dance is a deliciously dorky theatrical extravaganza for the freaks, the geeks, and anyone who’s ever felt different. Featuring BMX heroics, Smurfs and 80s anthems, it’s all about being brave, facing your own self-loathing, and coming out on top.
“It’s for the nerd in all of us – certainly me,” says director Mohekey. “I spent a lot of my youth not quite fitting in, escaping into a world of music and imagination. School Dance is an ode to the underdog; the smart, the brave, the downtrodden, and the awesome.”
A big 80s teen movie fan, playwright Matthew Whittet wrote School Dance toexplore the excitement, joy and terror of being a teenager.
“There’s always something so exciting about school dances,” Whittet says. “Whether it was being out at night and seeing your boring school hall transform into a balloon-filled, streamer-strewn dance pit, or the promise of maybe seeing the girl you had the most ginormous crush on, or even just being able to boogie to your favourite song in the whole world with all your friends there. They were always moments of the most enormous joy and the most pitiful desperation.”
Earlybird tickets for School Dance are on sale now, offering audiences up to 20% off standard ticket pricing when booking for a performance within the first week of the season.
Centrepoint Theatre, 280 Church Street, Palmerston North
Sat 18 Mar-Sat 29 Apr 2017
Wed 6.30pm, Thu-Sat 8pm, Sun 5pm
Bookings: 06 354 5740 or centrepoint.co.nz
Kyle Chuen, Andrew Paterson, Chris Symon, Bronwyn Turei
Playwright – Matthew Whittet
Director – Darlene Mohekey
Costume & Set Design – Ian Harman
Lighting Design – Talya Pilcher
Much ado about not all that much?
Review by Richard Mays 30th Mar 2017
Director Darlene Mohekey has described School Dance as not so much a play, but an experience. And certainly the performers, the set and effects go all out to provide one.
An Australian play, School Dance is a crash course in the fantasy motifs of the late 80s early 90s. There are Gremlins and Smurfs, Care Bears and My Lttle Pony, He-Man and Fraggles featured among the TV and toybox icons.
Its format suggests a mash-up between a kid’s magazine TV show typical of the period (think What Now!), and an over-wrought children’s play full of hyperventilated antics amidst the strangeness and terrors of a through-the–looking-glass world, albeit leavened with elements of Beavis and Butthead.
There’s also a disembodied mumsy all-knowing all-controlling narrator involved – well, at least until the characters can tell their own story.
Early teenage angst plays out as the show’s heroes leave childhood behind and symbolically come to terms not only with their hormones, but with the new realities of adolescence.
The uncertainties that come with the age-group are not without consequences concerning identity; a child could fade before the next stage of identity is ready to take its place. On the night of the school dance, Jonathon and Luke take it on themselves to rescue their mate Matt from permanent invisibility.
It’s a mission that means busting him out of an alternate dimension while facing down their worst fears.
This is accomplished with the help of Jonathan’s big sister Joanie who has already been through this stage. Bronwyn Turei handles this and the transitions between her other three female roles with aplomb, even if the confusing dream-scape element doesn’t make much sense. Any urgency comes from the idea that whatever is happening, it needs to be dealt with, now!
It’s to the credit of Turei, with Kyle Chuen as the earnest but geeky Matt, Chris Symon as the Wayne’s Worldy Luke, and Andrew Paterson as the enterprising and possibly gay Jonathon, that they manage to play through it all with straight (no pun intended) faces.
Each has a good handle on their juvenile character, and on the other incidental roles they play.
It couldn’t happen though without the Ian Harman designed set and costumes. Integral to the bizzo it adapts easily to whatever the wide ranging performance demands.
Diverting enough perhaps for a younger demographic, as a play, School Dance falls into a much-ado-about-not-all-that-much category. The after impression is not unlike that of waking from a frenetic dream, and wondering what on earth the experience had been all about.
Copyright © belongs to the reviewer
Review by John C Ross 20th Mar 2017
Whatever I expected in advance, it was not this. Said to have been an often-sell-out show in Australia, winning sundry awards, it mixes explorations of mid-teens social muddling-along with bizarre, very clever fantasy. Metaphor becomes on-stage alternative reality.
A school dance is (and was – this is a dance 1980s-style) supposed to get boys and girls mixing, but for mid-teens Matt, Luke and Jonathon, it’s mainly just another situation for hanging-out with each other. As the (female) voice-over tells us, these boys are at a stage when “they don’t know what to do with themselves,” and all three are “losers,” of one kind or another. After all, think about it, for a few to be winners, the rest of us have at be ‘losers’ at some stage of our lives. And that voice-over, like a bossy female teacher, recurrently tells them off.
Matt is shy, painfully self-conscious about being small for his age, inclined to withdraw. Luke is a trier, but still a bit of a dork, and a clown-arounder. Jonathon is more socially presentable, and he’s gay, for now at least (don’t underestimate the power of his formidable big sister Joanie).
As for the girls, you’ve got to feel sorry for Hannah, who’s obviously made a big effort to frock-up, buy glittery shoes, get her hair and make-up showy, just as, doubtless, she’d have thought she was supposed to do. Yet evidently she gets to dance mainly with herself, except for a belated and awkward dance with Matt, which does not end well.
But if she’s fairly low in the popularity pecking-order, Danika is nowhere. Faced with a social challenge that scares her, she hides away in the girls’ dunny, and she progressively disappears (with hands, legs, body, becoming black-clad) – social invisibility becoming “real” on-stage invisibility.
The same happens to Matt – except he finds that he and Danika can see one another, and he’s drawn into an alternative world she’s already familiar with, in which all manner of weird things happen.
Enough glimpses of story. Kyle Chuen as Matt, Chris Symon as Luke, and Andrew Paterson as Jonathon are all fine, but the real star performer is Bronwyn Turei, who trebles wonderfully as Hannah, Joanie and Danika (as well as being the voice for another girl who’s off-stage only). Nicky Van Der Bergh and Karl Stewart alternate as the wordless, feared and fearsome school bully Derek Sturgess.
Darlene Mohekey’s directing generally works well, yet in some places the show has yet to quite find its rhythms, in the mid-section especially. One wishes it to get a bit springier. The technical features, including Ian Harman’s set, all work impeccably well.
There is much that I find amusing which younger audience-members nearby find laugh-out-loud funny. A generational thing.
Copyright © belongs to the reviewer