SPEAKEASY - a 1920s Musical Revue

Courtenay Creative, 49 Courtenay Place, Wellington

26/05/2022 - 27/05/2022

Production Details

Direction by Letitia Garrett
Musical Direction by Shawn Condon
Featuring Choreography from Corey Moir, India Loveday, Katty Lau, Melanie Heaphy, and Stacey Neale

This May, The Wellington Footlights Society will take you back to the Roaring Twenties with Speakeasy – a 1920s Musical Revue. With sultry singers, delectable drinks, and a historic venue practically dripping with decadence, this event promises to be an extravagant experience.

Guests of Speakeasy are invited to enjoy this immersive 1920s experience in their best black tie and Gatsby-inspired finery, surrounded by flappers, bootleggers; and jazz. An era-inspired refreshment menu has been developed specifically for this event in association with Fling Cocktails.

For the most lavish of guests, there are a select number of VIP Tables available each evening. Positioned for the best view of our performers, each VIP table includes four tickets, four cocktails from our 1920s menu, four chocolate treats from Makana Confections, and a grazing board from the Library Bar. Hungry for more? Delicious delicacies will be available for purchase throughout the evening from Chow on Tory.

Non-alcoholic drinks will also be made available, and guests under the age of 18 are welcome with the supervision of a parent or guardian. Exquisite jazz musicians, spectacular singing, and tipsy temptation await…

Courtenay Creative, 49 Courtenay Place, Wellington
26 – 27 May 2022
Book now at ticketbooth.co.nz 

Musical , Theatre ,

Passion, comradery and harmonic blend shining for all to see

Review by Jo Hodgson 29th May 2022

“Do you know the Password?”
“…. ummm…no?”
Thankfully someone in the know saves me and leads me around to the side alley entrance into the sumptuous atrium of Courtney Creative, the refurbished 1920s old National Bank building

In true Wellington Footlights style, the dedicated attention to the theme is fun, from the Speakeasy tradition – you know where the club entrance is if you are ‘in the know’, to the cast and crew kitted out in period costumes, to warnings of police raids and the cover up diversion Knitting Club Tea get together, right down to delicious Espresso Martini’s to settle into an evening of decadent and delightful cabaret.

From sassy song and dance to ‘ol’ blue eyes’ crooning, intoxicating torch songs, delicious harmonising and contemporary stylised twists, we are treated to an evening which showcases the vocal and dance strengths of this company, all accompanied by a fabulous big band, led by Shawn Condon, with many of the excellent arrangements by Cameron Stewart.

Kirsty Huszka opens the show with a high energy performance of ‘All that Jazz’ (Chicago). Her vocals and dance are on point, and she never lets the focus drop; we are all in the palm of her hand. The choreography (Melanie Heaphy) is carried with artistry from the group of supporting dancers.

This sets a high bar which the Wellington Footlights cast rises to many times over. The level of performance in this group continues to grow with every show I see and the great advantage of a programme like this is, it can be tailored to highlight the individual as well as share the limelight between the members in full group numbers, duos and trios.

Covid has thrown curve-balls into many theatre companies’ plans over the last couple of years and tonight is no exception with this production already having been delayed by a couple of weeks, but also resulting in director Letitia Garrett, and choreographer Katty Lau (one of the five for this show) stepping in tonight along with several other performer shuffles to cover those still in iso. Again this proves the benefits of such a versatile group and adds weight to the through line of Stanford Reynold’s MC role, wanting to find his own spotlight moment throughout. (Given the sold-out season will be complete by the time this review is posted, I can add that the ‘gotta get a gimmick’ Cowbell duo, from Tea for Two, is an absolutely priceless moment and worth the tenuous gags to get there.)

While there is some physical placement of performers through and around the audience, it is hard to know if this is more stage show or club experience. The atmospheric lighting by Abigail Helsby creates beautiful hues of colour, however the main chandeliers in the space give too much light to make this lighting work to its best effect and as an audience member, I feel too visible!

The accompanying band is skilfully stylistic with the wonderful array of horns and bass line beat, and is as much part of the whole picture. I can see the MD, Shawn Condon, at times beaming in appreciation at the work being done on stage, but with the rest of the instrumentalists hidden away, it’s a shame they are unable to enhance the communication inside each song to enable the support of the singers – who at times are left isolated in a featured instrumental section, not being able to melt into the band till their next moment – and the audience not getting the pleasure to witness who these fabulous players are.  This also creates a balance issue for those closest to the full band sound.

While the entire night is entertaining and delivered with gusto, there are several performances that steal specific momentsaa; the opening number, as mentioned; Cassandra Tse’s powerful ‘At Last’; Emily Brown’s Post Modern Jukebox styled ‘Toxic’ (Britney Spears); the Andrew Sisters-esque close harmony by Renée Bryton, Ellie Stewart and Kirsty Huszka in Beyonce’s ‘Crazy in Love’; Cherry Poppin’ Daddies ‘Zoot Suit Riot’sung by Stacey O’Brien with exceptional swing dancing from siblings (isn’t that cool!) Corey Moir and Kirsty Huszka; and an understated sweet version of ‘Embraceable You’by Fynn Bodley-Davies, who could have time travelled from the 1920s especially for the occasion.

The icing on the cake – or the olive in the Martini – is the women’s ensemble giving a stunning acapella rendition of ‘Feeling Good’and the final ensemble arrangement of ‘Summertime’, led by Renée Bryton, is a magical way to finish. This is where Wellington Footlights really excel themselves, the evidence of their passion, comradery and harmonic blend shining for all to see.


Make a comment

Wellingon City Council
Aotearoa Gaming Trust
Creative NZ
Auckland City Council