Hamilton Gardens Lakeside Stage, Hamilton

23/02/2015 - 26/02/2015

Clarence Street Theatre, Hamilton

19/08/2016 - 27/08/2016

Hamilton Gardens Arts Festival 2015

Production Details

All aboard for the next leg of the State Highway 48 journey 

After a highly successful launch season in 2014, State Highway 48, a locally written and produced rock opera, is in preparation to be performed at the Hamilton Gardens Arts Festival.  

Writer, Chris Williams along with Director, Nick Wilkinson and Musical Director, Trevor Faville have again joined forces to deliver the developed version of the show which was very well received last year. 

State Highway 48 is a musical based on the journey of middle age. Through its 26 songs it follows a middle aged couple, their kids, friends and colleagues as they do battle with the roller coaster ride of middle age. Marriage breakdown, job loss, depression and communication are just some of the themes. There’s lots of laughter and a few tears as Dave and Sharon, the central characters, come to realise what’s important in life.  

“The launch in July went better than I ever imagined,” says Williams. “It’s fair to say I nearly threw up on opening night, I was so nervous. But we got through it and the feedback was amazing. Along with this we had a couple of very encouraging reviews plus some excellent feedback which we’ve been working on.”  

Williams says the newly developed show includes the same overall storyline plus three new scenes along with some linking scenes to help clarify the story. “Even during rehearsals I thought we needed to add some pieces to the puzzle and this was confirmed in the feedback, so it was back to the writer’s torture chamber to craft the new songs. I’m really happy with what’s been developed – the new songs add a lot to the overall show.” 

Director Nick Wilkinson is also really excited about being back on State Highway 48. “I loved bringing it to life last year, it was a great challenge. It’s also been great to reflect on it all and work out ways to make it even better, so I’m really looking forward to staging the next version,” says Wilkinson. “It’s also fantastic to be working with members of the original cast. And with the addition of some new company members there’s a real energy in the delivery.” 

What’s next after the festival season? “We’re presenting at PANNZ (performing artists network of New Zealand) in March and hoping to get booked at other theatres around New Zealand. We will then plan a national tour around that. We’re also producing an album of the whole soundtrack which will be ready by mid-year. In 18 months – 2 years, we’ll be ready to look overseas. The journey is never going to end!” 

Hamilton Gardens Arts Festival 
Lakeside Stage, Hamilton Gardens
23 – 26 February 2015, 7.30pm 



Television personality Shane Cortese and one of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s favourite performers, Delia Hannah, will play the lead roles in the critically acclaimed homegrown production.

STATE HIGHWAY 48 is a New Zealand original work, tracking the life and times of an everyday family and their friends as they navigate the treacherous road of middle age. Changes in the family, workplace, and friendship are set against the backdrop of the recession and brought to life by 26 original songs.

Shane – known for his roles in Nothing Trivial, Outrageous Fortune and The Almighty Johnsons – plays Dave the dad, a character who takes everyone on a journey through his good and bad days, having been bitten by the black dog of depression.

New Zealand’s first lady of musical theatre, Delia, will play Dave’s wife Sharon – a suburban housewife: fragile, lost, loving, disenfranchised. Beautiful.

“Delia is amazing,” says producer and writer Chris Williams. “She was cast by Andrew Lloyd Webber for the UK tour of Aspects of Love, and has toured Australia and Asia extensively, starring in all the big shows including Mamma Mia!, Cats, Chess, Blood Brothers and Disney’s production of Mary Poppins.

This unique, touching and universally relevant rock opera is raw and real, has lots of laughs and a few tears. 

“It’s funny, dramatic, emotional and entertaining. A reminder about the important things in life; the dangers of not facing up to depression and a celebration of the everyday.”

STATE HIGHWAY 48 will have nine performances from August 19; then in October will tour the central North Island. “We want to start the tour in the provinces before taking on the big centres,” says Williams. “In 2017 we will be in Auckland, Wellington and the South Island.”

“The show is a 21st century story that tracks the life and times of an everyday family and their friends as they navigate the treacherous road of middle age. Changes in the family, workplace, and friendship are set against the backdrop of the recession with the black dog of depression taking the driver’s seat in Dave, the lead male’s life, taking everyone on a journey. It’s funny, dramatic, emotional and entertaining. A reminder about the important things in life; the dangers of not facing up to depression and a celebration of the everyday. “

2016 Season details: 

August 19-27, Clarence St Theatre
Show starts 7:30pm/ 2:00pm

October 5, Municipal Theatre

October 8, Royal Opera House

October 12 & 13, The Civic

October 14, Great Lake Centre

October 21 & 22, The Plaza

October 27 – 29, Baycourt

Theatre , Musical ,

A cracker

Review by Russell Armitage 23rd Aug 2016

This is a musical that has everything – catchy music, interesting characters you can relate to, a story many in the audience would have experienced and, to cap it all, terrific lyrics. In other words, a lot more than many musicals.

Last night, the resurfaced State Highway 48 burst on to the Hamilton stage once again with even greater vitality, heart, soul and infectious music as a totally satisfying and engrossing work of music theatre to a packed and boisterously enthusiastic audience. Chris Williams has crafted a rock musical (popular, I think, is more apt) that is dynamic, daring and different. It is full of emotion and pathos, but less humour than the earlier version, with the black dog of depression, finely sung by James Foster, given a far more prominent place. The fine lyrics had excellent audibility, and time and time again lines struck a chord in us. 

Having Shane Cortese and Delia Hannah in the two lead roles was a masterstroke. Not because their names raised the profile, but they were perfect in their parts and so convincing. [More


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Impressive, entertaining, witty

Review by Mark Houlahan 20th Aug 2016

I am excited to see this show, having missed its first two outings. A home grown, made-in-Hamilton musical? How would that work for audiences that flock in reliable numbers to over-wrought versions of imported music theatre, such as Superstar and Les Mis? Could you make an ordinary Kiwi life into musical entertainment?

The production will travel through the provinces later this year, before staging in Auckland and Wellington next year, so many will get to assess the merits of Chris Williams’ effort. He composed the music and wrote the lyrics for the show. I gather the earlier versions had a lot more spoken dialogue: this has been pared back to a minimum here, so the evening is a true piece of music theatre, with the music and lyrics carrying the story along. The show bills itself as rock opera, but I think ‘music theatre’ would be a better label.

Dave, the hero/everyman of the show, is having his 40-something crisis. He runs a team in a faceless corporation. Every morning his family works through the same routines. He copes in ways that are familiar to all of us, though not really to be recommended. Stay late with the crew, wine for the girls, beer for the boys. Arrive home numbed. Repeat. Dave loses his job, leaves his marriage. To tell you more would ruin the story and you need to follow through to the end of the second half to know what will happen to Dave in the end. 

The show now has a fully professional cast. Shane Cortese as Dave is excellent. He sings up a storm and when the moodier numbers require he eases up into a truly affecting high register. He is blessed that while being handsome and charismatic on stage he can seem convincingly ordinary. His relaxed yet highly focused approach is a standout in this performance.

He is well matched by Delia Hannah as his wife Sharon. She also has a powerful voice and her skill at working a song is impressive. Together they make a believable couple, trying to make sense of the crowded, confusing middle aged period of our lives. 

These two are ably supported by a small ensemble who play workmates and besties. The production is designed to travel so everyone – clearly well-drilled by director Nick Wilkinson – turns capably to swift changes of modular furniture, ensuring the show moves at a decent pace. The cast as a whole shine in numbers in the second half which alternates ‘girls’ and ‘boys’ nights out. As usual in slices of NZ life, a powerful amount of liquor is drunk. No regulation 150 ml. pours for this crew. 

Chris Williams has determinedly constructed a show around the ordinary facts of our lives: mid-life boredom, corporate restructure, the fading of love. In musical terms the set-up is as recognisable as a decent Roger Hall play (such as Middle-Aged Spread). He has added one magical element: a character called black dog, who wears a long black coat and in silhouette has a dog’s head. He represents the dark side of Dave’s life, the melancholy and depression to which Dave is prey.

James Foster plays Black Dog capably but I felt more could be done with the idea. Perhaps a duet with Dave really exploring the dark side of Dave’s issues? In the current staging there is a risk that Black Dog will seem just like the mate you have a friendly beer with rather than the inner torment of the soul. 

The show is entertaining and the lyrics are often witty. I think the story needs further development, and we need to be made to care more for the journey Dave and Sharon go through, but you will be entertained throughout. 


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Beautifully real and moving – until the end

Review by Jan-Maree Franicevic 24th Feb 2015

There is a decent crowd bustling in wait to take their seats at the Lakeside Stage performance of State Highway 48. The hubbub of the crowd is pleasant and after the rain of the day there is certainly some relief in the air that the weather has held out for this evening.  

This is the second staging of SH48, having premiered at Hamilton’s Meteor Theatre in July 2014. I was one of the many who were just too busy to get to see it. The writer and composer Chris Williams states that there has been a bit of deft reworking since the July showing, being very honest in his notes about the origins of the work, and he bids us to enjoy the ride. 

So, our attention is drawn to the action on this ravishing evening in front of the water. Frances, my faithful theatre companion expresses the hope that no one should fall in during the performance, such is the close proximity!

As described in the programme notes, in Act One we look upon a busy family with all of the ‘first world problems’ most of us face: mum has lost her keys, dad looks more like his own father every day, the kids fight over computer time. Dad is married to his job and mum is getting a little frustrated… Dad loses his job and starts a real battle with the kind of depression many a middle-aged professional man has faced in my experience. 

There are tears and laughter and as the first half ends both of us have to admit to the powerful nature of the piece. As I wipe my eyes I reflect that this show is so real and uncontrived, it’s got me right in my soft old heart, because my soft old heart has been there, you know? 

Director Nick Wilkinson has done one hell of a job in bringing the most power to the smallest of gestures: a busy family in slow-motion; the almost-Victorian dance of the office crew as they go about their daily routine; the dropping of a pen and its laboured retrieval – pure magic. Wilkinson is a sensational director; previously I have remarked on his ability to work innovatively within the demands of a script and once again he has delivered. There is movement, moment; there is emotion: bravo! 

I am fairly bursting as the second act begins. After the intensely sincere truth of Act One I feel sure there is more to come, and I have no real idea where this is going to go. 

What unfolds is… hard to describe. I want this to be the big finish to the big beginning… In ways, it is. Sadly not big in enough ways. There are some beautifully real moments: the kids worry about who will make their lunch, the wife worries that it’s about time she went back to work; the husband’s old work pals are struggling to find new jobs and are laying a bit low while he is sitting in a lonely apartment waiting for the phone to ring, dealing with depression. It’s sad as hell but lovely to watch; this is human struggle. I think to myself; “Chris Williams has got a hit here.”

But then out of nowhere, our unhappy, separated couple work it out and get back together again. Sorry, this is where I get stuck… For all of this beautiful, honed realness portrayed with such heart by all of the cast, our main characters – Dave (Bryan Bevege) and Sharon (Kersten Hickman) – go and make up. The kids – Sam (Luke Brooker) and Emma (Chelsea Kelly) – are thrilled, the couple’s friends are all over the moon and it ends in a shindig.

Happily ever after? That’s not how it happens in real life, that’s how it happens in the movies… This is not the movies.

This is not to say that I do not find myself heartened to applause and, as is the norm for me in the ending of a good piece of theatre, I am a little moist of eye. It’s touchingly true for the most part, just too predictable in its end.

Bryan Bevege’s portrayal of Dave is tremendous. He owns the stage and stands head and shoulders above his accompanying cast members, which is necessary, I think. I believe that in a ‘man-journey’ show the lead has to be the most consuming of characters and he plays this with eloquence; his voice is superb. Kersten Hickman’s Sharon is delightful – she is that suburban housewife: fragile, lost, loving, disenfranchised. Beautiful.

It’s nice to see familiar face Benny Marama performing as Trev, one of Dave’s work pals. He usually sings a little stronger that he does tonight but then it is cold and the air is damp… Together the males in the cast sing in fine voice and there is some lovely harmony work done by Vocal Director Sam Cleaver in bringing their voices to a sometimes haunting crescendo of melody. 

The gals, I am sad to say, leave me feeling like there is a mezzo missing just to give their spirituous voices some ground. Perhaps that is the point… and perhaps indoors their true weight would be easier felt.

The music is great, and catchy. Trevor Faville is one of the unsung workhorses of the Hamilton music scene and shows a shine here with his sure musical direction.

Praise must go to the design team for a very flexible set, which is a moveable feast, simply executed to give each changing scene the right look and feel. The minute we sat down I said to Frances; “I have a good feeling about this one (show).” It may sound superficial but sometimes judging the play by its set has its place in showing the true depth of work that has gone into understanding, interpreting and portraying the spectacle as it unfolds.

I love the show. I wish for more in its ending and feel sure that, like so many of life’s true endings, it is more a case of waiting for the next natural progression to find the writer’s way in what is a very moving piece of musical theatre.


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