STOCKCARS: The Musical

Centrepoint, Palmerston North

02/11/2013 - 14/12/2013

Production Details

The funniest musical about stockcars you will ever see! 

Centrepoint Theatre with support from Stewarts Electrical and Robertson Holden is proud to present the world premiere of Stockcars: The Musical, a new play by John Lepper and Simon Ferry, with music and lyrics by Dean Parkinson. 

Cameron Todd and Malcolm DuFresne were archrivals down at the track. It all came down to the final race to decide who would be the national champion. Only one man made it past the chequered flag that day. The other man would never race again. 

Fast-forward to 2013. Malcolm DuFresne is now a highflying city councillor, trying to shut the Speedway down. Cameron Todd, whose daughter is shaping up to be a champion on the track, is on the verge of losing his tyre business if he can’t raise $25,000. 

The archrivals are set to go head to head once more. Will Cam save his business and the beloved Speedway, or will the fat cats rule the day? 

Going down to the stockcars has been a local tradition for generations of locals, raised on the smell of petrol, over-priced hot dogs and Saturday night fireworks. 

And what goes better with the grunty, raw power of stockcars than a musical complete with not one but two balladeers narrating a timeless and epic tale of rivalry, romance and revving engines?

The play is the product of a unique collaboration between three former Centrepoint Theatre employees: cowritten by former stage manager John Lepper and former Artistic Director Simon Ferry; with music and lyrics composed by a former Centrepoint marketing manager and now full-time musician, Dean Parkinson.  The idea started as a half-joking suggestion: what if there were a play that combined two of Palmy’s favourite Saturday night past-times: stockcars, and singing?

And thus, Stockcars: The Musical was born.

Convincingly bringing the atmosphere of the racetrack to the theatre has been a challenge for set designer Daniel Williams (The Thirty Nine Steps; Enlightenment; Peninsula). “I think audiences will be surprised and delighted by how we have managed to transform the space into several different environments. We’re creating a cartoony world that the characters can inhabit,” says Williams.

A major factor in a play about stockcars is of course, the cars themselves. Auckland designer Sean Hurst has been brought on board to design and make stockcar props for this production. Hurst is a specialist in this kind of design work – having several years experience designing and constructing costume props for television and film, including 5 seasons of Power Rangers and 4 seasons of Spartacus.

Mark Clare (playing faded stockcar champ, Cameron Todd) is making a triumphant return to the Centrepoint stage since his last appearance here in Ladies Night back in 1990. As far as we know, this time he’s keeping his clothes on! Current Artistic Director Jeff Kingsford-Brown is excited about putting on his actor’s hat again as Cameron’s arch-nemesis, city councillor Malcolm Dufresne. Centrepoint regulars will recognize Lucy Lever (Maz) and Nathan Mudge (Roy) from their appearance in last year’s Christmas show, The Motor Camp. Jon Pheloung plays Phillips, and makes use of his prodigious musical talents as a Balladeer, following his appearance here in Well Hung in 2012. Rounding out the cast is the only newbie to the Centrepoint stage, Adrian Hooke as Barney (and the other Balladeer).

We are privileged to have Janice Finn directing Stockcars. Janice has had an illustrious career in both Australia and New Zealand, starting out as an actress and moving into television directing and producing. Janice was a co-deviser and screenwriter of legendary NZ soap, Gloss, and has had a hand in producing several series in the years since.

Stockcars: The Musical
opens on SATURDAY 2 November and runs until SATURDAY 14 December.
Performances runTuesday – Wednesday 6:30pm; Thursday – Saturday 8pm; Sundays 5pm
Please note there is no performance on Sunday 3 November
Special Performances: 
$20 Tuesday: Tuesday 5 November, 6:30pm. All tickets $20. Bookings for this performance only open on Monday 4 November at 9am through the box office at 280 Church Street or by phone 354 5740. Tickets are allocated on a first-come, first-served basis and we regret we cannot accept email or answer-phone bookings for this special performance.

$38 Adults,
$30 Seniors,
$30 Under 30s,
$28 Community Service Card Holders,
$18 Students,
$68 Dinner & Show.

Cam: Mark Clare 
Malcolm: Jeff Kingsford-Brown 
Maz: Lucy Lever 
Roy: Nathan Mudge 
Phillips/Balladeer: Jon Pheloung 
Barney/Balladeer: Adrian Hooke 

Set Design: Daniel Williams
Stockcar Construction: Sean Hurst 
Costume Design: Gillie Coxill 
Lighting Design: Phillip Dexter MSc 
Sound Design: Luke Anderson 

Stewarts Electrical and Robertson Holden 

Theatre , Musical ,

A bit rough, rude, crude and raw but with plenty of roar

Review by Richard Mays 06th Nov 2013

Pre-Christmas pantomime returns to Centrepoint in an adult blue-collar Cinderella-esque kind of way. 

Those who fondly recall the Alison Quigan /Ross Gumbley days when Centrepoint’s end of year home-grown galas were eagerly anticipated, will be in for a treat. Stockcars the Musical – penned by the theatre’s former artistic director Simon Ferry, former stage manager John Lepper and former marketing manager Dean Parkinson – slots neatly into that slapstick(-shift) tradition.

For those not acquainted with the background, in the words of ex-pat Palmy poet James Brown: “Palmerston North is the spiritual home of stockcar racing.” It’s where the current national racing format was introduced 50 years ago.

Today, the Palmerston North Pumas are the reigning national stockcar teams champions, and the Palmy Panthers are the supreme superstocks teams champs. The racing season starts in October and reverberates around the central city FMG Oval most weekends until April.

The hi-tech industry that goes into this and the economic impact on the city is huge.

A more apt title for this tribute piece however might have been Stockcars – the Panto.

‘Cylinderella’ is 17-year-old Maz (short for Maserati) Todd a plucky stockcar racing wiz (and/or whizz) appealingly portrayed by Lucy Lever. Maz is on the verge of winning the season champs – a title her father crashed out of 25 years before. 

Bumped from contention on the final lap in a questionable manoeuvre by arch-rival Malcolm ‘Midget Rooter’ DuFresne, the embittered and now gammy-legged solo dad, convincingly and achingly portrayed by Mark Clare, runs Toddy’s Tyre Services.

His small garage-based enterprise is obviously nowhere near as successful as the similarly branded ‘Tony’s’, but Cameron has high hopes for his talented school-age daughter, the ‘Lorde’ of Palmy’s Speedway Oval.

Meanwhile Jeff Kingsford-Brown’s Malcolm, a city councillor with mayoral ambitions, now wants the track shut down. It’s a noise polluter, and besides, he and fellow councillor Trevor Phillips have a deal that should see them pocket a tidy amount of moolah when the speedway goes. 

Primped in pink, Trevor, played by Jon Pheloung is the panto dame /wicked stepmother equivalent, who sponsors Maz’s main on-track rival, Barney ‘The Black Rider’ Richards. Socially, Barney is a cylinder or two short of firing on all eight, and Adrian Hooke’s character makes perfect ‘ugly sister’ material. 

Wearing chequered-flag jackets, Jon and Adrian also appear as a couple of guitar toting balladeers, strumming out deliberately cheesy song narrations, between scenes commentaries and providing the odd anthemic ‘aria’ accompaniment.

That leaves Prince Charming.

Malcolm’s 17-year-old son Roy – in an intelligent and sensitive performance by Nathan Mudge – is back in Palmy from Sydney, where he’s been living with his mother most of his life. Cue numerous ‘‘what’s there to do in Palmy?’’ jokes, amid heaps of other local references and the odd swipe at local body politics. 

Curiously enough, Stockcars manages to exist on two levels at once: there’s the 2-D panto trio – Malcolm, Trevor and Barney – versus the reality-based relationship triangle between Maz, Cameron and Roy. But who gets to play fairy godmother? And what about the pumpkin? 

That’s part of the plot twist before the climactic on-track encounter which sees four cars out of the roller door at the back of Daniel Williams’ utilitarian set and off in a neatly choreographed Wacky Races cartoon showdown, commentated by the inimitable voice of Palmy Speedway himself, Russell Harris. 

So Stockcars is a bit rough, a bit rude, sometimes crude; a bit raw but with plenty of roar and enough energy, application and heartfelt emotion to keep it going round without completely spinning out.

And in amongst the laps of this ultimate grease-under-the-fingernails, oil-stained-coveralls, high-octane stage tribute to Palmerston North’s speedway (so far), exist nuggets of hilarity and nodules of social comment.


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Corruption in sport and local body politics

Review by John C Ross 05th Nov 2013

Promoted as “The funniest musical about stockcars you will ever see,” this is always entertaining, only sometimes funny – yet one doesn’t expect to encounter much competition. Two balladeers with guitars (Jon Pheloung and Adrian Hooke), who act as comperes intermittently throughout, assure us that somehow all will turn out well, meaning the nice guys will win and the bastards lose. As someone more-or-less said, that’s what fiction is. 

Still, there are all-too-many reminders here that in the real world the unscrupulous big-money men usually do win. Witness the America’s Cup yachting fiasco. 

This production being the world premiere, bits of fine-tuning are conceivable. For example, less blackmouth might make what’s left more potent. But anyway, plots of musicals tend to be little more than clothes-racks to hang the songs and production numbers on. By that standard, this animal, having a quite strong, albeit sometimes over-the-top, action, fits more in the category of musical comedy.

Certainly, it does celebrate stockcar racing, the romance and drama of it and of its daring drivers. There are songs about these. And a roll-up door upstage centre, rolled up, allows several stockcars to come on stage – differently coloured plastic or rubber constructs that cover the ‘drivers’ down to their waists, with legs below moving the cars along. The representation of the racing is wonderfully clever, it’s fun, it even gets quite exciting. 

The back-story to the action is of a stockcar race 25 years ago, in which Malcolm’s obsession with winning had led him to a cheating he got away with, but which caused his regular rival Cameron to crash and be half-crippled for life. In the dramatic present, Malcolm’s a winner, a well-to-do businessman, a city councillor, and planning to run for mayor of the city. But to win this time, it turns out, will mean having to ally himself with the bastardly money man (and even more compulsive winner) Phillips, and to connive with his playing seriously dirty. So, will Malcolm go that far?

Cameron meanwhile is mooching loser-like in a run-down tyre workshop, and solo-parenting his by-now-seventeen-year-old daughter, still at school but already shaping up well in stockcar racing. 

There’s a Romeo and Juliet element to it, with his daughter Maz (short, for heaven’s sake, for Mazerati) getting together with Malcolm’s son Roy, who’s not at first recognised as such because he’s conveniently been away in Australia for years with his estranged mum. Still, it doesn’t lead on to a tragedy-style outcome, although it might have (except that the balladeers tell us it won’t).

Mark Clare gives some depth to the character of Cameron, and Jeff Kingsford-Brown is equally strong as his rival Malcolm. Lucy Lever makes fine use of the range of opportunities offered in the character of Maz, including an appealing rendering of a song about the loneliness of her life.

Nathan Mudge does well as Roy. Jon Pheloung makes Phillips suitably formidable and nasty, and Adrian Hooke makes a convincing young hoon, Barney, both very strongly contrasted presences to their balladeer ambiences.

It’s a good cast, and Janice Finn as director makes the show work quite effectively. Her work is ably complemented by Daniel Williams’s complex set, and Philip Dexter’s lighting design.

Audience applause at the end of the first performance was warm and enthusiastic, as it deserved.


Aaron Alexander November 8th, 2013

I see! You learn something new every day. I'll be sure to use that. Carefully.

Edit: Although I am disappointed that the play contained neither Jeff Kingsford-Brown 'speaking in ghetto', nor a troubling excess of Presbyterians. Next time, Centrepoint. :)

Editor November 6th, 2013

John Ross emailed: "OK, over-use of F-word."

John Smythe November 5th, 2013

Urban Dictionary describes 'black mouthing' as: Swearing and/or speaking in ghetto to someone.

Michael Smythe November 5th, 2013

black-mouth: ... As used today, this is a slightly tongue-in-cheek word for a Presbyterian. If you listen to people who know some dialect talking about this word, they will usually say that it was used to describe the Scottish Covenanters who had to hide from the English soldiers out on the moors and ate blaeberries (blae being the Scots word for 'blue') to stay alive. Others say it was blackberries (or in Scots brammles) they were eating, and that the associated historical period was that of the Famine.

Any the wiser?

Aaron Alexander November 5th, 2013

What's blackmouth? Vocal blackface??

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