Super HUGH-Man – The Legend Lives On

Basement Theatre, Lower Greys Ave, Auckland

20/09/2017 - 23/09/2017

Meteor Theatre, 1 Victoria Street, Hamilton

03/07/2018 - 04/07/2018

Lawson Field Theatre, Gisborne

02/10/2020 - 03/10/2020

Blue Baths, Government Gardens, Queens Drive, Rotorua

19/09/2019 - 21/09/2019

Globe Theatre, 312 Main St, Palmerston North

06/07/2018 - 07/07/2018

Aronui Indigenous Arts Festival

Auckland International Cabaret Season 2017

Te Tairāwhiti Arts Festival 2020

Production Details

RU to the power of HUGH – The Legend Lives On 

On the back of touring with the Modern Maori Quartet, New Zealand Māori Entertainer Rutene Spooner is set to bring a touch of HUGH JACKMAN to the Basement Theatre as part of the Auckland Live International Cabaret Season this September.

Super HUGH-Man is the brainchild of performer Rutene Spooner. With guidance and direction from one of New Zealand’s most experienced theatre practitioners, Jennifer Ward-Lealand, Super HUGH-Man delivers a heartfelt story, intricately weaving together comedy, dance, and song into a one hour high-quality, solo musical cabaret. 

Super HUGH-Man is the story of a young Māori boy growing up in Gisborne and discovering his hero, Hugh Jackman a.k.a Wolverine. As Rutene negotiates his own sometimes difficult path to be a musical theatre performer we see the profound influence that Hugh plays in his life. Embracing the qualities that both Hugh Jackman and Wolverine possess means he can get through the rough patches – of feeling like an outsider and of wanting to fit into a world that he has no blueprint for. He comes to realise that it’s OK to be a different kind of man – that he can be strong as well as sensitive, he can haka AND high kick, and he can be fierce AND fabulous.

Super HUGH-Man features Rutene’s Māori culture with Kapa Haka and throughout the show we also feature many classic Pop and Broadway songs such as, I Hope I Get It (A Chorus Line), The Boy Next Door (The Boy From Oz), What Have I Done – (Les Miserables), Hurt  (Johnny Cash), End of The Road (Boyz ii Men), Razzle Dazzle (Chicago), Oh, What A Beautiful Morning (Oklahoma!), Cell Block Tango (Chicago), Close Every Door (Joseph), One Singular Sensation (A Chorus Line) and Once Before I go (The Boy From Oz).

RUTENE SPOONER Show Creator/ Performer

In 2009, Rutene completed a Bachelor of Performing Arts in musical theatre from National Academy of Singing and Dramatic Art.

Rutene had his professional theatre debut as an intern at Christchurch’s Court Theatre in 2009. Since then, the singer, actor, and entertainer has toured nationally and internationally performing for various theatre and corporate entertainment companies.

He has appeared in shows such as Anything Goes (2009), The Buddy Holly Musical, Grease (2012), Avenue Q (2013), La Cage aux Folles (2013), The Mikado (2014) Oklahoma (2014) and Billy Elliot (2016)…just to name a few.

His soulful, dulcet tones have been described as being “smooth like caramel”.  
Rutene is a proud member and vocal coach of Te Kapa Haka of Whāngara-Mai-Tawhiti

Basement Theatre, Lower Greys Ave, Auckland City
20th – 23rd September 2017 @ 8pm – 5 Shows Only!
(20, 21, 22 @8pm, 23rd 6pm & 8pm)
Tickets: $25.00 Adult, $22.50 Concession (Student, Senior, Equity)
$20.00 Opening Night
Book now: – 09 361 1000 


The Meteor, 1 Victoria Street, Hamilton
3 Jul – 4 July 2018
Tickets · $30-$35
Get tickets

The Globe, 312 Main Street, Palmerston North
6-7 July 2018 – 2 shows only!
@ 7.30pm
Tickets: $35 full / $30 concession (student, senior, Community Services Card holder) 
Book at or call 06 351 4409 


“…Spooner’s autobiographical musical is deceptively complex. Honest, uplifting, stirring and hilarious…” – Theatreview

Excellence Award, Auckland Theatre Awards 2017
Four Stars from The Scotsman

Lawson Field Theatre
Friday 2nd & Saturday 3rd Oct
A reserve $25 + fees
a reserve (friends) $22.50 + fees
concession $22.50 + fees

Want to purchase in person? Drop in and see the team at the Gisborne i-site (Grey St, Gisborne).

Metro Māori Productions Ltd
Playwright and Performer - Rutene Spooner
Director - Jennifer Ward-Lealand
Dramaturg - Kate Prior
Sound Designers - Matthew Eller and Te Aihe Butler
Lighting Designer - Amber Molloy
Set Designer - John Verryt
Photography - Andi Crown Photography and Charlie Rose Photography
Graphic Design - Rebeca Hanrahan, Square and Co
Show Operator - Matthew Eller, Creative Ambience
Publicist - Bright Sunday/4PI
Executive Producer - Metro Māori Productions

Super Hugh-Man was originally produced by NZ Music Theatre Company and developed by Basement Theatre, Auckland.

2018 June/July Tour produced in collaboration with Q Theatre, The Meteor and Globe Theatre. Thanks to the respective venues for their support.

Special thanks also to Square and Co who developed and produce the international seasons in 2018/2019.

Theatre , Solo , Cabaret ,

Inspired by and crafted from love

Review by Beatrice Papazoglou 03rd Oct 2020

Local Boy Makes Very, Very Good.
That could be the headline, after attending Rutene Spooner’s Super Hugh-Man in Te Tairāwhiti (Gisborne). Spooner grew up here and only left to undergo professional musical theatre training in Christchurch – a place unthinkably far away from home for a then-18 year-old who “had never even been to the South Island”.

Super Hugh-Man is the autobiographical story of Spooner’s early life. We see his delighted discovery and idolisation of the Marvel character Wolverine (he of the famous coiffure and adamantium claws). We hear about his blossoming love for theatre and his Drama teacher’s advocacy of his abilities and talents. We experience his passion for Kapa Haka and how his excellence in the latter somewhat protected him from bullying about the former.

We are also given an insight into how alone and discombobulated Spooner felt once in Christchurch – being the “fattest ballerina in the world”, as well as looking so different from his “blonde and blue-eyed” classmates. What brought him back on track was a combination of hard work and… I’ll let you discover the secret for yourself just as Rutene did, when you see the show.

Now the journey comes full circle. This is the Gisborne debut of Super Hugh-Man, after years of performances in other cities in Aotearoa and overseas. The local audience welcomes Rutene Spooner and his mahi home with open arms. Laughter, spontaneous audience interaction, a standing ovation, whaikorero and waiata after the show – it is an evening of recognition and aroha, and a lively and fitting opening to the 2020 Te Tairawhiti Festival, after months of uncertainty due to Covid-19.

“I’m so glad I was here tonight”, a fellow patron says to me afterwards. “I’ve known Rutene since he was at high school in the Kapa Haka team – and I’m so happy to see that he has made a good life for himself.” Super Hugh-Man is a show inspired by and crafted from love, and it’s wonderful to see both its excellence, and the aroha with which it is received.  

Super Hugh-Man features dance, Kapa Haka, musical theatre numbers, silver tap shoes, a simple set and a guitar. It is deceptively simple in its ingredients but is artfully put together and performed by Spooner. The sections are all clear, the energy is high and the voice (That Voice!) is on form.

One of the biggest delights however is the witty original lyrics that Spooner has written to well-known songs and waiata, which add a meta-dimension to the proceedings. There is nothing quite like the joy of feeling clever and knowledgeable when watching a performance, and we are all feeling that this night.

A play well worth seeing, wherever it is performed. Super Hugh-Man concludes its current Gisborne run Saturday October 3rd 2020, at 7pm.


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Unpredictable, relatable, unmissable

Review by Mary-Beth Acres 20th Sep 2019

Super Hugh-Man is billed as “A Māori Boy’s musical about his Hollywood hero” and I walked into this show expecting the opening number to be a literal song and dance; full of that musical theatre ‘razzle dazzle’. Instead we are greeted by a hearty, open, and self-aware monologue taking us down to the Gisborne Coast and the complicated tensions of growing up.

Rutene Spooner is a master of characters. He quickly captures the audience with sharp caricatures of his school Kapa Haka days, slipping between English and te Reo in a way that brings us all with him regardless of our fluency. The laughter amongst the crowd is much like a reflex: inevitable. 

For a show that heroes Hugh Jackman, my favourite bits are all centred on Rutene. His story is earnest and we quickly become whānau – his victories are our victories. He is the talented small town trope that we want to see catch a bus and strike it big. Nothing in his story is predictable though, and the peaks and valleys of his journey have me holding my breath. I hope he makes it.

The vocal and acting abilities Rutene draws on are phenomenal, with tight cultural references that bond each audience member to his narrative. It’s hilarious and his wit carries through every line whether it is sung or spoken.

Super Hugh-Man is a story of discovery and identity – and the importance of being exactly who you are.

At the end of the show, a nanny in the front row turns to her friend and says “Man I had no idea who that Wolverine was but gee that was good eh!”. You would think that performing a show about Hugh Jackman to someone with no existing knowledge of Hugh Jackman might be alienating. Yet, you don’t need to know about Hugh Jackman, the Wolverine, Kapa Haka, or Musical Theatre to understand and relate to this story.

Super Hugh-Man is a hugely entertaining work full of fresh dialogue and music that makes it easy to be a fan. It’s on at the Blue Baths in Rotorua for two more shows as part of the Aronui Indigenous Arts Festival and is unmissable.


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Super human work

Review by Tania Kopytko 07th Jul 2018

What a wonderfully uplifting one-man show Super HUGH-man – the legend lives on is. I can understand why it was the winner of the 2017 Auckland Theatre Excellence Award. Rutene Spooner not only spins a personal and poignant story of his growth into ‘a different kind of man’ but he does it with panache and an amazing array of musical, dramatic and dance skills.

Spooner spares nothing in his comedic tale, beginning with a hilarious description of his Gisborne youth, his play station and fascination with Hugh Jackman and the marvel Comics character Wolverine, and then to the elements and personalities of kapa haka training, and on to the equally strange and challenging world of Christchurch musical theatre training. He not only makes it through these challenges, including finding himself as a man, he shows us in this work how versatile and natural an entertainer he is.

He has a genuine and engaging style. He confidently knows how to laugh at himself and kindly poke fun at others. His vocal range from ‘vibrato’, to a belt out show-stopping number, or a gentle acoustic style, adds a depth to his storytelling through song. And while he himself happily acknowledges he is chunky, he has a lightness and deftness to his movement that complements his singing ability. The choreography was wonderful and witty.

Vignettes of kapa haka, cabaret or slick musical theatre styles cleverly contribute to the whole story. The show has great energy and pace with effective use of quiet moments between all the ‘fabulousness’ and craziness. 

I like to listen to an audience’s reaction to a show, and Rutene has the audience with him right from the beginning. It is great to see New Zealand autobiographical storytelling coming into theatre through these types of one-person shows. In telling your own story you also touch the lives of and give inspiration to others in Aotearoa New Zealand. Congratulations Rutene Spooner, that is ‘super, human’ work. 


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Witty, rousing and just plain fun

Review by Ross MacLeod 04th Jul 2018

A celebration of Wolverine might sound like a one-note joke but in the skilled hands of entertainer Rutene Spooner it becomes a clever, personal, well-structured, always funny and often moving piece of solo theatre. Spooner takes us through his connection, from a childhood idolization of Wolverine, through his awkward teenage theatre years, the discovery of Hugh Jackman as a musical role model, through the final film Logan and beyond. All of this is backed up by some great character work and fantastic singing.  

Spooner revels in making fun out of things but always with a balance of respect, whether discussing himself, his kapa-haka experiences and even Jackman himself. It’s upbeat, positive theatre even at moments where his story hits some lower points. That said, Spooner manages to get his most heartfelt moment out of something as simple as watching a film’s end credits and he sells the heck out of the simple yet sensitive moment.

This element of compassion is central to the loose theme of the show: the acceptance of a dichotomy in what masculinity can mean. Jackman serves as a model of strength and power as Wolverine but it is upon discovering the Australian actor’s musical theatre past that Spooner finds the depth and inspiration.

Spooner gradually unfolds his musical and theatre talents, backed by great voice and flexibility in his styles. Lovers of musical theatre will find lots of great references, especially in the second half. The only odd spot for me is hearing what are obviously intended to pay homage to existing songs, just reworked a little in lyrics and notes. They are certainly clever but I can’t help but shake the feeling they are just off-brand enough to avoid copyright. This is a minor quibble though. Whether belting out a finale or mumbling through an awkward audition, Spooner’s singing is spot on.

From the outset this is charming, engaging theatre, light enough to keep you laughing and chuckling along but with some important messages about masculinity, especially for our current times.

It’s witty, rousing and just plain fun. I like to think Hugh Jackman would approve. 


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Nothing Compares to Hugh

Review by Tim George 27th Sep 2017

One of the more unique offerings at this year’s Cabaret festival, Rutene Spooner’s one-man extravaganza Super-HUGH-Man is a winning if somewhat scattershot look at music, theatre, machismo and pop culture, all refracted through his adoration for Hugh Jackman.

Amid the song, dance and comic book in-jokes, Spooner talks of his love for Jackman and his cinematic alter ego Wolverine, and how this character influenced his development as a performer in his own right.

Directed by Jennifer Ward-Lealand, the transitions between Spooner-as-himself and as Jackman are relatively simple, with few costume or setting changes. Smartly, they don’t go overboard on set dressing, and leave some key parts of the mise-en-scene to the audience’s imagination. [More


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Consummate cabaret capabilities celebrate Jackman

Review by Nik Smythe 21st Sep 2017

Like the iconic character his chosen role model defined to a generation on the big screen, playwright/performer Rutene Spooner’s autobiographical musical is deceptively complex. Honest, uplifting, stirring and hilarious, Super HUGH-Man is a high-energy journey into the life and heart of a man who struggled to fit in growing up, until he found his calling. 

A single wooden chair sits centre stage before a hanging chain curtain emblazoned with the classic shadowy figure of the Wolverine, with a nearby mic stand and surrounded by more stage lights than I’ve ever seen hung in the Basement at one time. Dressed in black and nimbly strumming his acoustic guitar, Rutene enters to spirited applause. 

Director Jennifer Ward-Lealand’s expert input highlights Spooner’s own consummate cabaret capabilities, delivering a well-rounded performance albeit with a few noticeable opening night line flubs. No doubt he has many friends and whanau in the audience this opening night, but the consistent energy and volume in the spontaneous crowd response throughout the show is genuinely appreciative. 

In the opening scene, Rutene is seated smack bang in the middle of the cinema for the eagerly anticipated premier of Logan, the critically acclaimed swansong of Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine. The opening strains of Johnny Cash’s definitive rendition of Trent Reznor’s ‘Hurt’ is the first of many recognizable classic musical pieces used to colour the ensuing tale told in flashback. 

Spooner’s reminiscence takes us with him from East-coast high school misfit (tempering the inevitable shaming for being a ‘drama class poofter’ by joining the competitive kapa haka group) to NASDA alumnus and subsequent practitioner of musical theatre. His journey is presented in the context of his personal obsessions, first with Wolverine’s cinematic persona and then Jackman himself, upon learning of his distinguished stage career as a song and dance man.

Almost a triple threat, Rutene’s dance skills are less naturally evident than his easily engaging, predominantly comedic acting skills and tremendous vocal power; nevertheless he has clearly put in the hours to develop his physical coordination to be more than adequate for the task at hand. His mantra throughout his training years becomes, “What would Hugh do?”, bringing to mind the comparable Impostar in which the protagonist would ask “What would Judy [Garland] do?”

One can only hope Spooner will one day be afforded the opportunity to present Super HUGH-Man to the man himself, to repay the gratitude he clearly has for the heroic role Jackman unwittingly played in his formative training and burgeoning career: first as a force of inspiration, then as a beacon of hope, and ultimately as a symbol of accomplishment. And what are the chances he could change Hugh’s mind about Rutene’s dream to keep the legend alive with his ultimate Wolverine musical?  


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