The Legend Returns

Titirangi Theatre, Lopdell House, Auckland

09/07/2010 - 10/07/2010

Friends Centre, 115 Mt Eden Rd, Auckland

14/07/2010 - 14/07/2010

Highwic House, 40 Gillies Ave, Auckland

04/07/2010 - 04/07/2010

Howick Little Theatre, Auckland

03/07/2010 - 03/07/2010

Celebration Theatre, Hagley Park, Christchurch

04/12/2011 - 08/12/2011

Production Details


Cynthia Fortitude and Gertrude Rallentando in The Legend Returns: a heartwarming and wickedly funny look at a fading opera diva and her longsuffering accompanist.

A comic delight ……. they reduced me to tears of laughter” – Laurie Atkinson, Evening Post

“This is a night out to cherish.” Evening Standard, Palmerston North

“Whether she is ‘winging it’ through a Rossini aria because she can’t remember the words or being knocked out by a high ‘C’…Miss Cynthia Fortitude is a riot”. -Evening Post, Wellington

“Gertrude Rallentando plays with magnificent eloquence…. Though never saying a word, she conveys a vast world of frustration, deference and resentment through the microscopic inflections of her steely gaze.” – San Francisco Chronicle 

“You’ll have to see it! Having spent an evening almost weeping with laughter, we don’t care where they came from, or what they did before they came. That they came is sufficient!” –Metropolis, Christchurch

“One of our most requested recordings.” – Radio New Zealand 


This double-act, written by Helen Moulder in collaboration with Rose Beauchamp and Michael Wilson, who also directed the piece, defies description. The celebrated opera singer and musical snob, Cynthia Fortitude, with her expressively silent and long suffering companion/ accompanist, Gertrude Rallentando, devote their lives, so Cynthia says, to “taking our concerts of serious music to all corners of the globe …. mainly third world countries.” After tumbling their way through snippets of arias and other vocal meanderings, they premiere their triumphant first and unfinished opera – “Stan” – with all its gods, goddesses, atomic particles, cloned sheep and Pinus Radiata forests. This is Monty Python, Edna Everidge, Hinge & Bracket and Victor Borge – all rolled into one.


The Legend Returns, premiered at Circa at the 1998 Fringe Festival.The show arose from the characters Helen and Rose developed over many years in Hens’ Teeth. Since the premiere, The Legend Returns has toured New Zealand with Arts on Tour, played at various festivals, including Nelson, been broadcast many times on Radio NZ, (in fact is one of their most popular requests) has had seasons at Josie’s Cabaret (San Francisco) 1999, Centrepoint Theatre 2001, the Court Theatre 2002, a return sell-out season at Circa 2003, and since then has continued to tour throughout the country from time to time. On July 10th this year the show is to be recorded for the Arts Channel.


Sat 3rd July 8pm
Howick Little Theatre
Tel: 534 1406 or

Sun 4th July 4pm
Highwic House,
40 Gillies Ave
Tel: 524 5729

Fri 9th & Sat 10th July 7.30pm,
Titirangi Theatre, Lopdell House
(Sat 10th show,  will be filmed by the Arts Channel!)
Book at Titirangi Pharmacy Tel: 817 7658
or Iticket – Tel: 361 1000 

Wed 14th July  7.30pm
Friends Centre, 115 Mt Eden Rd
Bookings: 623 8232

TICKET PRICES: $25, $20 (Groups of Four)

LENGTH: One hour 20 mins. No interval.

Dec 4 – 8, 2011
Celebration Theatre
Hagley Park, Christchurch

Sun 4 Dec 2pm & 6pm, Tues 6 Dec 6pm
Wed 7 Dec 8.30pm, Thur 8 Dec 6pm

$30 (Full) $25 (Senior, Unwaged & Groups of 4) 
$15 (Under 25’s) Book at 0800 Ticketek
Transaction Fees will apply. 


Supported by Creative New Zealand, Willow Productions was formed in 2002 by Helen Moulder, Sue Rider and Sir Jon Trimmer for the creation of Meeting Karpovksy, which opened at the Court Theatre in November 2002. This was followed by a season at Circa in 2003 and a tour of New Zealand in 2004. In 2006, Willow Productions created Playing Miss Havisham, a solo show for Helen Moulder which has toured extensively throughout NZ and which will be touring Queensland in 2008. In 2007, we created Cynthia Fortitude’s Farewell – her first, a show for fading diva, orchestra, conductor and tenor. Willow Productions also tours The Legend Returns with Helen Moulder as the fading opera diva Cynthia Fortitude and Rose Beauchamp as her long-suffering accompanist, Gertrude Rallentando and A Vote for Cynthia – the musical,  a solo musical satire on the manipulation of image.


Helen Moulder
has been working as an actor and singer for 34 years in NZ, the UK, Australia, Japan and the USA.  She trained at the National Theatre Opera School and the Melba Conservatorium in Melbourne and spent one year touring with the D’Oyly Carte Opera Company in the UK and in various musicals and pantomime. Her recent roles have included  Madame Giry in Ken Hills’ Phantom of the Opera, (tour of Japan) Virginia Woolf in Vita and Virginia at Circa, for she won an Accolade for Outstanding Performance in the 1999 Wellington Theatre Awards, Vivian Bearing in Wit, also at Circa, for which she won the Wellington Actress of the Year in 2000,  the eccentric opera singer – Cynthia Fortitude in The Legend Returns,  Miss Shepherd in Lady in the Van,  Mrs Eynesford-Hill in My Fair Lady, Miss Havisham in Great Expectations, Sylvia in Meeting Karpovsky, devised with Sir Jon Trimmer, Gramma and Annie in In Flame, Sister Aloysius in Doubt and Claudia in Playing Miss Havisham, which she has toured extensively around NZ and Queensland.Helen was awarded Actress of the Year 2003 a second time for her rolein Meeting Karpovsky. Her film and television credits include Close to Home, Pictures, Country GP, Erebus – The Aftermath, for she won a best actress nomination for her role as Maria Collins, The Wall, Abberation, The Dark Knight and Sweet As.

Rose Beauchamp
is a performer based in Wellington. She played the ukulele and accordion for White Rabbit Puppet Theatre in 1975 with the late Sally Rodwell and Alan Brunton of Red Mole.
In the early 80’s she created a solo shadow puppet show The Blue Shoe Show performing this over many years in this country, and at puppet festivals in Japan, Korea, Hungary, Pakistan and Tenerife, Spain. Concurrently she made adult puppetry productions with other artists here including In Defence of Judy (1986) and Stone Telling (1993) Rose studied at the Drama Action Centre in Sydney (1988) and with Musubi Za puppet company in Japan (1990). She was responsible for touring puppeteers- Rafael Teixido (Argentina), Nori Sawa (Czech Republic) and Takenoko (Japan) to New Zealand.  Rose was pianist with the women’s comedy troupe Hens’ Teeth where Gertrude Rallentando emerged as the accompanist for Cynthia Fortitude. Her most recent production The Voyage (2005) celebrates family history with a combination of puppetry animation and classical piano. She is currently completing an account of  experiences in puppetry with a focus on the indigenous puppetry of Aotearoa.
Michael Wilson has been channelling his personality defects into comedy material for years. He has written and directed numerous revues and comedy shows for the Wellington stage and has exported several of them to Australia,winning the Best of the Fringe at the Sydney Festival.  He is a well-known performer on television, having appeared in everybody else’s comedy series except his own. He does not appear in The Legend Returns and a good thing too.

Sets the audience rocking and howling with laughter

Review by Margi Vaz Martin 05th Jul 2010

We are sitting in a large lounge. Eighty of us squeeze in cozily and a piano in an alcove acts as stage front. The audience ranges in age, but most are over 50.

An older woman in a long red taffeta frock turns on a CD that blasts us with operatic duets. She seems to be busy setting up the stage. She pours tea and adds spirits (!), waits around and tinkers on the piano. We are intrigued. Will she ever speak? The answer we discover is no. However Gertrude the accompanist still communicates a vast world of information.

Just as we are studying the accompanist, Cynthia makes her grand entrance. With the poise of Coco Chanel she glides up the aisle to Mendelssohn’s Bridal March. She talks to the audience with British Received Pronunciation, shaking hands and beginning to share with us the stories of her illustrious life and adventures singing opera around the globe. She is celebrated opera singer and musical snob, Cynthia Fortitude. She resides in a world of musical mayhem and madness.

Between stories, the diva sings snippets of arias and other vocal meanderings that last a line or two, but it all seems a bit muddled. I am not sure whether I can work out where this is going yet. This is not a usual musical theatre performance. Helen Moulder’s Cynthia – a comic gem, with all the vivacity of a child – is sharing with us, rather than performing for us. We are endeared. We are captivated. Never mind we are lost, I am having so much fun along the way, and it really doesn’t matter.

Meanwhile Rose Beauchamp is playing amazing piano and playing the part of expressively silent and long-suffering companion/accompanist, Gertrude Rallentando. With the changing subtleties of her steely gaze, she swings between co-operation, frustration, deference and resentment. She is brilliant.

Then Cynthia drops it – the punch line that drops us in it: “So many of you have responded to our invitation to workshop our new opera. How many of you have a lot of experience singing opera?” Yes we will be guinea pigs for the rest of the show! We are now an Opera Chorus in training.   

We find ourselves singing the Pinus Radiata Chant and the Laughing Chorus. We howl like wolves, beat our chests to sound like an approaching helicopter and lift our arms to make tree shapes. At this point the reader may think that this show is not for them. But do not be mislead. We are almost weeping with laughter. We don’t care what she asks of us in the end, we just do it. As I scan the audience there is 100% participation.

Helen Moulder wrote this double-act, in collaboration with Rose Beauchamp and Michael Wilson, who also directed the piece. The Legend Returns premiered in 1998 and has toured several times over the years. The skill and experience of the actresses allows them to transport us to another place, where we let down our guards and become part of the theatre.

This theatre is not predictable or sober but sets the audience rocking and howling with laughter at the antics of performers who have set out to make a group of strangers one. Helen Moulder and Rose Beauchamp achieve this. The sort of comic theatre we see here from renowned NZ female actresses needs more promotion and audience access. A Comedy Festival that incorporated these girls with the likes of the Topp Twins would be brilliant for Auckland. Is there someone out there who can make it happen? 

Opportunity still exists to see the show in Titirangi on the 9th and 10th  July. [ The Sat 10th show, will be filmed by the Arts Channel!] If you are a Titirangi local buy your ticket at the pharmacy, otherwise book at iticket. If you absolutely can’t get there, Radio New Zealand has a recording of the show on offer and they say it is “One of our most requested recordings.” 
For more production details, click on the title above. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News. 


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