Meteor Theatre, 1 Victoria Street, Hamilton

01/12/2017 - 09/12/2017

Production Details

Musical parody of reality talent show debuts in Hamilton

Hamilton’s home-grown musical writer Chris Williams debuts his second locally-written show, The Quest, at The Meteor Theatre from 1-9 December.  

After experiencing the successful launch of his first musical State Highway 48 in 2014, which culminated in a national tour in 2016, he’s written a parody that’s bound to please all audiences.

“This show is completely different to State Highway 48, which dealt with the themes of recession, depression, job loss, marriage break up and communication,” says Williams.

“The Quest is a funny and insightful parody of reality talent shows. Sections of the show include a televised version of the programme itself.  The rest of the musical takes a behind-the-scenes look at the TV network where the desperate bid for daily survival takes place.

“We also get an insight into the contestants’ lives and witness their struggles to deal with the reality of reality TV.

“Twenty-two original songs make up The Quest and we can’t wait to put it on stage,” says Williams.

Williams is collaborating with Hamilton-based talent to bring The Quest to life.

Nick Wilkinson will direct the show. His credits include Jesus Christ Superstar, Bouncers, The Addams Family and State Highway 48. He’s also well known to local audiences for his acting with recent credits including Noises Off, Evita, Mamma Mia and Phantom of the Opera.

“I’ve worked with Nick Wilkinson since we launched State Highway 48 in 2014,” says Williams. “He’s a very talented director who has contributed a great deal to The Quest’s story development and dialogue.

Nick Braae, a senior academic staff member at Wintec’s School of Media Arts, is the music director.

“Nick Braae is working on the musical’s arrangements and score and has assembled a band of amazing musicians who promise to rock the house.  He has impeccable music credentials holding a PhD in music from Waikato University.”

Waikato is the home to most of the cast of The Quest, including Kersten Hickman (State Highway 48, Phantom of the Opera) as Stella, the lead female.

Other Hamilton-based cast members include: Henry Ashby, Falstaff Dowling Mitchell, Fiona Greaves, Heather Connolly, Eden Dowling Mitchell, Tamsin Rose and Liam Pascoe.

“For the male lead, we’ve recruited Kyle Chuen who is one of the country’s most experienced musical theatre performers.”

“Hamiltonians will know Kyle best as Jean Valjean in Hamilton Operatic’s 2017 production of Les Miserables.  His career began in 2007 and he’s been in several musicals each year since then, including greats such as Billy Elliot, That Bloody Woman, Guys and Dolls and Jesus Christ Superstar.

“We are really excited about having someone of Kyle’s calibre joining our cast.  The show is guaranteed to be immersive, entertaining and funny,” says Williams.

The Quest is running at
The Meteor Theatre, Hamilton
1 – 9 December 2017
Tickets can be bought at: 

Theatre , Musical ,

A huge creative effort

Review by Cate Prestidge 02nd Dec 2017

We’ve all been there, suckered into watching reality TV of some sort or other, opining from the couch about the relative merits and likely success of singers in shows like Idol and The Voice

The Quest, written by Hamilton composer Chris Williams, takes a gentle poke at the genre. Featuring 22 original songs, the show is the second musical by Williams, following State Highway 48 in 2014. His ideas are brought to life under the direction of Nick Wilkinson with Musical Direction and arrangements by Nick Braae.

The talent show is the main narrative as our protagonists Luke (Kyle Chuen) and Stella (Kersten Hickman) put themselves forward for a shot at the top. Motivated by past disappointment and dead-end jobs, their likeable and real characters are effective moral anchors amongst the ratings obsessed TV production crew, vacuous judges and the wily host, Simon Coward.

Both leads are experienced performers and accomplished singers, with Chuen widely acclaimed in his role as Valjean in Les Miserables, and Hickman as lead in the original State Highway 48.

Falstaff Dowling-Mitchell tackles the role of the grinning, pampered Coward with relish, at once likeable and vile, while Henry Ashby, as the under pressure TV producer Alastair, extends beyond his years to convincingly portray someone much older, teetering on being out of touch. Both men bring energy to their roles and provide several high points in the show for me.

The rest of the cast – Fiona Greaves, Chelsea Kelly, Heather Connolly, Eden Dowling Mitchell, Tamsyn Rose and Liam Pascoe – play multiple roles of family, judges, producers, crew and hapless contestants with commitment and versatility. Wilkinson has done a good job directing the multiple scenes and character transitions.

Braae (keyboard) and his experienced band of Mark Connolly, Trevor Faville, Jeff Wragg & Bryan Bevege tackle the range of musical styles with ease, and the mic’d cast are heard reasonably well over the band in all but a few places.

While the songs have a strong narrative thread, and the lyrics are well expressed, sometimes the scanning of the lyrics doesn’t quite work for me, with a lot to fit into some lines. Nick Wilkinson’s additional dialogue is an excellent support to both action and character, and could be used more to carry the narrative and give freedom in the songs. Highlights for me are the verbal interactions between production assistant Brigit (Chelsea Kelly) and the team, and the scenes with old rivals Alastair and Simon. 

A flexible, multi-level set connected by stairs, gives a staged elevation for the key musical numbers in the TV show scenes, and give Falstaff Downling-Mitchell a lot to play with in his high energy host entrances. I don’t love the pale purple colour but it transforms well into multiple scenes with Aaron Chesham’s lighting design. Multi-media elements like video footage, show titles and ‘audition tapes’ were successfully projected onto 4 long white banners and lifted the atmosphere when used (more please!)

Rose Sidwell’s wardrobe choice of contemporary design and accent pieces enables multiple character representation and swift scene changes, and glittering evening wear for the TV show are strong design choices which support the action.

In Williams’ words, this is the ‘first run’ of The Quest and it’s a huge creative effort. It is clear he will continue to develop it in collaboration with his team. Some references to social media will quickly date and, for me, the end needs a stronger musical finish. While the song ‘Life’s a Festival’ successfully resolves the issues presented in the opening storyline, I think it’s always good to send the audience out with one of your ‘show stoppers’ in their heads as a reprise. 


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No shortage of entertaining material

Review by Ross MacLeod 02nd Dec 2017

Satire based on the unreality of reality TV music shows has been around for a while now, Ben Elton’s novel Chart Throb and the Hugh Grant film American Dreamz coming to mind, so a lot of the subject matter of The Quest is going to be familiar ground. But like a cover version of an old classic we judge it less on originality than on execution and this is where The Quest puts on a strong performance.  I feel an odd dissonance in watching the show. This is a developmental season, the script and story still inconsistent in form and tone, and yet the performances and production values are all sharp and polished.

The main disunity in tone comes from the two threaded story lines, that of the two central contestants, and that of the behind-the-scenes dealings of the show. Behind-the-scenes is the shallow, fake world of marketed, manipulated images, washed-up personalities clinging to fame and hungry TV executives hunting ratings at any cost. It’s a satirical pantomime that is well-crafted if a little clichéd.

Alongside this, the main characters Luke (Kyle Chuen) and Stella (Kersten Hickman) are played completely earnestly and it never quite fits. Both Chuen and Hickman are solid performers and fantastic singers but the script never fleshes them out enough to justify their melodrama. We’re told explicitly about their troubles rather than getting to experience them, and their plot arcs and connections feel forced and superficial. This discord in emotional tone weakens the overall narrative but I certainly feel it’s something that can be tightened up as the script development proceeds.

Falstaff Dowling-Mitchell has a great time hamming up the sleazy show host Simon, slowly losing his cool as things go bad. Dowling-Mitchell gives his character a hilariously hollow veneer all too recognizable to those familiar with celebrity front-men. Other cast members pull multiple duties as a chorus of different characters and do a great job. The over-the-top world of the show is light, fun and silly and this is where it works best.

The musical numbers are solid: strong singers working well in chorus numbers and belting out the solos. Sometimes the lyrics come a little too fast to catch effectively and the sheer number of songs does mean that there aren’t as many standout numbers, but again I think this is something that will develop in time.  

As a maker of theatre this was a fascinating evening, watching something at an early stage executed with poise and precision. If you’re a fan of musicals there will be no shortage of entertaining material here for you, funny characters and well executed songs. 

I look forward to seeing where this will go in the future. 


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