Thomas & Friends Live! On Stage

Westpac Arena, Christchurch

27/10/2007 - 28/10/2007

TSB Arena, Queens Wharf, Wellington

23/10/2007 - 24/10/2007

Production Details

Writer & director: Jim Millan

ThemeSTAR | Pacific Entertainment

Thomas & Friends Live! On Stage, currently touring the USA and coming to New Zealand in October, is a 90-minute live musical adventure based on the delightful stories of Thomas and Friends™.  For over 60 years, millions of children around the world have enjoyed the stories of Thomas & Friends through books, the popular television series, toys and DVDs and now for the first time they can see their favourite characters on stage. 

Thomas & Friends Live! On Stage is a phenomenal production that the entire family will enjoy,” says Jim Millan, the show’s writer and director.  “It has wonderful props, beautiful costumes and scenery and is accompanied by great singing, choreographed dancing and special effects – all the elements that make good theatre.  We use a narrator similar to the one on the television series, to make it easy for young audience members to follow the storyline.”

A story of friendship, discovery and cooperation, Thomas & Friends Live! On Stage sees our hero Thomas and his friend Percy having to work together with the other Really Useful Engines to “save the day” when a big storm disrupts the Island of Sodor’s Magic Lantern Festival.  By helping each other they manage to enable the Festival to go on as planned.

The trains – three-dimensional models with animatronic faces – move about on stage and interact with each other, their drivers and engineers.  “The trains are the most popular characters by far,” Millan continues.  “When Thomas first appears on stage, the audience screams, claps and yells ‘Thomas! Thomas!’  It is so incredible to see.” 

A company of eight multi-talented performers will bring to life the roles of the Fat Controller, the engineers and townspeople of the Island of Sodor. 

Music plays a dominant role in Thomas & Friends Live! On Stage.  There are seven popular Thomas & Friends songs in the show, including “Good Morning” and “Really Useful Engine” plus a new tune written especially for the live stage production.  Audience members are encouraged to sing-a-long, as well as interact with the trains and cast by clapping and “peeping” their horns at key moments.  

Thomas & Friends Live! On Stage has been delighting children and their families across the US and is certain to enchant young and old audiences in New Zealand as well. 

“ThemeSTAR is committed to bringing the highest quality live entertainment to families worldwide, says promoter Mark Avery.  “We are delighted to be working with Pacific Entertainment on this exciting, interactive and inspiring production that is supreme entertainment for a new generation of Thomas lovers. With three trains and a magnificent huge set, this is exciting leading-edge musical theatre for all children and their parents.”  

18 October 2007, Rotorua Energy Event Centre CENTRAL NORTH ISLAND
20 – 21 October 2007, North Shore Events Centre AUCKLAND
23 – 24 October 2007, TSB Bank Arena WELLINGTON
27 – 28 October 2007, Westpac Arena, Christchurch CANTERBURY

Theatre , Music , Children’s , Family ,

1 hr 30 mins

Toot Toot!

Review by Nik Smythe 21st Oct 2007

There is nothing challenging or surprising here, no clever jokes for the grownups or anything like that.  This is Thomas the Tank Engine as we know him, minus much of the endearingly wry quality the television show has.  It’s aimed squarely at the kids, but not so much in a condescending way as a getting down on their level sort of way.

The plot is fairly standard.  One thing you can rely on with Thomas and his pals is simplicity.  Taking place over a single day, it seems like a collection of 5 minute stories interwoven with a story about the magic lantern festival on that evening but threatened by bad weather.  All glued together with audience participation games and a slew of bouncy happy singsongs such as ‘Another Busy day for the Engines’, ‘It’s Great to Be an Engine’, ‘These are the Sounds that Engines Make’ and many others.

Plot holes such as ‘how is a sheep sleeping not only on a train track, but in gale force winds?’ seem irrelevant.  While I found it silly, even for a children’s story, to fix the broken lighthouse with a giant diamond they just happened to find in an underground mine, I like the fact that they never appeared to consider, let alone mention how much money it must be worth (billions I’d say).

The human cast come to the party in a big way.  Notably Dean Nolan as railway owner Sir Topham Hatt, the Fat Controller, who seems younger than expected but otherwise inhabits the part most amply.  The narrator David Edenfield also pitches it just right, so we can forgive him for not being Ringo Starr.

Whilst a large scale production, it’s actually downsized in terms of characters.  Thomas, Percy and Diesel all appear, plus a grumpy truck and a gobo of Harold the helicopter flying past.  The absence of other favourites – Gordon, James, Bertie Bus etc – is explained by their being stuck on the other side of the island due to the storm.  My son commented on who wasn’t there, but by and large it’s not a problem. 

From our seats in the middle of the floorplan (a terrible layout considering the lack of stage height causing all the toddlers to have to stand on their seats to see anything and thus block the view of those behind), we’re somewhat removed from the action but whenever they’re getting us all to whistle or call Thomas, the whole stadium is included.  And when all the kids whose parents bought them a glowing Thomas-on-a-stick wave them about during the musical number it’s clear just what an immortal rock god for preschoolers we are in the presence of.

The audience seemed about 2 to 1 boys to girls, about 90% Caucasian (perhaps because of the extreme and obvious Englishness of the Thomas franchise), and virtually entirely middle class, unsurprising given the average cost of not only the show tickets, but any Thomas merchandise you can find.  It’s neat stuff, but always seems to cost about ten bucks more than you expect.

The most comparable show I’ve seen this year was the brand-new kiwiana celebration Buzzy Bee’s Big Day Out, and now having seen this international counterpart I can confirm that we really had something there.  Thomas Saves the Day is bigger, more expensive looking, more famous, more gratuitously merchandised and altogether more basic.  However, at the end of the day what really matters is that the kids love it, and they do.  Toot toot! 


Aaron Alexander October 25th, 2007

'rock god for preschoolers' had me literally lol...nice review Nik. :-)

Kate ward-Smythe October 24th, 2007

My 4 year old daughter loved it and is still yelling 'toot toot' loud and often. What a jolly production it is and what an energetic cast ... think Cliff Richard meets Enid Blyton. Could have done without the long interval ... there is no escaping the merchandising and there were tears before the second half. Still, Thomas's entrance was perfect, the songs were thigh-slappingly good and a grand time was had by all.

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