TROY The Musical

Circa One, Circa Theatre, 1 Taranaki St, Waterfront, Wellington

24/06/2006 - 22/07/2006

Production Details

Written, directed & designed by Paul Jenden
Music composed by Gareth Farr

From the fabulously talented Paul Jenden and Gareth Farr (ONZM Queen’s Birthday honours list) comes this sparkling new musical about ancient follies – TROY The Musical premieres at Circa One on Saturday 24th June at 8pm and runs until 22 July.

The premiere of a new NZ musical theatre work is something of a rarity, but this smart and saucy romp through the classics, TROY The Musical, has it all – toe tapping rhythms, catchy lyrics, soaring sensual love songs, waltzes, charlestons and tangos, a fabulously talented cast of 11 singers and actors playing over 30 characters, a three-piece band, sumptuous costumes, sly humour and some of the greatest stories in the world, full of love, courage, and desperate deeds and all those most human emotions that can never go out of date.

When Helen, Queen of Sparta, deserts her husband and elopes with a Trojan prince, she begins one of the most famous wars in history. But behind the legend are personal stories – epic lives filled with romance and comedy, cheap betrayal and bloody revenge.

TROY The Musical brings Homer’s immortal characters vividly to life in a silly, serious, totally fun night out.

The idea for the show originated with Jenden, who says:
TROY – The Musical began life as a small script intended as the basis of a performance collaboration with Gareth Farr. As work on the script progressed, it became evident that this was a much bigger project. When it was finally submitted to Circa it had grown into a major musical work.

The original concept involved the blind poet Homer telling his stories as he acted them out. That developed into a history that began at the beginning of time and ended as the last survivor of Troy died of old age. Impractical to stage in one night, maybe, but the research filled in many gaps in my knowledge of Classical Greek legends and I became interested in putting all the characters into one continuous storyline. Ironically, the more I wrote about these epic characters, the more personal their stories seemed, and the large events like the sacking of Troy took a back seat to the more domestic events.

In the interest of a clear, dramatic story many characters I had become very fond of had to disappear, but the interwoven lives of those that remained gave Gareth the ability to interweave musical themes as well. So we have created musical themes that overlay each other and can be put together in many different ways – something that has become a challenge for the singers since they often sing the same theme as a different character.

The work we have produced is wonderfully complex but also has the directness of a traditional musical, with ballads, charlestons and love songs mixing with ten part chorales. As one song says: “A surprise around every corner…”

For Gareth Farr this show is a first, and he’s having a ball! He says:

“TROY The Musical is unlike any other show or concert that I’ve worked on because it is just that – a musical.  From the time I was brought on board, Paul and I have taken the approach of not pretending it’s something that it isn’t, and as a result I’ve been allowed to absolutely go to town and write tangos, charlestons, ballads, waltzes – even a Hawaiian ukulele song! It’s very unlikely I’d have the opportunity to do any of that in ‘serious’ concert music.  Working with Paul has been wonderful – we’ve been dubbed the Gilbert and Sullivan of Circa theatre. I find his lyrics extremely easy to set to music, as they are so strong rhythmically, and that is such an important thing for me.  We work well together – I’ll set his lyrics, and the music that I create gives him ideas – he goes and changes other lyrics to match them, and then in turn those changes give me musical ideas for the next bit, and so it goes from there.  And then there are the performers – the most special moment for a composer is when you hear the notes on the page come to life, and we have a cast that could make a Grecian urn get up and dance.”

Musical direction by Michael Nicholas Williams
Arrangements by Gareth Farr and Michael Nicholas Williams
Lighting Design by Jennifer Lal
Sound Design by Ian Hull-Brown


AIDAN BELL                                     Priam, Odysseus 

JASON WARD KENNEDY              Agamemnon, Peleus, Paris, Patroclus, Cyclops, Orestes

EMMA KINANE                                Elektra, Hecuba, Clytemnestra, Athena, Calypso

SARAH LINEHAM                            Europa, Helen, Hera, Andromache, Electra


LYNDEE JANE RUTHERFORD     Leda, Cassandra, Thetis, Aphrodite, Hermione

ROBERT TRIPE                                Menelaus, Achilles, Aegisthus, Circe

DAVID GOLDTHORPE                    Hector

LOUIS SOLINO                                Zeus, An Old Shepherd, Penelope, Pyrrhus, the Wooden Horse

Chorus:           Jennifer Fouhy, David Goldthorpe, Katrina Ladd

Michael Nicholas Williams                Keyboards
Tim Solly                                            Keyboards
Richard Wise                                      Drums, Percussion

Theatre , Musical ,

2hrs 20min, incl interval

Laugh your way through winter

Review by Laurie Atkinson [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] 26th Jun 2006

Troy: the Musical is a triumph. It is by far and away the best, funniest and most enjoyable romp of a home-grown musical comedy that I have seen; and it is a musical comedy rather than a musical with operatic pretensions, despite being based on Homer’s The Iliad and The Odyssey.

A good musical comedy, wrote an American playwright, consists largely of disorderly conduct occasionally interrupted by talk. Being based on Ancient Greek mythology and legends there is more than enough disorderly conduct (adultery, seduction, abduction) for a dozen musical comedies. However, Troy has no talk to spoil the fun as it is, surprisingly, a sung-through musical comedy.

You may not come out humming Gareth Farr’s tunes but you will certainly enjoy his lively, toe-tapping musical parodies and pastiches; everything from The Three Tenors as a barber shop quartet, G&S, Lloyd Webber, Fiddler on the Roof, Jimmy Durante, a Jamaican calypso, a Polynesian song and many more.

The first half is A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Trojan War and the second half is Carry on Odysseus. The plots do get confusing particularly as most of the cast play five or six roles each, but you don’t have to know your Arsinoe from your Achilles heel to make sense of the complex family relationships of either the gods or the warring Greeks and Trojans; just go with the flow.

Paul Jenden’s lyrics, like his ingenious costumes and his fast-paced direction, are witty and funny though some of his rhyming is a bit stretched (prettier/ Ithaca) and the only weak spots in the show are when sentimentality creeps in with a love song between Achilles and Patroclus which is meant to be taken seriously shortly after we had heard a similar Lloyd Webber-type love duet being hilariously sent up, and when, briefly, some of stories become too bloodthirsty to be amusing.

The cast, under the musical direction of Michael Nicholas Williams and his band, sing, dance, and work their buskins and high-heels off never letting up for a second. Robert Tripe (4 roles) nearly stops the show as Circe singing about pigs and disgusting men as does Jason Ward Kennedy (6 roles) with his cigar chomping Cyclops and Emma Kinane (5 roles) as a Carmen Miranda-like Caribbean calypso singer who just wants to cheer everyone up after all the Greek tragedy.

Sarah Lineham (5 roles) is the face that launched a thousand ships, while Louis Solino (5 roles including the Trojan horse) is the faithful Penelope who loves a goat (shades of Albee). Aidan Bell plays both Priam and Odysseus with marvellous aplomb, an excellent voice and a powerful stage presence. Lyndee Jane Rutherford (5 roles), hidden under a thick black wig as Cassandra screeching Die! all the time is hilarious, as she is as a dumb Aphrodite in a shocking pink wig, and when singing a love song about all the time in the world when a few minutes before she was moaning that eternity sucks. David Goldthorpe plays Hector and Jennifer Fouhy and Katrina Ladd are the chorus.

Troy will shake off the winter blues.


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Triumphant Homer heroica

Review by John Smythe 25th Jun 2006

It’s a rare treat to witness the birth of a New Zealand-made musical and even more rare to be able to pronounce it a triumph.

Originally conceived as a solo show in which the blind and aging poet Homer would play out his heroic tales, TROY The Musical expanded (according to a media release) “into a history that began at the beginning of time and ended as the last survivor of Troy died of old age” before settling into its current format.

Rather than become preoccupied with epic battles and special effects, creator Paul Jenden has wisely focused on the personal dimensions of the stories at a relatively domestic level. This way – in a creatively aligned collaboration with composer Gareth Farr – the true effects of war on people and families hit home with heart-felt impact amid the broad characterisations and light-to-dark humour Homer’s tragic classics so readily engender.

“All these tales of war and glory / Tell a very modern story” the opening chorus tells us. The inexorable progression towards the Trojan war – sparked when a vain and self-absorbed Helen, Queen of Sparta (Sarah Lineham), leaves her uninspiring King Menelaus (Robert Tripe) for the hunky Trojan Prince Paris (Jason Ward Kennedy) – encompasses all the elements of duty, righteous indignation, testosterone-pumped posturing and Boys’ Own thirst for adventure that always fuel the war machine.

The innocent traveller abroad, Odysseus (Aidan Bell) – whose desire to escape the stifling confines of Ithaca is reflected in the Kiwi psyche – is the one who suggests “a bit of deception” to aid the Greek cause. Then in Act 3, after a chillingly cheery Clytemnestra (Emma Kinane) has wreaked her bloody revenge on Agamemnon (Ward Kennedy) and his trophy bride Cassandra (Lyndee Jane Rutherford), Odysseus truly regrets all the horsing around:
It’s not a game, is it?
It’s not like being boys
It’s not a play, is it?
It’s not like wooden toys …

Realising Ithaca is not so bad after all, Odysseus resolves the show with four abiding morals:
You can’t have it all
Pride comes with a fall
We’re all on our own
There’s no place like home.

Thus Jenden (who developed the script with the dramaturgical support of Susan Wilson) has built a thematic spine that, with Farr’s muscular toning, allows TROY The Musical to explore a wondrous range of theatrical devices and musical genres, and have enormous fun in the process, without collapsing into narrative confusion or high-camp indulgence. Likewise Jenden’s ingeniously devised costumes and props, and sumptuously draped triptych set – lit by Jennifer Lal and housing a trio of musicians to the rear – add wit and visual value to the greater whole.

Each actor-singer mentioned above, plus Louis Solino, plays multiple roles with richly focused flair and purpose. Aided by Wellington Performing Arts Centre 2nd year musical theatre students David Goldthorpe (who also plays Hector), Jennifer Fouhy and Katrina Ladd, they also contribute with equal commitment to the ensemble routines. The choral harmonies for nine voices that often follow a series of clearly stated individual viewpoints are sublime.

Louise Solino offsets a godly Zeus and homely Penelope with a psychopathic Pyrrhus and wacky wooden horse.

Lyndee Jane Rutherford contrasts her sensuous Leda with a dumb pink-wigged Aphrodite, a touchingly waif-like Hermione and comically crazed Cassandra. (But why, I have to ask, does the accursed Cassandra, fated to have her accurate prophecies disbelieved, cry “Die Die Die!” when “Doom Doom Doom!” would have been more appropriate? Or does she have an i-pod under her tangled locks, permanently looping the nihilistic noise of Kiwi post-punk band Die Die Die!?)

Sarah Lineham’s gorgeous voice enriches wonderfully her self-serving Helen, daddy’s-girl Europa, war-like Hera and enslaved Andromache, all played with insightful humour borne of the emotional truth she brings to each role.

The rich-voiced and versatile Jason Ward Kennedy likewise excels as a singer and actor as he revels in the differing personae of Agamemnon, Peleus, Paris, Patroclus and Orestes, and his ‘Groucho’ Cyclops is a show-stopper.

Emma Kinane gives Clytemnestra a fully rounded character arc, from loving wife and mother to vengeful murderer, while delighting in the idiosyncrasies of Elektra, Hecuba and Athena. Almost – but not quite – eclipsing all that good work is her inspired Calypso cameo, given the full Carmen Miranda treatment by Farr and the band as she tries to distract us from the looming final bout of slaughter.

Bestriding the legend as the stolid Menelaus, bored wannabe warrior Achilles and Clyt’s toy boy Aegisthus is the truly gifted Robert Tripe who also adds a memorable cameo, delivering Circe’s ‘Men Are Pigs’ number with bang-on sardonic Jewish momma humour.

And Aidan Bell – also blessed with a fine tenor voice – threads it all together with his wide-eyed, vulnerable and very human Odysseus.

Then there’s the laurel-wreathed trio – of deities, are they, or scholars, perhaps? – seeking a bass to make up a barber’s shop quartet … Another show-stopper. A whole thesis could be written on Gareth Farr’s truly inspired, musically inventive score.

As the season progresses attention could be paid to ensuring Jenden’s witty lyrics are more clearly heard where they count – e.g. in the blissful Hawaiian ‘Island of Lotus Eaters’. In seeking an ideal balance between acoustic and amplified sound, it may be that the band has to modulate their volume at times. I also wondered, in retrospect, what potential there might be for a stronger dance component (given dance and choreography are Jenden’s primary skills).

But nothing can detract from the triumph of an ambitious project brought so successfully to fruition at this world premiere, not least because the entire company is clearly aligned to a common vision of building the entertainment values on seriously strong foundations.

TROY The Musical deserves a long life on stages throughout New Zealand and the world at large.


John Smythe June 25th, 2006

Fair comment - Michael Nicholas Williams (musical director, co-arranger and keyboards), Tim Solly (keyboards) and Richard Wise (drums/percussion) do an absolutely splendid job. Especially remarkable is all they achieve just between the three of them!

Monika Severenson June 25th, 2006

A good and fair review, but for one outstanding error; Troy is a musical. Musicals require ... musicians! I find it deeply disappointing, not to say somewhat insulting, that the musicians are mentioned only in passing; " - lit by Jennifer Lal and housing a trio of musicians to the rear". I too attended the performance last night and I concur with John Smythe's well-written comments. But did he not hear the band? Did he not appreciate Michael Nicholas Williams's remarkable musical direction? Or the talented, accurate and emotional playing of Mr Williams on piano and keyboards, or that of Tim Solly also on keyboards or Richard Wise on drums and percussion? I'd like Mr Smythe to have the opportunity to attend another performance, sung acapella without the musicians present. I'm sure then he'd notice them, or rather the lack of these three talented and crucial members of the company, who are equally important and deserving of mention, indeed of great praise.

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