National | Music

Shortland Street - The Musical revives nurse Jaki Manu

New Zealand singer and actress Bronwyn Turei is pumped to play the unforgettable role of Nurse Jaki Manu in the new Shortland Street - The Musical.

The role was played by Nancy Brunning in the early 90's, when she was the only wāhine Māori face on prime time TV.

Turei says, "I loved watching her.  I grew up watching her every night in my lounge and that was the nurse I wanted to be so it's really weird and wonderful...that I get to play her now."

The 35-year-old actress tells Te Kāea she was too afraid to ask Brunning for tips.  However, she feels she connects with her on a personal level.

"She was me.  There weren't many Māori women being portrayed on TV and I loved...having that role model or someone who was striving for excellence in their field not only in the industry side of it but on the TV show."

The role of Nurse Jaki Manu, a character who was ostracised and suffered from multiple relationship woes, is complex.  However, in the musical her story line is focused on her career and how much she wants to work her way to the top and be taken seriously in nursing.

"For me, the challenge was to take that wonderful energy and strength that she brought, which was quite wry and underplayed and beautifully nuanced, from the screen.  To perform it on the stage you've really got to lift that whole persona and blow it up to musical theatre size whilst still keeping the truth at the core."

Turei was born in Gisborne and is no stranger to musical theatre, having debuted at nine in the local production of Oliver Twist.  She also played Cordelia 'Cody' Latimer in the New Zealand television comedy/drama series Go Girls (2009).

Hailing from Kerikeri, Justin Rogers, 24, will take on the famous role of Dr Hone Ropata, previously played by film star Temuera Morrison.

"I would love for Tem to come and I hope he likes the show and I hope it brings back lots of memories for him.  It's all the characters from the early 90's so it's that version of the show from 1992 to 1995 so it would be a blast from the past for a lot of people."

Auckland will host the first 28 shows, with the premiere taking place at the ASB Waterfront Theatre tonight.