Entertainment | Disney

Rotorua musical features 30 rangatahi rehearsing for three months

Thirty rangatahi from Rotorua have collaborated with the Lakes Performing Arts Center to develop Moana Junior, a musical that brings together Rotorua's many cultures.

Taioperua Te Aonui says that being a part of Moana Junior is an opportunity that will further develop their skills and expertise in theatre and help them realise their dreams and aspirations.

"I was in primary when I saw my first musical, The Wiz, and I thought to myself 'I want to try that' and then once I tried it in high school, I fell in love with it, so it's my hobby and my passion."

Te Aonui says that being in Moana Junior has been challenging, juggling work and other musical commitments.

"It's been a struggle, because I've been working, also doing my show over in Tauranga of In the heights and also committing to Moana is a bit hard but I am getting there.

“My character, Grandma Tala, is Moana's crazy nana, or nan and she's the crazy lady in the village but it's hard trying to find her character because I'm not used to old characters, I'm more used to sassy and more 'out there' characters.”

Moana Junior takes to the Rotorua stage.

First timers

For many rangatahi in this production, this will be their first time on stage, first time performing and first time being in front of their community.

Manaia Christiansen says this will be his first performance on a musical set and he sees it as quite similar to kapa haka.

“This is actually my first actual production or any sort of acting and It's definitely a different approach to the performing arts than I'm used to but quite similar to kapa haka at the same time.”

"I have learnt a lot of techniques from my director, Tash, she's amazing. She has been teaching me how to analyse my script and how to deliver in different ways and to me, acting and performing in Moana Junior has really lifted up my confidence".

Natasha Benfell is the core director of the Moana Junior musical. She has previously directed in local and national musicals such as Madagascar and Mary Poppins.

She says the purpose of Moana Junior, the musical, is to provide all Rotorua rangatahi the chance of a lifetime to learn and experience what it's like on stage as well as to give whānau the chance to learn more about the local cultures.

Long hard hours

“We’ve got children from all over Rotorua. We have children who range from 10 to 17 years of age and they are from all around the district and our Moana is actually from Tokoroa.

"Today we have our very first rehearsal in the big Sir Owen Glenn Theatre, so it's a very exciting day for everybody. We get to experience what it's like to actually be on stage rather than in the rehearsal space at the studios."

Benfell says that despite the two to three months it took to put this musical together, she is pleased and proud of the success these rangatahi have achieved.

“Some of the kids have had to juggle school and work, so putting in some very long hours. Some of them have had 15-hour days and they have been dancing and singing and learning all of the dialogue.”

“So to the kids, break a leg, not literally, I have a cast of over 30 but everyone is very important to the cast and I do need every one of them but have fun and enjoy the experience.”