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Once Were Warriors Musical Tour Coming

Once Were Warriors Musical Tour Coming

CAPTION: Tony Runacres and Jim Moriarty, the producer and director of the musical drama Once Were Warriors which begins its national tour in March.

Once Were Warriors, Alan Duff's landmark New Zealand novel that became the film everyone just had to see, is about to face its most intriguing retelling - as a musical drama.

ARTCO Ltd has announced a national tour that will play in the four main centres, beginning in Christchurch on 2nd March.

Warriors? As a musical drama? "Absolutely!" exclaims Tony Runacres, the driving force behind ARTCO. "The story has truly great drama. There's the tragedy of the dispossessed, love gone wrong, powerful emotion aplenty, and at the centre is an almost desperate yearning for belonging. How better to express these than through music."

Jim Moriarty, the production's Artistic Director, is just as enthusiastic. "Going back to the novel," he said, "One of the major things that strikes you is the passion. Every major character is driven by it in one way or another, and once you think of the passion in musical terms, you can recognise the huge potential."

Moriarty is one of New Zealand's most prolific and respected theatre practitioners. Between 1969 and 2002 he has performed in over 100 professional theatre productions throughout New Zealand and also in Australia, United States, Great Britain, Greece and Europe.

He was awarded membership of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to drama in 2000. He is Artistic Director of Te Rakau Hua O Te Wao Tapu Trust - a Maori charitable trust who have been performing theatre in schools, marae, remand centres, prisons and at-risk communities, as well as in professional theatres.

Runacres and Moriarty assembled a high-power creative team to realise the vision, with script by Riwia Brown, music by Richard Marrett and lyrics by Jamie Burgess.

Riwia Brown was an inspired choice, having written the screenplay for the film version (and winning Best Screenplay at the 1994 Film and Televison Awards). Brown has been involved in Maori theatre since the early eighties, plus a number of other film and television projects. One of these was an adaptation of the Deborah Savage novel for the NZ / German co-production "Flight of the Albatross". The film won first prize for Best Children's Feature at the 1997 Berlin Film Festival.

Richard Marrett is a pianist, tutor, musical director, conductor, orchestrator, composer and arranger. He has worked with the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra and New Zealand Symphony Orchestra. Marrett composed the musicals The Third Day and The Mourning After as well as arranging the theme for The Crusaders, various other musicals and concerts.

Lyricist Jamie Burgess has been writing lyrics and music for the last ten years. In 1994 he won the Roland Composition Competition. Several of his song have been included in best-selling compilation albums. He wrote The Crash Bash for The Court Theatre, songs for the television series Patch's Place, and was the Male Singer/Songwriter winner in More FM's Blokestars.

Runacres is adamant that the stage show isn't a reworking of the film. "It is an extraordinary novel," he said. "Very different from the movie, and for a 'straight from the shoulder' account, much more subtle and very, very poignant. If that is what we can capture in the musical we will have given our audience a satisfying, emotional yet unique experience.

Such is ARTCO's belief in the project that they have assembled a cast and crew of over fifty to bring the full power of the story to life.

This is the largest production to date for ARTCO, which has previously produced Rush! The Stage Musical, and has been instrumental in local productions of Roger Hall's Love off the Shelf and Andrew Lloyd Webber's Tell Me On A Sunday and Aspects of Love.

Once Were Warriors the musical drama will have its world premiere in Christchurch on 2nd March. It plays at the Theatre Royal until10 March. The Dunedin season is at the Regent Theatre from 16 to 19 March. The show then returns to Christchurch from 24 March. The Auckland season is from 10 to 28 April at the St James Theatre, then Wellington's Opera House hosts the show from 3 to 22 May. Bookings at Ticketek are open now.


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  • Wellington
  • Christchurch
  • Auckland