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Jersey Boys Brings Full Houses To The Civic

Former New Zealand’s Got Talent star Calista Nelmes is relishing being back in the spotlight as the covid-hit theatre industry starts to get back on its feet.

On Saturday night ‘Jersey Boys’ opened at the Civic Theatre in Auckland as one of the first large-scale New Zealand productions since COVID-19 hit our shores.

Described as “fast paced and inspiring, with the perfect mix of reality and raw emotion”, Jersey Boys presents the very best of New Zealand’s artistic talents.

Calista Nelmes, who plays Lorraine in the musical, is one of only four women in the cast. “These ladies I get to take the stage with are extraordinary,” she says.

After starting in the New Zealand theatre scene from a young age, with even a stint on New Zealand’s Got Talent in 2013, Nelmes pursued her career overseas, first in Australia, then America.

Moving across the ditch at 19, Nelmes studied at the National Institute of Dramatic Arts (NIDA), before joining the performance crew at Royal Caribbean as lead vocalist.

Performing in roles such as Sherrie in ‘Rock of Ages’ and being in the original cast of ‘Showgirl!’ (Royal Caribbean Productions), has given Nelmes an extensive range of international theatre experience.

Nelmes was forced to return to New Zealand from America when the lockdown began, with the arts particularly hard hit. “It was tough because the arts industry didn’t really exist. Every theatre in the world went dark.”

Unable to work from home, the careers of stage performers were halted.

“Maintaining that passion and drive over the past year while theatre companies have been shutting down has been no easy feat.”

Being part of such a struggling industry during this time also attracted a lot of critique from those who saw the arts as a dying profession. “It was frustrating for us to listen to people telling us to consider other careers like the arts weren’t a real job,” Nelmes says.

Despite the first week of rehearsals being over Zoom, due to Auckland’s lockdown, the Jersey Boys cast were able to be one of the few big-theatre productions worldwide not held back by the pandemic.

“Because of how New Zealand handled the pandemic, we’ve been able to return to normalcy relatively quickly in comparison to the rest of the world. Sometimes it’s the simple things, like being able to have over 100 people in a room, that can keep an industry alive.”

After such a difficult year, the support from the ‘Jersey Boys’ audience each night has made it well worth the struggle.

“So far we’ve had a very full house each night, it’s good to know a lockdown won’t take away a Kiwi’s love for theatre.”

As one of the only mass theatre productions taking place at the moment, Nelmes is aware of the privilege she has to be in this position.

“The word grateful doesn’t even begin to explain how thankful I feel for this opportunity right now. It is luck that brought us to be able to stage ‘Jersey Boys’ at this time, but it is equally perseverance, determination and passion.”

Post ‘Jersey Boys’, Nelmes sees this as only the start of her career in the revitalised arts industry.

“I hope to continue my career on stage or on screen, whether that be here in New Zealand or returning overseas.

“The places I have lived in comparison to New Zealand harbour a lot more opportunities.”

For Nelmes, this only highlights the importance of arts in New Zealand.

“The arts community here in Aotearoa I’ve found to be more culturally diverse and more inclined to celebrate our indigenous culture through art, which makes investing in the arts in New Zealand that much more important.”

‘Jersey Boys’ will tour across New Zealand for the next 3 months. 
Tickets are available on

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