Turanga Merito has Christmas in the Park to thank for launching his dream performance career.
The dancer and singer is returning as choreographer of the annual event after having first performed in the show 10 years ago. He is promising Auckland's 40th show for Coca-Cola Christmas in the Park will be a spectacular display.
This is Mr Merito's second time choreographing one of New Zealand's biggest television events and he says the show has "gone all out".
"This year we've taken a different direction with the show which will be really exciting.
"We still have the traditional Christmas carols but we have a lot of special effects this year and it's a lot more modern.
"It feels like I'm in a dream. To now be one of the creators of a show that started my career is amazing."
Mr Merito first performed at Coca-Cola Christmas in the Park when he was 18. His talent was noticed by the show's musical director who set up an audition for him with the directors of The Lion King stage show.
He was given a role in the ensemble cast and later took up the main role of Simba.
"Christmas in the Park set up the rest of my career. Coming from Rotorua, it was just rugby and there weren't any shows but singing in church and doing kapa haka really prepared me.
"It was life-changing and I still can't believe it."
Now based in Melbourne, the former Avondale resident has played main roles in several Australian musicals, touring nationally with The Lion King, The Wedding Singer, High School Musical, West Side Story and an opera titled Chess.
Mr Merito is also a dance and singing teacher six days a week in Melbourne and has provided backing vocals on Australian Idol.
Choreographing both Auckland and Christchurch shows is a lot of work says Mr Merito but he is grateful for the opportunity to be involved.
"When they called me and asked me if I was interested in choreographing, I was terrified but I love being a teacher and Christmas in the Park allows me to be creative in a supportive team.
"It's really great to be part of a team that showcases New Zealand talent and I love that it gives everyone a chance to perform and that it is so diverse."
Suburban Newspapers, publisher of the Central Leader, is part of the Fairfax media Mighty A Network, the major print media sponsor of Coca-Cola Christmas in the Park.
All proceeds from the event will go to Surf Life Saving New Zealand.
Mr Merito says although he is nervous for the show, he feels very lucky to be living his dream.
"I'm so happy with how everything has worked out."
Coca-Cola Christmas in the Park is on December 8 at Auckland Domain from 7.30pm.
- Central Leader
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