A musical about middle age?

Last updated 12:02 03/07/2014
State Highway 48
JUDY COULTER/Supplied

THE BOYS: Writer Chris Williams, actor Bryan Bevege, director Nick Wilkinson and musical director Trevor Faville discuss a scene in Williams’s new musical State Highway 48 at the Clarence Street Theatre in Hamilton on July 10, 11 and 12.

 State Highway 48
JUDY COULTER/Supplied
THE GIRLS: Cecilia Mooney, Kersten Hickman, Jacqui Wheeler, Julia Watkins and Maria Eaton rehearse one of the numbers from State Highway 48.

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Reaching the time in life that is perhaps most politely described as middle aged prompts different people to deal with the eventuality in different ways.

Some draw up a bucket list and attempt to complete a checklist of achievements they deem important to their canon of experiences.

Others plunge into mid-life crises and embark on wild affairs or ludicrous purchases in a bid to relive their long-lost youth.

Chris Williams opted to write a musical about it.

The advertising firm head and Hamilton arts advocate is the author of State Highway 48, which will be making its debut at the Clarence Street Theatre for an initial three-night season on Thursday, Friday and Saturday next week.

"It is aimed at people approaching middle age," Williams explains. "It will resonate with anyone 35-plus. - "Everyone who is going through or has gone through that time of their lives. Everyone has their journeys and ups and downs.

"I have had my own issues and I have observed a lot. I've also had a few friends gone by the wayside . . . You can't escape it."

State Highway 48 had its genesis in 2009, when Williams was playing guitar and "developed a riff that was like something from a TV programme or the theme from a musical."

He also committed himself to the project by telling everyone he knew he was writing a musical.

"I wanted to write about the journey to middle age, with the aim being to make us laugh at ourselves. I also wanted to reinforce what's important, which is communication and the family unit."

It is also a tale of how people are perceived.

"Those who appear to be on top of things could be those who are most struggling. Never assume that everyone is as they seem . . . everyone has their own battles they are struggling to overcome, whether it is relationship issues or restructuring in the workplace, or something else.

"There's lots of humour in this story but also what I hope are some very powerful and emotional scenes."

Williams finished writing the plot in 2012, although the music took a bit longer to manifest into its final form.

"I had a lot of help. It doesn't help me that I can't write or read music. I had a mental sketch of most of the songs and bits of melody in my head. Nick Wilkinson helped me with putting together demos of the songs and, later, I ended up approaching him to see if he would direct the show.

"We also got Trevor Faville, the head of music at Melville High School, on board as musical director. Trevor's a fantastic guy to work with and collaborate with."

Williams further committed himself to the project by booking the Clarence Street Theatre for three dates.

"That locked me in. I got the team together and away we went."

Getting the right cast was a big part of the equation and Williams was very satisfied with Bryan Bevege and Kersten Hickman, the leads selected for the roles of the central character Dave and his wife. "Bryan is an absolute outright professional. He is one of the most experienced musical performers we have in this town and he is ideal for the role. It's almost as if the part was written for him.

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"Kirsten plays the wife. She's an absolutely beautiful singer and performer and fantastic to work with.

"All the cast have been great, which is just as well because this is a whole new experience for me and I didn't really know what to expect."

Among the other characters in the show is a shadowy figure who is the manifestation of depression, who follows Dave around.

"That is one part that resonates with me," Williams said. "Putting State Highway 48 together been a tough challenge and every second day I get consumed by self-doubt over the whole project."

Regardless of how State Highway 48 ends up being received, Williams is already writing another musical, a parody of reality television called The Old Rockers Rockquest.

"This is just first base. I want to give State Highway 48 a full season somewhere, some time. Perhaps later this year.

"It's been the pursuit of a passion for me. Something I have always wanted to do. It must be a terrible thing to go through your whole life and not even try your hand at the things you think you will love. This is me doing that."

BE THERE 

What: State Highway 48

Where: Clarence Street Theatre

When: 7.30pm, July 10 and 11; 2pm on July 12.

Tickets: Ticketek.co.nz

Website: sh48.co.nz 

- Waikato

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