Musical memory trip hits all the right notes

REVIEWED BY CHRIS CHILTON
Last updated 10:50 19/08/2013

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OPINION: Kiwiana by JCD Productions; at Ascot Park Hotel in Invercargill

The demand for dinner and a show in Invercargill seems insatiable. Kiwiana played to good crowds at the Ascot a week after Legends did the same at the Corinthians Convention Centre.

Friday night's Kiwiana gave 400 or so punters a good taste of Kiwi hits past and present, with some nice surprises and plenty of classic TV ads playing on the big screens to help set the scene.

The featured singers slipped into their roles as easily as they pulled on their wigs and costumes for two sets of great New Zealand songs.

All the lead singers deserve a mention: Shannon Cooper- Garland, Jason Schmidt, Dene Allen, Cheryl Anderson, Craig Waddell, Jimmy Waddell and Scott Calvert put their hearts and souls into an eclectic set of Kiwi classics.

From Craig Scott to Chris Knox, Allison Durbin to Supergroove, the cast had it covered, and the big crowd responded by hitting the two dance floors hard from the fourth song in - Hello Sailor's Blue Lady.

Cooper-Garland's polish and poise was the standout feature. Her renditions of Ardijah's Watching You, Bic Runga's Sway and Herbs' Long Ago were beautiful. Her perfect take on Peking Man's 1980s hit, Room That Echoes, was the highlight for me.

She also sang one of the show's biggest surprises - a touching tribute to the first New Zealand song ever recorded, Blue Smoke, written by Ruru Karaitiana and sung by Pixie Williams in 1949.

This important fact would have escaped the attention of many in the audience who continued to talk loudly through Cooper- Garland's soulful performance.

The punters were ready to rock from the start and large groups became restless during the slow songs, further evidence that Invercargill audiences don't yet fully understand the difference between going to a pub and appreciating a show.

Another special moment came when veteran Invercargill musician Peter Skerrett was brought out of the audience to play bass on Schmidt's version of the Peter Posa instrumental hit The White Rabbit, just as he did on Posa's original recording in 1963. It was a nice touch and a fine way to pay respect to one of Southland's most accomplished musicians.

Skerrett's bass-playing son, Asher Skerrett, was a member of the tight Kiwiana show band, along with drummer Aaron Ives, Schmidt on guitar and Calvert on keyboards.

Two other performances took me on a welcome little nostalgia trip: Cheryl Anderson's powerhouse take on the Crocodiles' hit Tears, and Dene Allen's energetic version of Forever Tuesday Morning by the Mockers.

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MC Craig Waddell kept the chat short and snappy and provided some nice comic touches, doubling up with his dad Jimmy Waddell for a lively take on Fred Dagg's If It Weren't For Your Gumboots and Bill and Boyd's misogynistic lads' anthem, Put Another Log On The Fire. On stage he had more bounce than the Hydrolastic suspension on a Morris 1100, and he kept proceedings moving at pace.

It was a good night at the office from the cast and a superb meal from the Ascot Park Hotel.

- The Southland Times

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