Summer in the city
There's a full line-up of entertainment to make the season even sweeter. Here are five of the best.
Grease, the ultimate summer musical, is set to rock the Court Theatre in December and January.
Fresh talent Lauren Marshall, 20, who completed her studies at the National Academy of Singing and Dramatic Art (Nasda) just this year, has won the coveted role of Sandy. Lauren has loved the film and the show's music ever since she first watched it with her girlfriends at sleepovers when she was 10 or 11.
"It was a big thing for us. We always loved the music and the movie," she says. "I've always been a fan of Grease and I've sung the songs at karaoke, so I was very familiar with them."
Rehearsals began at the end of October. "I got my script and my songbook about a month before we started, so I was able to do a bit of work on it. It's really exciting and we're having lots of fun."
Lauren, who came to Christchurch to study at Nasda from her hometown of Hastings, is well aware she is playing opposite someone vastly more experienced in Matthew McFarlane, 28, who is coming from Sydney to play Danny.
"He's done a lot of roles before and this is my first proper show, but he's a really nice guy and it's good to be working with someone who knows their stuff."
The Court's artistic director, Ross Gumbley, has no doubts about Lauren's ability to succeed. "She is luminous on stage. She's got a wonderful committed singing technique and a beautiful voice. She can dance and act, and she's got the right look for Sandy."
Matthew is an absolute star, he says. "He's stunningly good-looking with a GI Joe jawline to match, and he can act, too."
Michael Murphy, the New Zealand Idol runner-up in 2004, has won the role of Kenickie. "We knew he could sing and he's got a great look for the show, but what an actor. When he auditioned for us, he knocked the socks off the audition piece," Ross says.
The musical, which was popularised on film starring Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta, is set in the United States' optimistic post-war 1950s.
"You've got to maximise the story, make the most of it, and that's why there are three directors: Richard Marrett looks after the singing, Stephen Robertson is choreographing it and I'm looking after the acting," Ross says.
By the start of the season, sparks should be flying and Lauren's Sandy will no doubt be hopelessly devoted to her Danny.
"Grease appeals right across the board," Ross says. "People know all the songs and we envisage whole families coming to it. If you're in a big theatre, you're watching the play. If you're in a small theatre, you're part of it. There is going to be a live band on stage - it's going to rock!
"We're going to crank up the volume and, as the strap-line says, 'party like it's 1959'."
The Court Theatre, Bernard St, Addington until January 26: Mon and Thurs 6.30pm, Tues, Wed, Fri and Sat 7.30pm; Sat, December 8, 2pm. Ph 963 0870 or 0800 333 100.
A Day On The Green
The summer entertainment season will be in full swing on December 1 at A Day On The Green at Waipara's Mud House Winery, opening with the Wellington International Ukulele Orchestra.
Easing the audience into the night ahead with compelling rhythms and playful arrangements of covers and originals, the orchestra will be followed by top bands The Black Seeds and Fly My Pretties.
Gemma Gracewood, co-manager of the orchestra with Age Pryor, lives in New York. "... I'm really excited," she says. "We tour about twice a year now, because we all have other things we do, so we find it easier to carve out blocks of time and hit the road together."
Gemma is a one-woman media hub, living offshore but working as online publicist for New Zealand On Screen, film reviewer for an Auckland magazine, and occasional panellist for National Radio. She has been a parliamentary press secretary, a television and radio producer, and an arts publicist.
Her participation in the Wellington International Ukulele Orchestra is a practical demonstration of her love of musical arts and the humble but sparkling ukulele.
"When we first started, we had weekly rehearsals," she says. "We'd meet on Wednesday nights in somebody's living room and then play on Thursday mornings at Delux Café in Wellington."
She says the group's ethos is more reflective of its place in the South Pacific than the more traditional approach of the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain.
"For some members of the band, the ukulele was the first instrument they'd picked up. For others, it was their 50th instrument. The combining factor was a general sense of joy and excitement that attracted everybody."
With the three groups performing at A Day On The Green all based in Wellington, it is not surprising there is some cross-pollination. Barnaby Weir is common to The Black Seeds and Fly My Pretties; comedian and Academy Award winner Bret McKenzie is common to The Black Seeds and the Wellington International Ukulele Orchestra; singer-songwriter Age Pryor to the ukulele orchestra and Fly My Pretties; the rhythm section of The Black Seeds drives Fly My Pretties in concert, and on it goes.
While they might share personnel, each musical entity is stylistically different. The Black Seeds pulse with soul, dub, and afro-funk beats, while the harmony and humour-heavy orchestra relies upon vocals and gut strings.
The musical melange of Fly My Pretties is an ever-shifting collaboration of solo creatives, who unite periodically to showcase each other's compositions. This year's line-up includes Anna Coddington, Adi Dick, Mike Fabulous, Amiria Grenell, Ria Hall, LA Mitchell, Jarney Murphy, Nigel Patterson, Ryan Prebble, Age Pryor, Mara TK, Lisa Tomlins, Barnaby Weir, and Iraia Whakamoe.
Mud House Winery & Café, 780 Glasnevin Rd, Waipara, gates open 4pm. Tickets, $89 (general admission; children under 12, accompanied by an adult, free), available from Ticketmaster or phone 0800 111 999. No BYO alcohol, glass or umbrellas.
New World Wine & Food Festival
For the second consecutive year, the New World Wine & Food Festival, being held on December 8, will showcase the best of southern produce.
Like most of the 50 wineries on the programme, Marlborough's Forrest Wines has an interesting back story. The two owners of Forrest Wines are doctors: Brigid Forrest is a GP and John Forrest, the founder and chief winemaker, is a doctor of molecular biology.
About 30 years ago, John was working as a scientist at the Salk Institute in California, but had lost interest in his work. A colleague suggested he find something to do that sparked his passion. That passion was wine, and he began by working first at Grove Mill Winery in 1990.
"The first wine John made was a rosé," Forrest Wines' national sales manager Trevor Loomis says. "It was a mistake. He was actually making a cabernet-merlot blend, but he had too many grapes in the tank to ferment, and the top of the tank blew off. They had to drain off a few hundred litres of juice."
Someone suggested he should make a rosé from what was drained off, label it, and send it to the Air New Zealand Wine Awards. He did so and it won the director's trophy. The cabernet merlot, made from what remained in the tank, won a gold medal at the Royal Easter Show in Auckland. John has received countless accolades and awards since then.
Forrest Wines has eight Marlborough vineyards, one on the Gimblett Gravels in Hawke's Bay, one at Bannockburn and another in the Waitaki Valley. Four winemakers, including John, produce a wide variety of wine styles under the labels Forrest, The Valleys, The Doctors', John Forrest Collection, Tatty Bogler, Newton Forrest, Stonewall and Field of Stones.
At the festival, Forrest will showcase its 2011 rosé, as well as a range of rieslings.
"John is a crazy scientist, making over 50 wines, and riesling is his passion," Trevor says. "We make 10 different rieslings, so we're going to do a 'summer of riesling' promotion. I'm focusing on the 2007, 2008 and 2009 Single Vineyard Brancott Riesling, so people will be able to taste all three vintages from the same vineyard and see how they differ from each other, depending on the vintage, and how the flavours change as they age."
Wineries from Canterbury, Central Otago, Waipara, Nelson and Marlborough will present their wines at the festival, alongside more than 40 gourmet food stalls, representing food producers, leading chefs and restaurateurs.
Wine seminars and cooking exhibitions will be on offer during the day, along with entertainment by top performers, including Anika Moa and Don McGlashan.
Hagley Park (Rolleston Ave entrance). Tickets (from $27.50) from Dash Tickets. General admission gate sales, $45, if available. Children under 12, accompanied by an adult, free.
SCIRT World Buskers Festival
Nothing is more uplifting in times of trouble than belly laughter, and the award-winning SCIRT World Buskers Festival served up truckloads to our broken city in January. In so doing, it won a champion hospitality/retail small enterprise award at the Champion Canterbury 2012 Business Awards.
From January 17-27, the fun festival continues, with its 20th anniversary programme promising even more colour, chaos and laughter.
One of the city's returning acts is Glenn Singer, aka El Gleno Grande of horseguy.com. This self-confessed "crotchety old b*****d" says he's getting a little long in the tooth to busk on the street, and is happy that his quirky "animal-training" act translates well indoors. He has worked the well-worn worldwide festival circuit and now likes to pick and choose his spots.
"Christchurch is pretty much my favourite. I love the way Jodi [Wright] runs the festival and I love the spirit of the crowds in Christchurch. The evening shows are legendary around the globe."
While many buskers are full-time entertainers, Glenn's other shtick is politics. This year he stood for the US general election on a Democratic ticket for the House of Delegates in the state of West Virginia.
"I came out of nowhere and won the primary, coming within 60 votes of the frontrunner," he says. Glenn was narrowly defeated in the November elections, but continues to mix politics and performance art.
"There's a lot of show business in campaigning and a good amount in serving as well. My showbiz skills and ability to handle hecklers come in very handy."
Among the festival's usual mix of street arts, stand-up, physical theatre, vaudeville, satire, mayhem and eccentricity are celebrated new acts, including the grande monsieur-dame of opera outrageous, Le Gateau Chocolat.
There is a music component at the CPIT Music Pitch in City Mall and the strictly R18 Busker Burlesque will taunt and titillate over 10 late nights in the Inflatable Dome at Busker Park with acts including Seattle's Lily Verlaine and the naughty-naughty acrobatic stripteasers, Trixie Little and the Evil Hate Monkey.
A multitude of acts at various Christchurch venues, including Busker Park (North Hagley Park), Christchurch Casino, Macdougall Art Gallery Pitch, The Colombo, City Mall, and Brighton. worldbuskersfestival.com
The industrial, echoey interior of the CBS Canterbury Arena might be a formidable space, but the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra and guests plan to fill every acoustic nook and cranny with joyous sound for the Christmas concert.
Sydney-based conductor Tom Woods is charged with infusing the CSO with seasonal spirit for the December 15 performance. Tom, who is the CSO's chief conductor, was one of the youngest conductors in Opera Australia's history when he joined the company aged 23. He has since led all the major symphony orchestras in Australia, has toured the London Festival Orchestra to Brunei, Kuala Lumpur and Jakarta, and has conducted orchestras in Europe, Japan, Hong Kong and Thailand.
The exciting unknown quantity for the Christmas concert is whether bagpipes from the performing Canterbury Caledonian Society Pipe Band can be meshed with the orchestra.
"The pipes are trying to sort out the major piece of this puzzle before my arrival - namely, getting the bagpipes tuned to orchestral pitch," Tom says, talking from Sydney. "If they achieve this, then I'll deal with getting them synchronised with the CSO, etc, when I arrive. If they don't, Plan B is for them to play alone.
"There are quite a few occasions where people have combined the pipes with orchestra. I've conducted with pipe bands or solo pipers several times myself. It's an unusual combination, but very stirring."
The CSO is aiming to have a family-friendly concert with something for everyone, artistic manager Gretchen La Roche says. "It will be a nice balance of audience singing along with traditional and popular carols, and the orchestra will play a selection including the Vaughan Williams' Fantasia on Greensleeves and Sir Malcolm Arnold's Fantasy on Christmas Carols with The Holly and the Ivy Suite," she says.
The pipe band will open the second half with Highland Cathedral and last year's Christmas elves, Jeff Clark and Scott Koorey from the Court Jesters, will again narrate the show, while the Chisnallwood Intermediate School Choir will lead the audience in singing.
"There'll be the familiar and the not-so-familiar in the programme," Gretchen says. "It's a really nice way to finish the year off with our chief conductor."
CBS Canterbury Arena, Addington, 6pm. Tickets for adults $25-$35, children $10, from Ticketek or phone 0800 TICKETEK.