The interactive stage show Apollo 13: Mission Control is set for launch in the United States.
The show, which premiered in the 2009 Fringe Festival at Bats Theatre, has been picked up by Walking with Dinosaurs: The Arena Spectacular creator Bruce Mactaggart, who believes it has the potential to become an international phenomenon.
The show recreates the ill-fated Apollo 13 mission, getting the audience members to play astronauts, reporters and mission control staff using consoles modelled on Houston Mission Control's.
Apollo 13 creators Kip Chapman and Brad Knewstubb, along with the rest of the cast and crew, will be spending two weeks rehearsing in Hastings ahead of a 10-day run at the Hawke's Bay Opera House in October.
In the show's infancy, the consoles were created from plywood and gaffer tape, however, production values had become slicker and the technology was more advanced, Chapman said.
"We're always trying to change and develop the show."
Apollo 13 was picked up by Downstage Theatre, which ran the show for eight weeks in 2010 to sold-out audiences, Downstage director Hilary Beaton said. "I saw its immediate potential. It will be interesting to see how America responds to a Kiwi vision of one of their greatest moments in history.
"The way the audience gets involved in the action with saving the astronaut, it's very clever."
Dominion Post reviewer Ewen Coleman glowed about the show in 2010, writing: "If you have to get to the Moon to get a ticket for this show, then do so, as it's one not to be missed at all costs."
That same year, it was performed at the Sydney Opera House, and last year in Perth and Brisbane.
Chapman said they always believed the idea was one that would fly, but they were surprised at how popular it became.
"When we originally did it we thought it was for us and people like us, indie kids, but we'd have matinees at Bats and families turned up with kids, intermediate and teenage kids, and we realised the potential it had."
Their initial goal was to take the show to the United States and that was coming to fruition through their partnership with Mactaggart.
The producer attended the show at Downstage and was impressed by its originality and appeal.
"I've seen lots of shows around the world and the fact that this is a Kiwi-developed, homegrown production adds to the excitement for me."
Mactaggart, who was originally from Australia and has been living in Havelock North for four years, said the show had wide appeal, so parents could take young children, teenagers and older relatives, and everyone would enjoy it.
Walking with Dinosaurs has toured the globe and been seen by more than 9 million people.
While that was on a massive scale, Apollo 13 was a more intimate experience, with just a few hundred people involved, he said.
He believed the show had the potential to be as popular as Walking with Dinosaurs though. Interactive theatre was a growing trend but no-one else had done it well, Mactaggart said.
Promoters from Europe and the United States would be attending performances in Hastings, and an American tour at the end of the year was being finalised.
FAULTY APOLLO MISSION DEPICTED IN STAGE PLAY
The Apollo 13 mission ran into trouble on April 13, 1970, and took three astronauts to the brink of death before they made it back to Earth alive.
Two days into the mission bound for the Moon, a series of "unlikely faults" resulted in the shuttle's oxygen tanks rupturing.
Astronauts James Lovell, John Swigert and Fred Haise were forced to shut down the main command module and use the shuttle's lunar module as a kind of liferaft to make it back to Earth, stretching out a few hours' worth of oxygen over five days.
They faced power shortages, loss of cabin heat, tight water restrictions, and had to avoid critical carbon dioxide buildup.
Lovell had been on Apollo 8, the first manned mission to the Moon, and racked up more space-time than any other astronaut of his day.
Most people have seen the 1995 film adaptation of the fraught space mission's story, starring Tom Hanks as Lovell, and Kevin Bacon and Bill Paxton as Swigert and Haise.
In the play Apollo 13: Mission Control, audience members are instrumental in bringing the astronauts safely back to Earth.
And the message spouted by Lovell from the crippled ship was actually "Houston, we've had a problem" - however, that's not nearly as quotable.
- © Fairfax NZ News