Reviews, News and Commentary

Jukebox Joy at the Civic

Reviewed by Malcolm Calder

Pacifica the Musical

Civic Theatre, Auckland

To Sunday August 28

Reviewed by Malcolm Calder

Jukebox musicals have been around for a long time.  Typically using a fairly simple storyline and intermixing this with known songs, the two elements then combine to develop a whole that complements itself.  This genre goes all the way back to John Gay’s Beggar’s Opera in the eighteenth century and has been used in many successful films and stage productions and films ever since.  More recent popular examples include Mamma Mia, Jersey Boys and Moulin Rouge.

Pacifica the Musical is the latest. It’s likely to be a hit in Auckland or in any of our largest cities and, could well go on to realise its creators aspirations and achieve a more international life expectancy.

This show is a credit to those who have put it together. It weaves a storyline across 300 years, telling of a mysterious missing taonga in a “little black box”, and then travels to and fro from some unspecified part of Polynesia to New Zealand. It crosses generations and ultimately demonstrates that some truths are eternal. There’s some genuinely funny interaction, love and legend are woven throughout and holding everything together is a melange of songs by some of our favourite composers and artists.

These days I frequently leave a venue with depressed amazement at the dark thoughts some creatives dream up. But not this time. Delightfully, there is not a scrap of angst in this show. With Pacifica i felt only joy, happiness and a sense of celebration. tradition is honoured, family is respected and Aotearoa’s Pacific immigrants are clearly and firmly established as an integral part of this country.

When I left the theatre I was smiling. And so was every single face I saw. Pacifica is the work of producer/director Pak Peacock and a highly credentialled team. The digital set is skilfully established by Delaney Kennedy and the deft choreographic work of Hadleigh Pouesi can be spotted – especially among his hip-hop dance crew, a masterstroke of casting.

Jerry-Moses Roebeck (Tanga) and Irene Falou (Venus)

Other cast, some of them very young and early in their careers, simply fizz with energy and their voices are a joy to behold. Jerry-Moses Roebeck (Tanga) and Irene Falou (Venus) in particular. They are given strong ensemble support and assurance from established actors like Nick Afoa.

Composing a new score is a complex process, fraught with risk and often takes years to reach its final form.  So it was probably wise for Jacob Nansen to simplify things and reach out through music and songs already known to his audience.  To say it was well-received is an understatement.  On opening night there almost appeared to be separate cheer squads in the audience as each new tune was rolled out.  Anika Moa’s mob hooting over on the left, Annie Crummer’s supporters hollering over on the right, Neil Finn’s appreciators at the back, and Six60’s straight down the middle.  Jacob has done a masterful job bringing these different musical styles into a homogenous whole and bookends them to perfection with two from Dame Hinewehi Mohi – her mesmerising Pukaea and Kotahitanga.

On balance, Pacifica could perhaps handle a slight trim or edit in a couple of places. But that’s minor and will no doubt happen. in the meantime, go see it. You won’t be disappointed.

Yes of course the taonga is recovered. and the girl get the boy. That’s what music theatre is about after all!


By johndpart

Arts reviewer for thirty years with the National Business Review

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