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Putting dancers through their paces

The three theatres, including Musical Theatre Gisborne, that formed a consortium to share resources for their productions of the popular musical Mamma Mia have a key figure in common.

That is creative director Dean McKerras who has also been contracted as director/choreographer for Theatre Whakatane and Musical Theatre Gisborne (MTG).

After a sell-out season of the show in Whakatane, McKerras aims to achieve the same success but with a bigger cast on a bigger stage with Musical Theatre Gisborne’s (MTG) upcoming production.

A big part of McKerras’s role though is to choreograph the dance scenes.

After several visits he returned to Gisborne earlier this month for a week’s intensive with the MTG cast.

A video of the dances can now be projected onto a big screen at the company’s theatre to help with rehearsals until the choreographer comes back every weekend to lead rehearsals.

“It’s a huge job but my favourite one,” he says.

“I go into each production with a clean canvas and start again. There is a real energy exchange with whoever I’m working with to put the show together. I’m really excited. MTG has a huge team of very passionate people in all areas of the production.”

The Palmerston North dance school owner also ensured the set design had enough flexibility for it to shrink a little or expand, depending on the dimensions of the stage.

The War Memorial Theatre stage is big enough to accommodate the full-size version — a two-storey taverna complete with balcony on a Greek island that provides the setting for the romantic comedy.

The consortium of Whakatane, Gisborne and Hamilton (who will stage the musical next) means each company’s budget is partly combined allowing a more impressive set and costumes can be rented out for productions in other centres.

SUPER TROUPER: Dean McKerras, director/choreographer,of the Musical Theatre Gisborne’s upcoming production of Mamma Mia! puts the cast’s dancers through their paces in an intensive rehearsal. Picture by Stephen Jones