Whitireia Musical Theatre tutors excelling on the big stage

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Whitireia is offering students a unique opportunity to work up close and personal with the musical theatre industry in New Zealand through their New Zealand Diploma in Performing Arts - Musical Theatre (Level 6).

By employing a wide range of industry professionals as tutors, students are getting the opportunity to gain direct exposure and to start working in the New Zealand performing arts scene.

Kate Marshall, Tutor in Musical Theatre, has landed the prestigious role of Musical Director for the upcoming run of iconic theatre production Les Miserables, taking place at the newly restored St James Theatre in Wellington in 2022.

Les Miserables marks the first show taking place at Wellington’s St James Theatre since it was closed for earthquake strengthening in 2016. It will also be the first large-scale theatre production Wellington has hosted in this time.

The production is bringing opportunities to students as well. “They are all auditioning, which is a great experience for them. It’s something we pride ourselves on providing at Whitireia, that hands-on learning that exposes them directly to the industry,” explains Kate.

“This is a golden opportunity for students to experience what life as a performer is, and gain experience in the industry they’re looking to break into.”

Leigh Evans is responsible for teaching the dancing element of the Musical Theatre programme and is the director of the Whitireia Musical Theatre shows that take place at Te Auaha. She brings decades of experience and industry knowledge to the role and has recently been working on the Joseph Gordon-Levitt Apple TV show ‘Mr Corman’, and a high-profile American horror movie being shot in New Zealand starring Mia Goth. Whitireia students were given the opportunity to work on these projects and have built important industry connections as a result.

“Networking is really important in this industry, we love using our connections to help students get jobs in the industry and build their own reputation,” says Leigh.

Whitireia Musical Theatre students performing recent production 'Footloose'

Acting tutors Gavin Rutherford and Ben Emerson are also heavily involved in the New Zealand theatre scene. Gavin has won multiple Chapman Tripp acting awards and has worked with the likes of Jane Campion and Steven Spielberg, while Ben was recently the creative director for the sellout theatre run of Sweeney Todd in Wellington.

“It’s a great relationship for us. Since we’re in the industry we know when productions are casting and we can put students forward for roles,” says Ben.

“Here at Whitireia, our staff and students are involved directly in the professional scene, they’re getting opportunities they wouldn’t anywhere else,” explains Kate.

Whitireia is the only educational provider in the Wellington region with a dedicated Musical Theatre programme. It is currently taking auditions for studies beginning in 2022.

Kate encourages anyone considering a career in theatre to audition, “We’re in the industry, we’re doing it, every day is an audition and an opportunity here at Whitireia.”