Down on the farm

Footrot Flats: The Musical opens at the War Memorial Theatre next week.

Footrot Flats: The Musical opens at the War Memorial Theatre next week.

THE CHEEK OF IT: Walter Walsh as Wal and Danielle Siata’s Cheeky Hobson could have stepped out of Murray Ball’s much-loved comic strip in this still from a rehearsal for Musical Theatre Gisborne’s upcoming production of Footrot Flats: The Musical. Pictures by Steven Jones Photography
NOT TOO RUFF: Character actor and singer Andrew Stevens plumbs his inner waddly dog for his part as Aunt Dolly’s overweight corgi Prince Charles in a rehearsal for Footrot Flats: The Musical.

UPCOMING PRODUCTION: Some of the cast of Footrot Flats: Walter Walsh (Wal), Mat Hatten (Dog), Peter Grealish (Cooch).

The comic strip style of Footrot Flats trots, stalks, skitters and stamps through playwright Roger Hall’s script for the musical based on Murray Ball’s popular cartoon. Based on the iconic comic strip most of us have grown up with, Musical Theatre Gisborne’s production of Footrot Flats: The Musical opens at the War Memorial Theatre next week.

Written by playwright Roger Hall with lyrics by humorist AK Grant and music composed by Philip Norman, the musical is laced with sub-plots but the main story hinges on down-to-earth Kiwi Wal who is persuaded by his girlfriend Cheeky Hobson to leave his beloved farm and give town life a go.

This will be the third time Footrot Flats: The Musical has been staged in Gisborne. Musical Theatre Gisborne (MTG) first presented the show 30 years ago but with a fresh approach, a different cast and a much bigger stage, director Teresa Campbell promises a different show with a few surprises that have never been seen before.

“We’re using a big theatre so you have to change your thinking when you move into a big space,” she says.

“We’ve used some techniques you can’t use in a small space.”

Hall’s script provides few stage design instructions which allowed MTG’s design team space to develop a set based on Ball’s drawings. Composer Philip Norman’s music for the work ranges from solos to ensembles and is challenging, says Campbell. Several of the musical’s 14 characters are farm animals such as Dog and his sweetheart Jess, the fly-screen shredding, eel jagging, wild tomcat Horse, overweight corgi Prince Charles and intimidating sow Dolores, so “chorus” is not quite the right word.

“Every character is a voice in their own right. It’s a bit tongue-in-cheek and written to suit the characters. Much of the music is a take off on a lot of styles. There’s a suggestion of the blues, Andrews Sisters-like harmonies, barber shop a cappella and some of it you can relate to various pop tunes.

“It covers a wide range.”

The cast is strong and six days out until the War Memorial Theatre’s scalloped gold curtain goes up, the cast is ready for an audience. Like the comic strip, the show appeals to all ages, says Campbell.

Along with Wal, Dog, Cheeky and animal lover Cooch, is Aunt Dolly, played by MTG president Heather Derby.

“Aunt Dolly is typical of a woman in the 1960s and ‘70s,” says Derby.

“Her values are around keeping the home fires burning but she can be a bit of a martyr. When she comes to stay on the farm she likes everything to be ship-shape. She loves Wal and underneath it all wants him to be happy.”

Even so, Aunt Dolly doesn’t think Cheeky Hobson is the right person for Wal.

“Wal is a man of few words. The farm is his priority. He cares about Aunt Dolly and appreciates what she does but he does feel a little hen-pecked.

“Kids will love the animals but the innuendo will go over their heads.”

Campbell does not want to give too much away, but “typical farming stuff” happens on stage, she says.

“The pastoral community will relate to it.”

Musical Theatre Gisborne presents Footrot Flats: The Musical, at the War Memorial Theatre, July 18-21. Tickets $25-45 from Stephen Jones and ticketdirect.co.nz

The comic strip style of Footrot Flats trots, stalks, skitters and stamps through playwright Roger Hall’s script for the musical based on Murray Ball’s popular cartoon. Based on the iconic comic strip most of us have grown up with, Musical Theatre Gisborne’s production of Footrot Flats: The Musical opens at the War Memorial Theatre next week.

Written by playwright Roger Hall with lyrics by humorist AK Grant and music composed by Philip Norman, the musical is laced with sub-plots but the main story hinges on down-to-earth Kiwi Wal who is persuaded by his girlfriend Cheeky Hobson to leave his beloved farm and give town life a go.

This will be the third time Footrot Flats: The Musical has been staged in Gisborne. Musical Theatre Gisborne (MTG) first presented the show 30 years ago but with a fresh approach, a different cast and a much bigger stage, director Teresa Campbell promises a different show with a few surprises that have never been seen before.

“We’re using a big theatre so you have to change your thinking when you move into a big space,” she says.

“We’ve used some techniques you can’t use in a small space.”

Hall’s script provides few stage design instructions which allowed MTG’s design team space to develop a set based on Ball’s drawings. Composer Philip Norman’s music for the work ranges from solos to ensembles and is challenging, says Campbell. Several of the musical’s 14 characters are farm animals such as Dog and his sweetheart Jess, the fly-screen shredding, eel jagging, wild tomcat Horse, overweight corgi Prince Charles and intimidating sow Dolores, so “chorus” is not quite the right word.

“Every character is a voice in their own right. It’s a bit tongue-in-cheek and written to suit the characters. Much of the music is a take off on a lot of styles. There’s a suggestion of the blues, Andrews Sisters-like harmonies, barber shop a cappella and some of it you can relate to various pop tunes.

“It covers a wide range.”

The cast is strong and six days out until the War Memorial Theatre’s scalloped gold curtain goes up, the cast is ready for an audience. Like the comic strip, the show appeals to all ages, says Campbell.

Along with Wal, Dog, Cheeky and animal lover Cooch, is Aunt Dolly, played by MTG president Heather Derby.

“Aunt Dolly is typical of a woman in the 1960s and ‘70s,” says Derby.

“Her values are around keeping the home fires burning but she can be a bit of a martyr. When she comes to stay on the farm she likes everything to be ship-shape. She loves Wal and underneath it all wants him to be happy.”

Even so, Aunt Dolly doesn’t think Cheeky Hobson is the right person for Wal.

“Wal is a man of few words. The farm is his priority. He cares about Aunt Dolly and appreciates what she does but he does feel a little hen-pecked.

“Kids will love the animals but the innuendo will go over their heads.”

Campbell does not want to give too much away, but “typical farming stuff” happens on stage, she says.

“The pastoral community will relate to it.”

Musical Theatre Gisborne presents Footrot Flats: The Musical, at the War Memorial Theatre, July 18-21. Tickets $25-45 from Stephen Jones and ticketdirect.co.nz

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