Kristy Hooper and Marcus Rivera

Posted by & filed under Arts & Entertainment, Theatre & Performance.

Staging a musical is no mean feat, especially for a semi-amateur theatre company, yet Packemin Productions has ambitiously and successfully staged some of the biggest. Their current production, Miss Saigon, will certainly test their mettle.

This musical was the follow-up to Les Miserables for creators Schonberg and Boublil, and is modelled on Puccini’s Madama Butterfly. The story and setting have the same cinematic scope as Les Mis and the songs are equally operatic, energetic and emotionally charged.

Lead roles in this production will be handled by experienced performers, however the ensemble, minor characters and understudies will include many novices. Iosefa Laga’aia is in the ensemble and is also understudy for the part of John. While he has an impressive pedigree (being son of children’s music sensation, Jay) this is the first major musical for Laga’aia and he’s not underestimating the challenge.

“It is a massive musical and it does demand a lot from you vocally,” he admits. Three months rehearsal, coaching from his singing teacher and lots of researching and analysing have helped bolster his confidence. Having seasoned performers as part of the troupe has been very helpful.

“Watching the way that they work, watching how they perform, seeing the way that they exercise their craft and the way they make every performance just art in and of itself is always inspiring to watch…always makes you want to be better,” says Laga’aia.

Carl De Villa has performed in pop bands for around twenty years, but this is only his second big musical.

“It’s a big shift going to this kind of role where you have to control your voice, have some kind of dynamics with your voice… at the same time acting,” he says. He has no specific training in musical theatre but was told by a director that he was “a natural.”

De Villa is understudy for the role of Thuy and also performs various minor parts. He has approached it with rigour, researching exhaustively and seeking feedback from the other performers, in particular David Ouch who plays Thuy and whom he affectionately calls his “stage father.”

By all accounts, it is a high end production with impressive choreography, sets, musicians, lighting and cast.

Don’t “miss” it!

Until Aug 12. Riverside Theatres, Cnr Church and Market Sts, Parramatta. $25-$49+B.F. Tickets & Info: www.riversideparramatta.com.au

By Rita Bratovich