NASDA lets the sun shine in

News News & events

22 Aug 2013

Ashburton is to get a large dose of peace and love when CPIT’s National Academy of Singing and Dramatic Art (NASDA) brings ‘60s rock musical Hair to town from 13 - 15 September.

In the Age of Aquarius, as the tumultuous ‘60s was dubbed, long haired hippies explored counter culture lifestyles famously focused on making love not war. Hair captures a moment in history, 1968, when drugs like LSD were a path to spiritual connection and when a new way of life seemed within grasp.

“The hippies wanted to break that mould of the seemingly perfect American lifestyle, controlled by the government and the media,” Jane Leonard, who plays the lead role of Sheila, says. “They believed one person can make a difference,” she said.

While some of the characters’ altered reality makes them seem “away with the fairies”, tribe leader Sheila is an intelligent, educated woman who believes in fighting for peace. Playing the role also takes courage, Jane says.

“It’s important for us to get out of our comfort zones. That’s what it’s like in the real world of theatre. A director is not going to mother you. Doing drama at school, you were told what to do but at NASDA you have a lot more input – we are taught to give bold offers to the director. You can’t afford to have any blocks.”

Girl in 60s costume for the musical Hair

NASDA's Jane Leonard plays Sheila, leader of a tribe of hippies, in the award winning musical Hair.

Director Stephen Robertson says the students’ approach is spot on. “In the auditions most of them blew me away. They have jumped in boots and all, they’re responsive, creative and I can certainly see signs of the show coming together.

“Hair is not traditional in that it’s quite improvised and experimental. It has to look spontaneous. It represents a period of time and demands real, honest performances.”

Leonard’s voice nailed the lead part. Spring-boarding off well-known hits like The Age of Aquarius and Let the Sun Shine In, the motown-influenced rock music extends the appeal well beyond traditional musical theatre audience and requires strong singing ability.

As a freelance director Robertson says the advantage of working with the students is that they are so comfortable with each other they can explore. “They are trained in all departments and they are open to jumping in the deep end and taking risks. They know what to do – and how to do it.”

NASDA challenges its young actors to prepare them for the industry. Leonard has been involved in musicals since she was six years old and will be familiar to Ashburton audiences as Cossette in Les Miserable. She says her recent experiences at the Court Theatre in the cast of Amadeus have only convinced her further to pursue theatre as a career.

Hair is at the Ashburton Trust Event Centre, 211A Wills St, Ashburton, 13 - 15 September. Tickets are $45 (Senior/Student $30) through Ticket Direct.