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Tuesday, May 28, 2024

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Review: Pacifica the musical is a show we can all be proud of

Pacifica is a brand new, home-grown musical that has just had its world premiere and debut this week at Auckland’s Civic Theatre. It’s a fitting venue for a big show with lofty ambition. Pacifica is what’s known in the biz as a ‘jukebox musical’, one where the soundtrack consists of songs by established artists that are already famous. Recent examples are Priscilla Queen of the Desert and Mamma Mia! 

The story is a simple one. On a Pacific island a long time ago, a taonga is lost at sea, and many lives are tragically lost trying to find it.  In the present day, a handsome young man meets a pretty girl and they fall in love. But the taonga calls to him as it did to his father, and countless generations before. To heal his spirit, and reconcile his past and identity, he must find it.

In telling this story, the show mixes myth and whakapapa to produce a hybrid pan-pacific sense of culture that melds the past with the present and future. And it does it with style!

Beginning with Hinewehi Mohi’s haunting Pukaea, the score shares a wealth of music from Aotearoa that is gorgeously reinterpreted for the stage and performed beautifully by a very talented cast. The songs cover a range of styles from rap to pop, and also a range of emotions from sweet romance to anger and protest. Every single tune was expertly delivered by the musicians and accompanied by nicely choreographed dancing – both contemporary and traditional. 

It is sometimes unfair to single out performers in an ensemble cast, particularly when they all do an amazing job, but the on-stage charisma and connection between Ezra Williams (Venus) and Jerry-Moses Roebeck (Taga) was electrifying and contributed to some of the most dazzling and emotional moments in the show. When the two of them sang Six60’s hit Lost in perfect harmony, it brought tears to my eyes. 

In terms of staging, Pacifica also delivered an innovative use of graphics on large screens that flowed from the sides and right across the back of the set. These visuals were expertly constructed, beautiful to look at and perfectly represented the location of each scene.  

There were one or two things that perhaps needed some attention. The first half of the show had some pacing issues, the plot was a little thin and seemed at times secondary to the delivery of the music. In transitioning from ancient times to the present day, the graphical representation of time passing was interesting but felt a little out of place compared to the live-action before and after. 

But, to be honest these were minor things. Overall, Pacifica is a joyous, confident, and exuberant expression of artistic flair that beautifully illustrates the strong cultural roots of Aotearoa. It is also a reminder of how fortunate we are in this relatively peaceful little country to have such a fantastic wealth of talent and diversity and that is something of which we can all be proud.

Pacifica the musical
Venue: The Civic, Auckland
Dates:  From August 19 – 28
Times: Tuesday 6:30pm | Wednesday – Friday 7:30pm | Saturday 2:00pm & 7:30pm | Sunday 3pm
Tickets: Ticketmaster
Price:   From $49 *Plus service fees

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