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Theatre Review: Red, White and Brass

Red White and Brass is a musical play based on the 2023 film of the same name. It’s the story of Tongan New Zealander Maka (John-Paul Foliaki) who is determined to get tickets to the Tonga vs France Rugby World Cup game in 2011.

The problem is, he doesn’t have the money so concocts an elaborate scheme to find the dough and all sorts of problems ensue. Eventually, he and his cousin Veni (Saale Ilaua) come up with a hair-brained scheme to create a brass band consisting of his friends and family despite the fact  most of them aren’t musical.

What follows is an engaging tale as the plan faces opposition from Maka’s preacher dad and the Church. The entire endeavour also faces demise due to Maka’s hubris and ego. 

With plenty of humour and considerable musical and dance talent the story moves along at a cracking pace. The cast is excellent together and the harmonies they produce in the songs are simply beautiful. 

Foliaki reprises his role from the film and has incredible stage presence. Yet, while he is the central ‘star’ he engages with his fellow actors wonderfully and never upstages them, except of course when the script demands it. 

The choreography and staging are very well done and seeing the Maamaloa Brass Band at the end was a treat.

There are some poignant moments, but this is not a production that digs deeply into society or challenges the status quo. Sure it skims the surface of generational differences, and gently pokes a finger at the patriarchy and church but ultimately with its overt and unabashed patriotism and regular references to God, Red, White and Brass reaffirms the social bonds and religious beliefs of its community. 

At its heart Red, White and Brass is a feel good romp about family and identity, filled with wonderful harmonies, delightful performances and bucketloads of charm.

Red, White and Brass 

18 June – 7 July 2024

ASB Waterfront Theatre – Auckland

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