Friday, 25 August 2006

Quick Update

I've spent the last few days in Luton (just north east of London), catching up with former workmates from when I was living here a few years ago on my OE.

I'm about to head into London to stay with my Uncle and cousin for a night, before I fly over to New York to join the other travellers from Dunedin Operatic.

Spent the weekend over in Ireland (Limerick) catching up with Marcin, an old friend from Stagedoor Manor summer camp days. I last stayed with him in Poland, but he's now joined the hundreds of thousands of young Eastern European people who've moved to Ireland and the UK to work.

Government figures out this week revealed over 447,000 immigrants from Poland and other new EU countries have moved to the UK over the last few years. Another 150,000 Polish people have settled in Ireland, making them the largest ethnic group in the country of 4 million.

Marcin lives and works with a lot of other Polish people, and says the Polish population now makes up over 10% of Limerick's population. His flat had Polish satellite tv, and most of the bars, cafes, and shops we went into were staffed by Polish workers.

Marcin & his flatmate hard at work playing on the PC and watching TV ;-)

Now all that needs to happen is for New Zealand to join the European Union, so that I can move back over here and work! ;-) - A great suggestion from Piotrek (another former Stagedoor Polish mate, who's living in Chicago).

* Scotsman: Poles build home from home on Emerald Isle
* BBC News: 'Nearly 600,000' new EU migrants

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Sunday, 20 August 2006

High School Musical premieres at Stagedoor

The world premiere of the stage version of High School Musical was held at the theatre summer camp, Stagedoor Manor on Friday.

The prestigious theatre training ground in the small town of Loch Sheldrake - in the Catskill Mountains of New York - was granted the rights to be the first to present the stage version of the hit Disney Channel tv movie.
Reuters have done a preview story on Stagedoor's production, talking to some of the cast and other campers at the summer camp. I'm pretty sure the funniest/most interesting scene to watch would have been the basketball/hip-hop number Getcha Head In The Game... I'd guess most of the campers would still be as uncoordinated as me when it comes to dribbling a basketball ;-)

Congratulations to the cast and crew!... I look forward to hearing any reports of Stagedoor Manor's production of High School Musical from 3rd session campers/staff/parents!... Any photos or cast info is welcome... (and can anyone confirm the show was directed by Larry Nye?... You'll find my email link under my profile on the right)

* Reuters: Summer camp kids mount "High School Musical" premiere

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Thursday, 17 August 2006

London Life

Arrived safely in London yesterday... Long boring wait (without my book or ipod) in a gated-off transit lounge in LA for two hours on the way. In theory you weren't supposed to carry anything other than essential travel documents on flights thru to the UK, but many people seemed to get through with their books and even food.

It's not too hot in London which is good, altho it's forecast to rain now through until early next week, which isn't so good. Managed to meet up with Matty Landreth last night, and we checked out the new revival production of the musical "Evita" with Philip Quast and an authentic-latin-american actress as Eva Peron. Great set and reworking of the show, but we weren't that impressed by the lead actress.

Checking out Shakespeare's Globe Theatre on the Southbank
(Matt went to a performance, I limited myself to a quick visit ;-)

We headed up to Camden market this morning... Got a few pairs of sunnies, and other bits and pieces... could have bought a whole suitcase full of slogan-t-shirts for myself and others, but didn't ;-) My suitcase is already tagged with an orange 'Heavy' tag!

Also looked in on "Cyberdog" - a great rave clothing/accessory store around Camden market. They have a whole area with UV lights, and glo-in-the-dark style clothing... some with flashing electronic pictures and scrolling words... very cool, but pretty expensive, and you wouldn't wear them very often!

Meeting up with some more Dunedin Operatic peoples in London tomorrow... Meeting Hugh and Dwayne during the day to do lunch and a bit of sightseeing... then we're all meeting up with Victoria in the evening for dinner, and to see the musical The Last Five Years.
Hugh claimed he was scared of heights, but we managed to persuade him to ride the London Eye!

The lads visit Canary Wharf for lunch

The TGIF menu said "To Share", but the photo Did look really small! ;-)

Outside the Menier Chocolate Factory Theatre, after 'The Last Five Years'
On Friday I nip up to Limerick (Ireland) to catch up with Marcin (an old Polish summer camp mate) for a few days, before coming back down to Luton (where I lived for two years while on my 'Kiwi OE'.

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Sunday, 13 August 2006

Flying Away

I'm just doing the final preparations for leaving off on my overseas travels tomorrow... I have repacked my suitcase into small clear plastic bags, and will take a few good books ;-)

I'm flying to London first (via LAX - Aargh!) for a week, then head up to Ireland for a few days (Limerick), and back to England to Luton (where I lived for 2 years).

This week I'll be catching up with Victoria (who's just started her OE in London), plus Matt, Hugh, and Dwayne who are all on holiday in Europe and will also be in the city this week.

After the UK, I'm heading over to New York to catch up with a bunch from Dunedin Operatic to do shows in the city, then down to San Fran for a weekend, and LA for rollercoasters on the way home.

I'll try and blog a few highlights along the way (and maybe photos if the internet cafes like my camera? ;-)

* Cartoon from: The Australian

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Marion Raven reheats Meat Loaf

Nordic singer Marion Raven (formerly of girl group M2M) features on the comeback single for old Meat Loaf, who is preparing to release Bat Out Of Hell III (yes, really).

The launch single for Mr Loaf's new album is It's All Coming Back To Me Now... Yes, that title may well be familiar... Celine Dion had a hit with the song back in 1996.

This time around, Meat Loaf has covered the Jim Steinman-penned classic, and turned to Norway's Marion Raven as his duet partner. Marion Raven's had a number of European hits, mainly with songs penned by the brilliant Max Martin and Dr Luke. (This duet is unfortunately not produced by Maratone, but should at least give Marion great exposure to help kickstart an American and worldwide career).

Meat's previous two albums sold over 45 million copies around the world. Meat Loaf's new comeback album again features songs by Jim Steinman, as well as regular hitmakers like Desmond Child and Diane Warren.

(However 5 of the 7 Steinman songs are covers... Meat Loaf and Jim were involved in a court battle last year... Meat applied to have Jim's "Bat Out of Hell" trademark cancelled and given to him. The case was apparently settled out of court in June).

* Meat Loaf - Bat Out of Hell 3 (featuring It's All Coming Back To Me Now - Duet with Marion Raven)

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Thursday, 10 August 2006

National pays back 10 Grand; Waits for pigs to fly

The National Party has written a cheque for $10,588 to cover election spending identified by the Auditor General as "being used outside the parliamentary rules" in the 2006 campaign.

The Party has repaid Parliamentary Services, on behalf of its seven MPs who ran foul of the rules.

However the Auditor General found there were no spending breaches by National's Leader's Office... unlike the Labour Party, which spent a healthy $446,000 on a glossy pledge card and brochure, detailing the party's election bribes.

National Party leader, Dr Don Brash, has now challenged PM Hillin Cluck to do the same, and to instruct her party to repay the money it unlawfully spent.

It's a reasonable expectation that any honest party in a civilised developed country would likely fulfil. But the current Labour party are used to scandal, and don't seem to think common things like "laws of the land" should apply to them.
Despite a series of embarrassments (Tennis-gate, PunchAProtestor-gate, Speeding-gate, Lawyer-gate, TeWangana-gate, Tax-gate, Taito-gate...), Teflon Helen has managed to cling to power with her minority coalition government...

Any independent marketing expert will tell you Labour's glossy red "pledge card" and brochure - delivered to homes just weeks out from the election - were blatant pieces of electioneering.

Surely the Labour Party must have loads of dosh in its coffers at the moment??! It was revealed this week the number of public servants has skyrocketed under Labour... taking up 40% of Wellington's office space. Many of these muppet pen pushers are likely to have signed up to a union, therefore providing many thousands of dollars of free cash for Labour.

Dr Brash says, "It is time for Helen Clark to pay up". He may turn true blue if he decides to holds his breath until that happens.

(Update: Deputy PM Michael Cullen wants Labour to introduce restrospective legislation to validate the unlawful spending. has confirmed he will brief the Cabinet on Monday about options to counter the threat – including retrospective legislation to validate the allegedly unlawful spending! What The?!

Leader of the Libertarianz party, Bernard Darnton, has also lodged a related case in the High Court, seeking a judgement that Labour's pledge card spending was unlawful).

* DPF's Kiwiblog: All paid up
* Whale Oil Beef Hooked: National pays back overspending
* NZ Herald: Labour shifts the goalposts
* NZ Herald: John Armstrong: Labour's dodgy card tricks

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Wednesday, 9 August 2006

A Greasy Reality Check

US TV network NBC is picking up on Andrew Lloyd Webber's idea, and launching its own 'Theatre Idol' search... for a revival of the hit musical Grease. (Teen readers may know it better as "that funny old school version of High School Musical" ;-)

They've gone with an obvious title for the new mid-season show, "You're The One That We Want", which will see 3 judges and the American viewers choosing the two leads for a new Broadway production of Grease.

The tv talent competition, produced by BBC Worldwide, will search the US for the new Danny Zuko (played by John Travolta in the film) and Sandy Dumbrowski (actually Olsen in the film, played by Olivia Newton-John).

Original co-creator of Grease, Jim Jacobs, will be one of the judges on the NBC show, along with Director/Choreographer Kathleen Marshall, and Theatre Producer David Ian (currently a judge on BBC UK's How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria?).

The new production of Grease is scheduled to open on Broadway in mid-2007, with tickets going on sale this December.

* BroadwayWorld: TV Talent Search to Find Stars for New Broadway 'Grease'
* Zap2it: NBC, 'Grease' Go Together - Midseason show will pick cast members for revival

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Sunday, 6 August 2006

Solving the Maria Problem

The BBC reality show, How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria? has begun on UK television. The Musical-Idol style show sees female singers auditioning to play the role of Maria Von Trapp in Andrew Lloyd Webber's new production of Rodgers and Hammerstein's The Sound of Music.

Thousands of potential singers have been whittled down to ten finalists, who will sing live on the BBC TV show (hosted by Graham Norton) every Saturday night. Alongside Andrew Lloyd Webber are an "expert panel"... Theatre Producer David Ian, Actor John Barrowman (Theatre & on TV's Dr Who), and Vocal Coach & Singer Zoe Tyler.

They'll give their verdicts on the hopefuls, with the public voting for their favourite. The singer with the least votes each week will be sent packing from Maria School. The winner will be chosen on September the 16th, and receive a six-month contract on the West End.

The new production of The Sound of Music is due to open at the London Palladium on the 3rd of November.
Hollywood actress Scarlett Johansson was initially offered the role of alternate Maria (the winner of the BBC show won't do every performance), but the 21-year old actress demanded two minders backstage at all times, so the deal fell through. West End actress Emma Williams is now rumoured to have been offered the part.

* Andrew Lloyd Webber: How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria?

* BBC: How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria? - Homepage

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Saturday, 5 August 2006

High School Musical comes to Stagedoor Manor!

One of my old Summer Camps, Stagedoor Manor, has got permission to stage the premiere of the theatrical version of High School Musical (the hit Disney tv movie-musical) later this month.

Stagedoor Manor, the prestigious theatre summer camp in the Catskill Mountains of New York will stage the first amateur production of High School Musical. It's apparently being Directed by the brilliant Mr Larry Nye (Yay, Larryland! ;-) and will be performed by a cast of Stagedoor's third session campers.

Based on the hit Disney Channel film, HSM has just been adapted for the stage, in a full-length two-act version and a shorter one-act 70 minute version.

It contains all the songs from the Disney Channel soundtrack, plus two new songs and a High School Musical Megamix (cool!). The new numbers are: Cellular Fusion (Chad, Taylor, Company) and We're Counting on You (Jocks and Brainiacs), plus Wildcat Cheer (not on the CD).

(Stagedoor Manor, situated in Loch Sheldrake NY, is the top specialist theatre summer camp in the USA, staging over 40 shows every summer, and teaching valuable acting and performance skills to hundreds of teenagers each year. The movie Camp was based on director Todd Graff's time as a camper at Stagedoor Manor, and was largely shot at the camp in the summer of 2002).
Not surprisingly, Disney and Music Theatre International have already received "an overwhelming response from schools all over the country", with over 2,000 schools expected to produce High School Musical onstage by the end of next year. (A professional Broadway production of the show is also in the works... Liza Minnelli is rumoured to be up for role of the drama teacher Ms Darbus).

High School Musical
has set records for tv viewers, and sales of its CD soundtrack and DVD. The Disney Channel movie's also proved a hit in Australasia and Southeast Asia.

The made-for-tv-movie stars Zac Efron and Vanessa Anne Hudgens as students Troy and Gabriella, who fall in love and battle opposition from friends and enemies to star in their school musical.
A junior novel based on the movie hit the top spot on the New York Times bestseller list (children's paperbacks) and an album of sheet music from the movie is also very popular.

* TheaterMania: Stage Version of High School Musical to Debut at Stagedoor Manor
* Broadway World: Disney Confirms First High School Musical Productions
* Playbill: "Camp" Site Gets First Dibs on Stage Version of Disney's High School Musical

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Free Skiing at the Snow Park

Got to spend a couple of days up in Wanaka last week... One of the stories we were did was up at the Snow Park in the Cardrona Valley, on a couple of 'Free Skiers' - a brother and sister team.

Unfortunately the sister-half, Amy had injured her knee and was waiting for surgery... However brother Lyndon was happy to show off a few moves (altho we couldn't see his speciality halfpipe as that was closed...)

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Nothing but air ;-)

One of Lyndon's few jumps that my camera was quick enough to capture... ;-)

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We forgot our Sunnies ;-)

Chris and Dave up at the Snow Park... Neither of us had sunglasses, I left my beanie back at the office (in Dunedin), but at least we were both layered up with thermals...

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Hard at Work

Cameraman Damon shoots the action, Chris watches on, and the injured Amy gives instructions from the sidelines...

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Flying High after 11 Years

While we were up in Wanaka, we caught up with a local journalist and pilot Barry Cardno to do a story on him. Barry was paralysed from the waist down in a top-dressing plane crash 11 years ago (he has some movement in his legs, but relies on a wheelchair to get around).

He's been battling the CAA to be able to fly again, and recently took his first solo flight in over a decade in a 'Light Sports Aircraft' (a modern Microlight). Barry uses a t-bar attachment which fits onto the foot pedals, so he can control the rudders with his hands.

The solo plane he normally uses was waiting to be repaired, so here he is preparing to go up with his instructor Ruth from Fly Wanaka...

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Chris takes a break

Chris (learning the ropes as our trainee camera assistant) takes a break up against one of the Tacnam's (Light sports aircraft)... No, we didn't get to go up... only the real pilots and the cameraman get to do that kind of thing ;-)

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Standing on Thin Ice!

I was up in the Maniatoto recently, and we were hoping to do a story on a Bonspiel (outdoor Curling tournament) to be held on the Idaburn Dam. Although the water's been frozen over for much of the winter, the ice has to be thick enough to support a couple of dozen teams over a good day's play.

Because of the delicate conditions required, it's not possible to hold a Bonspiel every year, but organisers were hopeful this time around because of our very cold winter. It was the job of local bonspiel boss Stuart McKnight to check the ice every few days, drilling down to see how thick it was.

Unfortunately a few fine spells, combined with heavy snowfalls (not good for dumping on the ice) meant the planned day had to be called off, and is pretty unlikely to happen this year...

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