Ali Harper to Return to The Court Theatre in SONGS FOR NOBODIES
Harper will take audiences on a journey to meet five everyday working women whose lives were changed by a chance encounter with a star. Each of these five women's stories are interspersed with the songs that made Judy Garland, Patsy Cline, Edith Piaf, Billie Holliday and Maria Callas worldwide musical icons.
Joining Harper in bringing this show to New Zealand audiences is The Court Theatre's Artistic Director, Ross Gumbley, who also directed Bombshells, and Musical Director, Richard Marrett.
"Ali and I have been looking for a vehicle to work on together since we did another of Joanna Murray-Smith's plays, Bombshells, back in 2007. Songs for Nobodies requires a Herculean effort from one incredibly talented performer who needs to have the musical chops to be able to sing the songs of these five divas, and that's an incredible technical feat, but it's also an incredible platform to showcase Ali's incredible skills and strengths," Gumbley says.
Murray-Smith seems to agree. As Ali performed Bombshells extensively across the globe, and won the Best Actress award at the United Solo Festival in New York, following Bette Midler's win the year before, she has developed a close relationship with Murray-Smith. Due to Murray-Smith's explicit trust in Ali as a performer, she agreed to grant the exclusive New Zealand rights to The Court Theatre, on the condition that it would be Ali Harper performing the show.
"In my 25 year career, there have been a handful of scripts that have come my way and have felt like a gift. Songs for Nobodies is one of those gifts. One woman plays are nothing new to me but this particular one is going to stretch and challenge me in new areas, which is both invigorating and terrifying. Luckily for me I am surrounded by the incredible Court Theatre team who will prop me up, rally me along and keep me sane," Harper says.
In developing her performance for Songs for Nobodies, Harper has the unique challenge of having to master ten different accents, ten complex characters and five different singing styles.
"It's a fascinating piece of drama to work on," Gumbley says. "The script has a greater level of maturity and complexity than Bombshells. That maturity comes through as the women in the play go to a deeper level, celebrate the human condition and consider what it really means to be 'living the dream'."
Supporting Harper on The Court's stage will be three musicians, Richard Marrett, Tim Sellars and Michael Story, who will punctuate the performance on a grand piano, upright bass and drums.
"There will be a three-piece band which has to negotiate its way across several styles of music in order to comment on the various characters that Ali is playing," Marrett says.
Songs such as Patsy Cline's Crazy, Judy Garland's Come Rain or Come Shine and Edith Piaf's Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien are well loved pieces of music which are structured into the play to an incredible emotional pay-off.
Set designer, Richard Van Den Berg, has developed a sophisticated and spare set to complement Harper in her performance. "The idea was to create a simple and elegant space which can function as multiple settings", Van Den Berg says.
Lighting designer, Sean Hawkins, will utilise the simplicity of the set, which has allowed his designs to become a central part of the show. Sound designer, Giles Tanner, will work alongside Marrett and Gumbley to develop the complexities of the sound, transporting audiences into the world of each of the different characters.
"I couldn't be more excited to be going on this journey with Ali. I really can't wait to see the reaction that this exceptional play, performed by a truly gifted performer, will draw from an audience," Gumbley says.
Songs for Nobodies boasts a stunning script which perfectly marries the incredible power of music. It will reach out and grab your heart. It will hit you on a comedic level, an intellectual level and on a spiritual level.
Songs for Nobodies opens at The Court on June 17th and runs until July 15th.
For bookings and more information, visit www.courttheatre.org.nz.