Playwright Georgia-Kate Heard talks about her new show, Puss in Boots, and why children’s musical theatre is so important
Q: What’s different about your adaptation of Puss in Boots which premieres at The Court from 28 September – 8 October?
What’s different about our adaptation of Puss in Boots is, it’s the traditional story, but updated to be relevant for children today. In the original version of this fairy tale, like so many, the female character, the princess, is a passive character who’s only goal is to marry a prince or someone wealthy enough to take care of her. In this world we live in now, full of so many powerful, independent and successful women, I knew I had to write a strong female character who didn’t need to be “saved”. I want little girls to sit in the audience of my show and see a female character they can look up to, rather than one they are supposed to feel sorry for.
I’ve adapted lots of aspects of the traditional fairytale, to make it enjoyable for children of all ages, by adding humour and as much audience interaction as possible. I am a huge believer in audience participation in kids’ shows and I want the children to feel part of the story, like they are coming on an exciting journey with the characters.
Q: Why a musical?
It has long been a dream of mine to be involved in writing a children’s musical. I will never forget when my parents took me to see my first ever musical as a little girl. From the second those thick velvet curtains lifted, I was riveted. I fell in love with the music, the drama, the costumes and the ‘razzle dazzle’ of it all. I quickly realised that the stage was a magical place where anything was possible and dreams come true. My passion for theatre, which was ignited as a child, has lead me to pursue a career as a professional actor and writer.
My enthusiasm for musicals propelled me to spend three years at NASDA, studying to a gain a Bachelor of Performing Arts in musical theatre.
While at NASDA, immersed in a sea of musicals, it became even more apparent to me that I wanted to write a musical for the next generation of theatre enthusiasts. I believe that music is a universal language and is such a magical way to tell a story.
Being a mother of two young boys, one almost five and one five month old, has spurred me on even more to write a show that I know our four year old will love!
Also, being a mum of pre-schoolers I soon realised how few musical stage productions there were around for young children between the ages of 3-8, that were a realistic length for them to sit through (under an hour) and were an affordable price for the whole family.
Musicals are traditionally an expensive affair. With some popular musical shows charging over $100 a ticket, I wanted to be part of creating a musical that I knew as many children as possible could have the opportunity to see, and be introduced to this wonderful genre.
Teaming up with the extremely talented composer Matt Everingham to create this musical has been a dream come true. Matt’s songs are delightfully catchy and my four year old is already humming the tunes he’s heard Mummy working on the lyrics to. Matt’s song are upbeat, clever and will certainly have the little ones tapping their toes. I love that his music doesn’t dumb down to the kids. His songs are totally age appropriate, yet sophisticated enough for the parents to enjoy as well.
Q: How do you manage to find time for writing when there are so many calls upon your time as an actor and singer, and mum of two small boys?
I will admit that getting the final draft of this show written with a new baby and a preschooler wasn’t easy. I often found myself writing at 2am between feeds and rocking little Oliver in his bouncer, with my foot, while I typed the lyrics to a rap song! But my little ones are the reason I so strongly wanted to make this show happen.
I believe children’s theatre is so important to the future of the arts. Because it’s the little people who sit riveted in the audience of a show, who develop a love of theatre, of entertaining, of storytelling and who may go on to be our next Sir Peter Jackson or Margaret Mahy! In a world that is so dominated by screen time and technology, I think it’s so important to get our kids out to things like love theatre, that happen in the moment. A musical is a wondrous experience, and it certainly was for me as a little girl. Coincidentally, the first musical I ever saw was Cats. And twenty something years later I have gone on to write the book to a musical whose main character is a cat.
I am very proud to be a part of creating a show that is designed not only to be equally appealing to boys as it is to girls, with music written to be enjoyed by the whole family. The characters are lovable and the show is packed with fun upbeat show tunes. I am very grateful to The Court Theatre for making my dream a reality and for giving Christchurch children the opportunity to see such experienced, professional performers bring this show to life!