Press Release – Toi Whakaari NZ Drama School
Toi Whakaari: NZ Drama School is thrilled to announce its major ensemble production of the year, the Tony Award-winning musical Once on This Island. Directed by senior tutor Jon Hunter, with music direction from Mark W. Dorrell, Once on This Island is an enchanting and romantic story of forbidden love, gods and mortals, rich and poor, the powerful and the powerless.
A young peasant girl, Ti Moune, falls for a rich boy from the other side of the island. Politics, culture and superstition conspire to keep them apart but with the help of the island gods, she moves heaven and earth to be united with the man who has captured her heart.
Toi Whakaari is always on the lookout for productions that can showcase the developing skills of students in all the disciplines the school teaches – as well as being new to Wellington audiences. Once on This Island fits the brief because actors have to sing and dance, it requires innovative solutions to technical questions from arts management students, creative designs for set, costumes and props from design students and high quality construction of costumes from our costumiers-in-training.
Director Jon Hunter says, “Storytelling is a magical and powerful social tool used to connect, educate and inspire listeners. Once on This Island puts this age-old artform front-and-centre, as a group of storytellers transform the stage and weave the tale of Ti Moune from threads of our memories, our pain, grief, hope and faith…”
“How much do we sacrifice for love?”
About Once on This Island
Once on This Island is a an allegorical tale celebrating love, hope, life, death and renewal, inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid. The book and lyrics are by Lynn Ahrens and the music was composed by Stephen Flaherty.
Based on the 1985 novel “My Love, My Love” by Rosa Guy, Once on This Island opened Off-Broadway in May 1990 and subsequently transferred to Broadway on October 18, 1990, running for 14 months. The show had a West End premiere in September 1994. The show has become a favourite of musical aficionados and is being revived in a brand new production that will premiere on Broadway later this year.
The original Broadway production was nominated for several Tony awards, including Best Musical, Best Book, Best Original Score, Best Featured Actress in a Musical, Best Direction and Best Choreography.
Jon Hunter (Ngāpuhi) has led the voice training at Toi Whakaari: New Zealand Drama School since 2012. He is an actor, teacher and director with a focus on vocal performance.
New Zealand’s first Certified Master Teacher of Estill Voice Training™, Jon has provided elegant, evidence-based solutions to actors, singers and other professional voice users in film, theatre, and corporate settings across New Zealand for fifteen years. He has also taught in London and Australia.
Jon has taught actors at Unitec School of Performing & Screen Arts and South Seas Film & Television School, and singers at Auckland School of Rock. He has taught voice classes at the Performing Arts School of New Zealand, including The Actor’s Voice and Accents for Actors, as well as public and private workshops on a variety of voice and performance-related topics. He has taught and directed many operas for Opera Factory.
Recent direction includes the opera The Cunning Little Vixen for the New Zealand School of Music, and the musical The Last Five Years for Vision Theatre.
Mark W. Dorrell
Mark studied at Cambridge University, the Royal College of Music and the National Opera Studio. After four years on the Music Staff of Scottish Opera he returned to London where he enjoyed a varied freelance career as conductor, accompanist, pianist and vocal coach.
His extensive theatre credits as Musical Director/Conductor at the National Theatre London include A Little Night Music with Dame Judi Dench, Oklahoma with Hugh Jackman, Peter Pan with Ian McKellen, Guys and Dolls, Sweeney Todd, Candide, Lady in the Dark and Singin’ in the Rain. The original London productions of Stephen Sondheim’s Into The Woods, Assassins and Passion were conducted by Mark.
Since settling in New Zealand in 2007 he has enjoyed a busy freelance career ranging from Musical Director of Marat Sade, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Company, and Assassins at Toi Whakaari to teaching at Whitireia Performing Arts Centre and regularly works for the NZ Opera. He is a full-time member of staff at the Te Kōkī New Zealand School of Music and Director of Music at St Barnabas Church, Roseneath.
26th October – 5th November (Check website  for show times).
Te Whaea Theatre
Te Whaea National Dance & Drama Centre
11 Hutchinson Road, Newtown, Wellington
$25 full, $15 concessions
$10 for graduates
Student night: Friday 27th October $5