Jonty asks Rūtene Spooner the question on everyone's lips – where did the idea for a Wolverine-inspired cabaret come from?
How did the show originate?
The final Wolverine movie 'Logan' had not long been released.I've always been a fan of marvel movies. Wolverine was my childhood hero.
At the end of marvel movies, they have a secret little video after the credits for true fans. So, as a true fan, I sat in the theatre at the end of Logan and waited... but there was nothing. That was it. And in that moment, it hit me. He wasn’t coming back. After seventeen years... Wolverine wasn’t coming back. And it really felt like I was saying goodbye to a mate.
So I decided that I was going write a show, a love letter to my hero Hugh Jackman, who funnily enough has been a huge influence in my career to date.
I had seen open submissions for the cabaret festival, and I love cabaret and thought "I'm gonna submit the show." I wanted it to cheeky, entertaining and a little about my own story. When people look at me, they don't expect me to belt out show tunes, I'm not your normal musical theatre type, but its my passion.
So one day I was sitting down, having a cuppa tea with a few friends and I told them about my idea. I would have completely under sold it, as usual, but to my surprise everyone started cracking up. I suppose they could imagine the awkward comedy when you merge my two world, the world of Māori performing arts and musical theatre. I thought, well maybe this could be a thing.
What is it about Wolverine and Hugh Jackman that inspired you?
To me, Wolverine and Hugh Jackman are the same person. To me, he represents the true essence of what it means to be a man. He's fierce but he can be 'fabulous' aswell.
How hard was it choosing the right songs for the show? Were there any you wanted to include but didn't make the cut?
It wasn't too hard to choose the songs, especially once the story was in place. In fact, I had too many songs to start with. Jennifer and I were adamant that a song was not going to make the cut if it didn't further the story – and man we lost some beautiful songs – but that's how it goes! We've had a few songs rejected by APRA, but I have learned fast that you need to have an A set list, and a B set list, just in case. We're lucky that our more pivotal songs have made the cut. FEW!
What has been the most difficult part of the production?
The most difficult part for me was the writing. Seventeen drafts later we've got something that I'm proud of, but I still think it's a work in progress. I've devised plenty of shows, workshopped other people's plays but I've never written a solo cabaret before – and it was hard. It's a whole new ball game, especially when you're toying with music and song. I have learnt a lot from both Jennifer and Kate Prior and I hope I've become a better writer in the process.
What has it been like working with Jennifer Ward-Lealand?
She is a bloody legend! Love her. Im really lucky to have someone like Jennifer who has so much love for the arts and is passionate about fostering young performers. We've worked together before, and we had a great time, but it still took me weeks to drum up the courage and ask her to direct my show. She's a busy woman, and she's in the position to choose her projects wisely. I couldn't believe it when she said she would direct my show. I didn't have a script at the time, just an idea, and for some reason she put her faith in me, gambled a bit no doubt, and well, here we are. I have always felt safe and supported with Jennifer because she gets me. She gets the worlds of the show. She understands storytelling via song, she's musical, she knows world of cabaret, of musical theatre, she's a huge advocate for Te Reo Māori and so I couldn't have found anyone better the Jennifer. Nōku te whiwhi!