Pasifika musical to debut at Auckland's Civic with star-studded cast and soundtrack

By Vaimaila Leatinu'u

Video: Pacifica the Musical star Nick Afoa talks about what makes Pacifica the musical so unique. / Supplied

By Vaimaila Leatinu'u Te Rito journalism cadet

The pressure is on for Pacifica the Musical's cast and crew, as they not only prepare to premiere at Auckland's Civic theatre but also aim to honour the Pacific roots within its story.

Headlining singer, international dancer and actress Ezra Williams, also known as Raze, is one of two actresses playing the musical's love interest.

Williams, whose older siblings are singers Lavina and Josh J Williams, says she feels the pressure of representing the legacy of Pacific cultures.

"The most challenging thing, for me, is honestly being able to do our people proud.

"There are the little challenges like missing a cue, or missing a dance move, but not as much as actually being able to uphold what we're putting out."

The musical begins roughly 300 years ago when a young boy from a remote island loses a precious taonga. His mistake then casts a curse on the entire island and his descendants.

Fast forward to modern-day Auckland, a young man named Tanga learns about his family's past and embarks on a journey to discover both his own identity and that of his family, leaving behind the girl he was beginning to fall in love with.

Nick Afoa, a prominent rugby player-turned singer and actor, played the lead character Simba in the international musical The Lion King for years and has now brought his experience to the musical as a vocal coach and as the character of a kaumātua.

"It all boils down to the truth of the story," he said.

"How are we portraying this taonga? This generational curse, is it a little bit surface level? So I'd say that's been the biggest challenge."

Nick Afoa plays a kaumātua in the Pacifica the Musical, which premieres at Auckland's The Civic theatre on Friday.

Afoa said that although representing Pasifika in the musical has been a challenge, it has also pushed them to their greatest achievement.

Celebrating Pacific creatives

"We've done a lot in terms of the story making sense not only on a commercial level but also to our people. That means a lot to us as Pacific creatives."

The musical has garnered many accomplished Pasifika creatives besides Williams and Afoa - such as Hadleigh Pouesi as the show's choreographer and Jacob Nansen as musical director.

Williams said: "It's great we've got actual Pacific Islanders behind the scenes who carry all the art forms of song, dance and acting."

Pouesi acknowledged how certain customary practices from around the Pacific region had helped to inspire some of the choreography in the show.

"We're pulling from a lot of our Pacific rituals, Pacific traditions and then blending those with the modern dance styles that seem to be resonating well with our Pacific people."

As for what audiences can expect, Williams is excited to see all of their mahi come to fruition and have people experience it.

"There [are] a lot of twists and turns. It's definitely a tear-jerker," she said.

"There's also comedy and action...I don't want to give too much away, but just be prepared! It's an emotional rollercoaster."

Pacifica the Musical will appear at the Civic from August 19-28. For ticket information, visit Ticketmaster

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