Aryan Coleman's first leading role is the two-faced fame hungry Roxie in Chicago, A Musical Vaudeville. Tania McCauley reports.
She may have the face of an angel but Roxie Hart is far from it. One of the leading ladies in Chicago A Musical Vaudeville, Roxie's misdemeanours land her in Cook County Jail with other murderesses awaiting trial or on Death Row.
This is the Prohibition era, mind, and as she discovers, a flash of leg or batting of the eyelashes, not to mention the promise of cash to flash lawyer Billy Flynn so he will work hard for her cause, will go a long way to persuading an all-male jury that she didn't do it.
At just 18 Aryan Coleman has landed the coveted role of Roxie and is hard at work polishing her performance for the Wendy Revell-directed Napier Operatic Society show, opening at the Tabard Theatre on July 12.
Originally from Gisborne, Coleman moved to Hawke's Bay last year and will finish training with PORSE to be a nanny just before Chicago opens.
No stranger to the stage, she was a regular in Campion College school shows and musicals, has 11 years ballet training behind her and several years of hip hop dance, which she is now teaching to preschoolers. She also has classical singing training to Grade 8.
A regular in Musical Theatre Gisborne shows since she was nine, including a recent production of Chicago in which she was a chorus girl, other roles have included being a schoolboy in Oliver Twist, Louisa von Trapp in The Sound of Music, and last year, Consuela in Theatre Hawke's Bay's production of West Side Story.
"Finally, a big part for me," she says. "Wendy is absolutely amazing, pushing me and helping me develop my character. It's funny, but I can't be Roxie until I have my shoes on, then it's all on."
Coleman admits it's very different to what she's used to - being further away from the audience and not so much in the spotlight - but the experience is great.
Like other shows she has been involved with, the cast and crew have become like family, and she's grateful for the advice and support of seasoned theatre performers such as Deborah Burnside, who plays her main rival Velma Kelly.
Coleman is already looking ahead to the next show, or two, with auditions for That's Showbiz and Hairspray in her sights.
Her big dream is to go to Broadway but, sensibly, figures trying her luck in Auckland or Wellington might be the best way to get there.
"I need to take baby steps to bigger things."
For Revell, one of the deciding factors in choosing who would play Velma and Roxie was that they balanced each other.
"She (Aryan) did a wonderful audition. I dressed her in different clothes to see if age would be a concern, and if there's not a lot of life experience, a lot of dialogue and intent can be missed," Revell said.
"But in talking with her and watching her move and the way she applied herself she's come up trumps. Anything I've asked her to do she's given it a go."
Maurine Watkins' original stage play Chicago opened on Broadway in 1926, followed by two movies, in 1927 and 1942, and a musical adaptation in 1975 which was used as the basis for the Oscar-winning film version in 2002.
Revell says it's interesting how many people think it's all fiction but the "amazing" women in the show were all based on real people.
"It's an interesting era and I think because of the all-male juries back then these women got away with it. I think they thought they were too beautiful to commit murder."
Nowadays female prisoners are given opportunities to study, but back then they were given lessons in how to put on makeup and how to present themselves to the men, she adds.
"It's satirical, one of those plays where audience members laugh at something but then think to themselves, isn't that terrible.
"The big thing about this is to try to keep that dark side but keep the comedy too. If we can convey half of that to the audience I will be happy."
What: Chicago, A Musical Vaudeville
Where: When: Tabard Restaurant Theatre, Napier,
When: July 12-August 4