Shorty star tried – and failed – to quit musical
There’s only been one gig that almost broke Lisa Chappell and that’s the one she thought would be a doddle. Sinead Corcoran reports.
Lisa Chappell’s showbiz career has spanned more than 30 years, but the only job she ever quit was Shortland Street – The Musical. Well, tried to anyway. ‘‘I had naively thought that because it’s a musical, there’d be hardly any dialogue so it would be really cruisy – but it’s turned out to be the hardest thing I’ve ever done,’’ she says.
‘‘It’s the only time I’ve ever tried to quit but they wouldn’t let me.’’
When I call Chappell, she’s stuck in rainy Auckland traffic, she’s swearing at someone who’s speeding and she’s completely forgotten about our interview – but she’s also not sleeping, two weeks out from the opening night of that show she tried to quit.
‘‘I’m perimenopausal, I’m getting the hot flushes at night, I’m in the fog,’’ says the 50-year-old. ‘‘It’s a challenging time in my hormonal state to try to pick up a new skill.’’
That new skill would be dancing, and while she has an impressive acting career under her belt – as well as a singing album – she’s absolutely terrified of letting the team down.
‘‘If I wasn’t so scared about how we’re actually going to get this done, I would be having the time of my life. But as it were I’m working my ass off, petrified.’’
Despite having a fear of public singing, that album When Then Is Now came about as a means to an end.
Previously based in Australia, the Aucklandborn McLeod’s Daughters star moved back a few years ago but even the most successful actors don’t always know where their next pay cheque is coming from.
‘‘I want to stay living in New Zealand so I said to myself, ‘look you have got to get more work because you can’t survive here’.’’
It wasn’t the money that got her to agree to Shortland Street – The Musical, however.
They offered her the part of nurse Carrie Burton, who has the honour of speaking what is perhaps the most famous line in the entire history of New Zealand television.
‘‘They told me I’d get to sing the most iconic line of the entire series – ‘You’re not in Guatemala now, Dr Ropata’ – and I said ‘OK, sold’.’’
The show is set on the early years of the soap, so think Lionel and Kirsty, and ‘‘Dr Love’’ Chris Warner before he had seven kids and about as many marriages.
Looking at the promotions for the production though, you’d be forgiven for thinking it looks like a complete send up of what is such a beloved institution of Kiwi television – but Chappell assures me it’s more of an ode.
‘‘Yes, it takes the p... out of the soap genre, but it’s not a p... take of the show – it’s a loving, affectionate pastiche.’’
Die-hard fans of the series needn’t worry, they’re not going to make a mockery of you or your favourite characters.
‘‘They’re not going to feel like they’re being dissed, they’re being celebrated.’’
This isn’t Chappell’s first visit to Ferndale. The actress starred in Shortland Street in the early 90s, after her iconic debut on Gloss, and caused an uproar with what at the time was a revolutionary storyline. She played a primary school teacher who had contracted HIV from her fiance.
‘‘In the early 90s everyone thought that the only people who contracted HIV were drug users and homosexuals,’’ says Chappell.
‘‘A lot of parents tried to ban their kids from watching, but I thought was a really important truth to get out there.’’
This time round, the storylines aren’t as heavy,
but as it’s a live show, the pressure to nail it is much greater.
Despite just wrapping up tour dates on her last musical That Bloody Woman, she says Shortland
Street – The Musical is a whole other beast entirely. ‘‘I thought That Bloody Woman was my personal Everest, but I’ve realised that was only base camp.
Shortland Street – The Musical is on in Auckland at the ASB Theatre from November 14 to December 9, before touring New Zealand in March and April 2019. Tickets are available now.
Lisa Chappell, above right, is known for her role on McLeod’s Daughters, and appears in Shortland Street – The Musical ,a ‘‘loving, affectionate pastiche’’ of the iconic soap.
Shortland Street is Everest, and hopefully I’ll manage to do the climb.’’