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.

Taranaki Daily News - - Entertainment -

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.’’

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