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The Christchurch Les Misérmassacre

In a Cityscape exclusive, we caught up with glam show gals extraordinaire Le Gateau Chocolat and Jonny Woo, whose raucous night of ballsy ballads and slaughtered show tunes A Night At The Musicals is one of the must-see events at this year’s World Buskers Festival.

It’s been three long years since you were last here Le Gateau Chocolat – why so long between lovin’s?
I know! It’s been truly heart-breaking to not be able to return because, as you know, I started a glorious love affair with your city. The theatre and opera worlds have been beckoning. I’m so pleased to be returning and hopefully breaking the hiatus.

And you’re bringing your friend Jonny Woo – what Christchurch sights will you be showing Jonny?
Oh, you’re going to fall in love with him and hopefully this party of a show. When I was first there I went on the 8-hour train which was breath-taking, to the beach, some lovely hot springs, was invited to a winery… so much to do, so little time. The little creature comforts; the lovely people at The George Hotel, the glorious volunteer staff, the generosity and heart of New Zealanders, the weather... so much to look forward to.

Jonny, what are you looking forward to most about performing at the World Buskers Festival?
This is totally a life first coming to New Zealand, so I am very excited. I have a fair few Kiwi buddies and they are the nicest people, so I’m not worried about the lovely welcome awaiting. I really need to see as much as I can, so I’m re-learning to drive so I can get to explore in between shows. It really is an adventure, a new experience – I know that NZ is an incredible country and Christchurch is a very special resilient place with a strong community, so I’m just excited to be coming.

We’re super excited about A Night At The Musicals – what can you tell us about it?
JW: It’s a buffet, if you like, of our favourite musical numbers given our silly twist. We love all the songs in it and never bore of singing (or lip-synching) to them – this is our third tour of the Southern Hemisphere, and we make each other laugh. Come with an open spirit and get ready to sing.

How did you come up with the musical massacre/homage concept?
JW: It came organically over many years. We used to do the show years ago and we’d sing songs we liked to sing and we always messed around with how we presented them.
LGC: It’s organic, it really is – it’s us having fun with someone else’s material and playing with people’s expectations.

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What’s your favourite ‘musical reimagining’ from the show?
JW: OK, so I love my bit from Les Mis. I’ll just say that, I know the song like the back of my hand from singing it throughout senior school, and I love that the idea for it came about one late night drunk with a tea towel on my head!
LGC: Now that would be telling; she can give away all her secrets, but I’m saving mine till that wonderful moment you actually work out what song it is I’m doing. That’s surely part of the joy – the discovery!

Are there any musicals you won’t mess with?
JW: Nothing is sacred. Le Gateau can tackle anything. My knowledge is a little less extensive, but I’m good with Rogers and Hammerstein, from doing all the school plays. Don’t let me near [Stephen] Sondheim, I don't have the pitch control... like really! That really would be a massacre!
LGC: Hahahhahahahahha... I’m just going to sit over here and giggle in your face.

With so much talent on stage, how do you make sure you don’t hog the spotlight?
JW: Oh, Le Gateau can have the spotlight when she wants. If I feel like I’m not getting enough attention, I just flash my legs. It’ll soon balance out. We both bring two very different things to the table and it’s not a competition – we are there for each other.
LGC: Honestly, I had forgotten the joy of sisterhood and a shared experience – on stage. Having performed solos for so long, this was very welcome.

How many costume changes can we expect, and what can you tell us about your show-stoppingest ensemble?
JW: Ha ha ha, mine is definitely less and hers is definitely more! Use your imagination. Le Gateau loves couture, darling, and I work out 4-times a week. We both bring our A-game in terms of look, but in two very different ways. My suitcase weighs less than Le Gateau’s, but it’s more often than not that Le Gateau is telling me to put more clothes on! There are lots of costume changes, too many to count... and casual strip tease, of course!

What’s the best advice your mothers ever gave you?
JW: Don’t waste your life!

If you could share one beauty tip with the ladies of Christchurch, what would it be?
JW: Do things your way. Listen, all my role models are women – I get all my tips from you! Keep doing what you are doing – I’m looking to you for advice!
LGC: There’s only one you and you are enough.

A Night At The Musicals, Jan 18 – 27, worldbuskersfestival.com

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