Behind the Curtain: Q&A with Musical Theatre Creatives

If you’ve been missing the magic of musicals at The PumpHouse Theatre, you’re not alone. We were lucky to have Bravi Theatre present the incredible Spring Awakening last year, but apart from that we haven’t had as many of those toe-tapping, heart-swelling musical productions in recent years. That’s why we’re absolutely pumped to announce that this March, we’re shaking things up and bringing not one, but two fantastic musicals to our theatre! 

We interviewed some of the talented individuals who are bringing to life North Shore Music Theatre’s Next to Normal and Masked Productions’ In Pieces, and we are lucky that they have given us a sneak peek into their creative worlds. Let’s meet them!


As an Auckland-based performer and seasoned arts practitioner with over a decade of experience in the creative arts industry, Rebekkah has developed a keen eye for movement. She’s passionate about movement, life, and storytelling, fueling her repertoire in dance education, choreography, and performance. Recently, she completed a postgraduate diploma from the University of Auckland, which enabled her to expand her knowledge base and delve deeper into dance academia. Her research is currently exploring the potential of New Zealand Sign Language as a choreographic form, hoping to help bridge the gap between the artistic-hearing and non-hearing communities in Aotearoa.

An in-demand professional Dancer, Choreographer, Singer and Actress, Rebekkah has trained in Auckland and later in New York at “Broadway Dance Centre” and, in 2021, completed her Post Graduate Diploma in Dance Studies with Auckland University. Founder of the dynamic dance theatre company LUCK & SCHOONEY, Rebekkah is co-artistic director of the annual spectacle cabaret “Night of the Queer”.

Her choreographic work has been seen in many theatre productions (Basement X-Mas, Rock Follies Forever), musicals (We Will Rock You, West Side Story, Be More Chill), music videos (“Running Wild” – INDIGO, “Currents of Black Blood” – Yan Yates) corporate events (Skycity, Diamond Entertainment), TV (Media Works, DWTS) and competition solo/group performances.

In 2015, she was awarded “Stand Out Female Performer” for her contemporary choreography “The Crickets Have Arthritis” (Short + Sweet Dance Festival), and in 2016, she completed a one-month Contemporary Indigenous Dance Residency at Banff Arts Centre in Canada. In 2019, Rebekkah performed at Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Two Hearts: The Comeback Tour with Laura Daniel and Joseph Moore and is a regular burlesque performer in the Auckland region with appearances in SNUFF Cabaret and Night of the Queer.

Her theatre credits include Shortland Street The Musical (ATC), featuring on the original cast recording album, Pleasuredome the Musical, Chicago (ATC), Persuasion, Artemis, Anything Goes and 42nd Street. She has appeared on television (X-Factor, Jono and Ben), in multiple music videos (Marlon Williams, Stan Walker, The Eversons), and modelled for Les Mills Gym.

She has been heavily involved in New Zealand dance education and teaching for the past ten years. She has developed curriculums for multiple institutions, including NZQA Level 4 & 5 dance curriculum for Excel Performing Arts, with her position as Head of Department for two years.


David is an experienced professional Director and Producer who also had a long corporate career at a senior level with companies like Warehouse Stationery, OfficeMax, NXP and Ziera Shoes.

But he gave up the corporate world some years ago to focus entirely on the arts. He frequently runs workshops on Directing Musicals around the country and was for some years a guest speaker for the Auckland University MBA Program. David is also an accomplished performer with leading roles in many shows though in recent years his focus has been on Production Management and Directing. Last year David directed Kinky Boots at The Civic in Auckland and the St James in Wellington, rounding off the year directing Priscilla Queen of the Desert in Napier. After Next to Normal he heads to Wellington again to direct We Will Rock You at the St James.

David is also a board member of the well-known theatre production company G&T Productions and is the Development Director of the Amici Trust.


When it comes to the Auckland theatre scene, Adeel’s a little bit of a newcomer and infrequent flyer – having only done his first ever show (outside of school) about 4 years ago! He started off his journey as Joseph in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat (MPA, 2019), and was delighted to receive a NAPTA award for Best Leading Actor. Since then, Adeel has absolutely loved performing as Seymour in Little Shop of Horrors (PPA, 2022 – ACTT award for Best Male in a leading role) and most recently as Harry in Kinky Boots (G&T Productions, 2023) on the Civic Theatre stage. Offstage, he’s a veterinarian who works in both clinical practice and for the government, where he coordinates the animal welfare response in large-scale disasters.


Elinor is an avid lover of the arts, whether she is playing trumpet in a jazz band, or acting on stage, she is constantly involved. At the moment, she is about to debut her first lead role as Natalie In Next to Normal at the PumpHouse from March 9th-23rd! Elinor is also part of the amazing Front of House team at The PumpHouse Theatre.

We had a chat with these talented artists and threw some questions their way. Check out their answers, all in their own words!

What does musical theatre mean to you, personally?

REBEKKAH: Musical theatre has always meant storytelling to me. In many ways, it’s all my favourite ways of telling stories at once, singing, dancing and acting with added theatrical elements. It’s a medium through which I can express myself best, as I love all aspects of Musical Theatre.

DAVID: Musical theatre has always been important in my life, starting from a very young age as a child in local pantomimes and it has been calling to me ever since. Whether a local production or a Broadway extravaganza, a comedy or tragedy, the combination of music, dance and story combine to entertain us, educate us and take us away from our own world for just a few hours. In these challenging times, it feels even more important than ever…

ADEEL: Musicals are my preferred form of escapism! As a veterinarian, I appreciate the opportunity that theatre gives me to step out of my often high-stress clinical role, and take on a new character with an entirely different point-of-view. On top of that, I don’t have to pick because I get the best of three worlds; singing-acting-dancing! Finally, getting to experience an audience light up and respond to what you perform can be very addictive.

ELINOR: Musical theatre is a beautifully unique way to tell a story, in the way it links the emotions of a song to the story you’re watching. I have always loved music, but musical theatre holds an incredibly special place in my heart, likely because of the deep-rooted emotion in each piece. It’s so versatile and there are so many subgenres to explore. The community that the shows form is unmatched as well. I love the Musical Theatre community!!

What is your role in this production (In Pieces / Next to Normal), and what does it entail?

REBEKKAH (In Pieces): My role is the director but also a performer. The production team asked me to direct and perform, which is very lucky for me, as I love to do both roles. My character, Alex, has a few songs mostly separate from the rest of the cast, allowing me to step out and see the bigger picture as the director. As director, I’m in charge of making it all happen on stage and, most importantly, ensuring that the rehearsal process is fun and engaging for everyone so that we can bring out our best work on stage.

DAVID (Next to Normal): I am the Director of the show, which means that I am responsible for all of the creative aspects that you see. I collaborate closely with the Music Director, Choreographer and Vocal Coach’s to create a shared vision which is then imparted to the cast and technical depts, and then eventually through them, to the audience.

ADEEL (In Pieces): In this production, I get to be on stage as Charlie and you will get a few glimpses of different relationships and memories from his life. Charlie’s coming of age and first relationship with Grey (played by Karlo Valdez), is a significant part of his story. Charlie’s a bit of a geek who wears his heart on his sleeve and I’m quite excited to bring him to life.

ELINOR (Next to Normal):  My role in Next to Normal, Natalie Goodman, is the daughter of Diana, a mother with bipolar. Before Natalie was born, Diana and their family faced a tragedy, triggering her disorder. Natalie feels like she is constantly living in her brother’s shadow, even when she is doing all she can to succeed and get approval from her parents. Her story is bittersweet in the end, but heartbreaking throughout.

What drew you to this particular musical?

REBEKKAH: This is not your “normal” musical; it’s a contemporary one. I like that it only shows small pieces of people’s lives, allowing the audience to connect the emotion of the moment. I like that this doesn’t have an interval and is stripped back from your normal flashy musicals; it doesn’t have all the bells and whistles to tell the stories; the stories are told solely through the songs and engagement with the audience. It’s unique in that respect.

DAVID: I was a latecomer to this particular show entering the fray only 5 weeks from opening, but was immediately struck by the powerful messages and deep characterisations required. It is unusually complex for a musical (and I adore the music) and I have loved getting to grips with the story and exploring with the cast how they affect the story and how the story affects them.

ADEEL: The music! It’s got a really fun range of musical styles and is very catchy and easy to get into. Beyond that, I love that I get to be a part of an ensemble cast with many different stories and voices equally woven into one production.

ELINOR: I loved Next to Normal far before I got the role, due to the show’s unique style of music- Very contemporary and rock, but also at moments, heartbreaking and ballad-like. The plot is also incredibly important to me, as my family has a history of mental illness, and seeing the experience recorded through such beautiful music and characters is really special. But the show isn’t all melancholy, as you still see parts of the “normal” life of the characters and the almost “supernatural” presence of the dead son. One of my favorite moments is the closing number of the show, where you see the family in the end, out the other side of the darkness. “There will be light” is the last line of the show, purveying the message that- even in the darkest moments, there will be something good. There will be light.

Favourite musical and why?

REBEKKAH: One of my favourite musicals is “Once.” It relies heavily on music and is set in Ireland, with performers serving as the musicians. It creates a raw atmosphere told from both sides of a situation, and the music is so lovely! I think it’s a musical that not many people know of, and I will always shout it’s brilliant from the rooftops.

DAVID: I’m afraid that my Favourite Musical is always the one I’m working on at the time!

ADEEL: It would have to be Joseph! At 11 years old, that was my first ever musical theatre role, and it was also the first show I did outside of school as an adult. A lot of sentimental value!

ELINOR: This question haunts me… I listen to an ungodly number of musicals, with many different genres and stories. I think it depends on my mood? When I want something dramatic I love the musical Bandstand, but when I’m looking for something chaotic and interesting, Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812 is a great one! When I want something comedic, any of the Starkid shows are perfect, but when I’m looking for something innovative and groovy Songs for a New World is incredible. I could go on and on, but there are a few…

Dream role?

REBEKKAH: A dream role would be playing an ensemble in “Hamilton” because of the storytelling that choreography creates and the show’s brilliance, but the choreography draws me to this role. I also love that indigenous people from all walks of life can connect through this show; being Māori, there aren’t many places to be Māori in a Musical theatre space, so I love it when this is celebrated. But my ultimate ‘dream role’ would be Mary Poppins, given her iconic character and physicality. She’s very to the point but out of love, and I think that side of her also resonates with who I am. It’s one of the first Disney films that really made me go WOW, so the child in me would be happy and privileged if given the chance.

DAVID: I’m kind of living it! I work with a variety of organisations, I get to travel the county directing musicals, I get to work on shows as a production manager, and I get to teach, coach and mentor new directors as they start down their journeys – who could ask for more?

ADEEL: I’ve been quite lucky to have already done a couple of dream roles! Beyond these, maybe Akaash from Bombay Dreams. I’d also have heaps of fun as Shakespeare in & Juliet, and, maybe, a gender-bent K Howard in Six…..

ELINOR: Just like the previous question, there are SO many depending on how i feel, and the genre in question. (let me just refer to my notes-app list of roles: ) I LOVE Sondheim, so anyone in his musicals (Sunday in the Park with George & Sweeney Todd are my favorites) Eurydice in Hadestown (though I’m not the type-cast for it) Natasha from The Great Comet, Veronica from Heathers, and (purely for the beautiful vocals) Francesca from The Bridges to Madison County. (Natalie Goodman was one of my dream roles, so I checked that box!)

What advice would you give to aspiring actors or crew looking to pursue a career in musical theatre?

REBEKKAH: My advice would be to see lots of different shows, talk to people in the industry, and research what fascinates you. Theatre as a storytelling medium is so huge that there’s so much to discover. But also, No amount of workshops alone will get you a career in musical theatre. You must put in the work and love what you do, be curious, and the right things will come along. There are times when it’s tiring but then you remember you have been given the gift to make people feel and teach through this platform, and it’s all worth it. Stay curious 🙂

DAVID: Train, watch, listen and build experience any way that you can. There are numerous New Zealanders working professionally at a very high level in Australia, The West End and Broadway – most of whom started in amateur theatre, so the opportunities are there if you are prepared to undertake the work – and accept the risks along the way. But don’t expect it will always be easy, or that work is just out there waiting for you – you may have to create your own opportunities first or in between.

ADEEL: Step out of your own way. Also, if you’re not having a good time…you’re probably doing something wrong!

ELINOR: In truth, I am still an aspiring actor and singer. Along with simply getting involved in local theatres (or theatres far away, in my case) Listening to as many musicals as you can and finding your niche is really helpful. Not only does it get you more audition material, but it widens your understanding of musical theatre and the different shows that fall under that umbrella. You don’t necessarily have to be a triple threat to get a role (god knows i can’t dance…) you just have to keep an eye out for auditions, sing (and/or dance) loads and put yourself out there! I think there is a misconception that ensemble is a bad thing, but up until this show I was always in ensembles, and it grows your dance, singing and acting skills while getting to be involved in a great show.
If you love musical theatre, don’t let your physical abilities hold you back. The only way to get better is to do. Go do a show!!!

Rebekkah Schoonbeek-Berridge

Elinor Coghlan

Adeel Surendran | Ally Weir (Wired Photography)


Sign up today for regular updates, special offers and the chance to win free tickets.

Sign up