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Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Special Extravaganza Programme Issue [1953]

From Solos to Choruses

page 5

From Solos to Choruses

Fifty Years of Extrav

Marsqueraid—the monicker of Extravaganza 1955—and such a brisk, crisp and risque 120 minutes of modley saturated with songs and dripping with puns the maligned public of Wellington will have to suffer.

Descending late from their daily terrors, the weary and bleary have of late detected something of a minor scismological disturbance epi-centred near the Gym. Close investigation has revealed that once sombre edifice is in the apparent throes of chronic diarrhoea, pulsating violently to the rhythm of varied and eerie sounds emitted at intervals through shattered windows and splintered weather boards. But only the men of steel who have penetrated the fog and grog, the mist and the schist of the upper floor will realise the brutal truth—rehearsals are on.

Veteran of Extravaganzas and producer of former shows. Jeff Stewart, foaming at the larynx and blasting from the lungs, when interviewed had this to say: "Quiet please!"

Confusion, chaos, it is obvious that the process of panic has begun. But when did Extrav Itself begin. It may be Interesting to glance back over the years, so with our time-machine in reverse, off we go.

Back in 1903—the days of the "New Look"—we find a slim Issue marked sedately: "Students' Carnival"—the precursor of Cappicades yet unborn. In this we read that Diploma Day is Wednesday, June 24, and a carnival is to be held in the Sydney Street Schoolroom at which the whole thirteen graduates will be capped! Peeping inside we find a programme including, in part one, the Victoria College song, a pianoforte solo, a love song and a plantation song. Part two represents the beginning of Extrav. It is a farce called "My Turn Next." set in a country chemist's shop parlour.

The farce disappears from the scene until 1906, when it again makes its appearance as a two night stand. There is no trace of this noble script so we must travel on to 1911. In this year the show is now full length. Part One (with songs) having died a well-deserved death. In "Reform" or "The Metamorphosis of the Evolutions" we note that the part of Herlock Sholmes was taken by A. E. Caddick, a bloke who has since written a text book on English or something. In this year another change has taken place. The Extravaganza (yes, it really was called an Extrav that year) has moved to the concert chamber of the Town Hall. Also, the odd types which haunt the backstage are appearing—the properties manager and stage manager,

Now, strangely enough, in 1912, Part One of the earlier programmes is resurrected and again we are entertained with violin solos, glees and the rest. The main show was "Wumpty Dumpty" with a distinguished cast featuring Messes Caddick, Hall-Jones and Slevwright.

Modern Era

By 1914 the persistent Port One has been interred forever and Extravaganza seems to be an established word for capping shows.

* * *

At the end of Work! War I a full length show is presented in the Town Hall, "Dor Tag" or "The Path of Progress." with a caste including Harold Miller and A. J. Mazengarb.

Now we come to the modern era; 1920 marked the first show held in the Opera House, with all the present accessories, orchestra, props, stage manager, business manager and the rest.

The Thirties—"G.G." in 1929, "William the Conk" in 1930. Of the early examples of the "modem" type of script. Redmond Phillips deserves mention. He wrote some excellent shows such as "Coax and Hoax" (1932). "Murder in the Common Room" (1934) and probably his best "Medea and Soda" (1932). The latter contained the song "Karitane Blues." which is still sometimes heard in Extrav dressing rooms after the show.

The late nineteen-thirties produced another set of brilliant and "prolific script writers—the Seven Pillars of Wisdom and Ron Meek. Of the Pilars efforts the best were probably "Hell's Bells" (1936). "The Book of Bob" (1937) and "Adam in Wonderland" (1939), starring "the Voice," Mr. W. S. Austin (not L.D.).

Next come John Carrad's delightful variety shows with their inconsequential nonsense and catchy songs, "Daze Bay Nights," "Port Nick Iniquity" and "The Dinkum Oil."

Then in 1936 begins the great Ron Meek series: "Brave New Zealand" (1936). 'The Plutocrats" (1937), Olympia Nights" (1938). "Centennial Scandals" (1940), in 1944 the dead awakes and Extrav is reborn with "Zealous Zombies." followed by "Peter in Blunderland" (1945) which spent two nights at Palmerston North. This period was also marked by the appearance of John McCready and W. J. Mountjoy Jr. as producers and our present stage manager. Huddy Williamson who has either assisted or stage managed since 1936.

The "Corny Combines" took over in 1946 with "Peter Pansy." in which Jeff Stewart, the present producer, took a part. He also provided words and music for 1947's "Utopanella," a story of some bods who wanted to build a Utopia on the wrecked Wanganella. Jeff's first production was "Vot-Thu Halla." which he also wrote in 1948 with Jean Melling.

Jubilee year was 1949 with "Jubileevit" as the Extravaganza. This featured Walter Snatch and Sid Holley-lu-la brilliantly brought to life by scripwriter T. Cecil Rauparaha and produced by Dave Cohen. The theme, as usual, was very close to the events of the community. The year 1950 brought a show from Paul Cotton. Frank Curtin, Richard Rainey (alas, now married). Bill Sheat and Jeff Stewart—"Hollandaze." Messrs Curtin. Sheat and Stewart are still with us and have ably held up the show in the Atlasian sense, of course. "Siderella" was the show for 1951, produced by Dave Cohen and scripped by Con Bollinger and others.

Last year, 1952, there was no Extravaganza. What was an event of capping week was sacrificed because the Opera House was not available.

So here we are up to 1953. The curtain is about to go up. The stage is set—the producer lilting in the gallery, the audience goggling in the pit and stage manager Huddy Williamson Jiving in the wings. Let the curtain rise on "Marsqueraid." Extravaganza 1953.

(Greateful thanks must go to Haddy Williamson for his valuable help in the writing of this article.)