Dominion Rd’s multi-ethnic make-up will be brought to life in a musical.
Written by Renee Liang and Jun Bin Lee, Dominion Rd The Musical explores the back stories of business owners and residents who found themselves fighting politicians from rebranding part of the road Chinatown.
Last year a popular commercial strip of Dominion Rd in Balmoral was unofficially rebranded with a Chinese name, despite opposition towards branding the area as “Auckland’s Chinatown”.
It was renamed duo mei lu, which translates to “a road with lots of beauty”.
Liang said she remembered feeling “incensed” when she first read that Auckland Council was looking at renaming the Balmoral precinct.
“For so long, Dominion Rd has harboured migrants and their stories from all cultures. Putting in fake signifiers, no matter how glossy or well meant, could change the organic growth of this area and drive all those original businesses away,” Liang said.
“What better way to argue this point than with a brand new musical.”
The homegrown production will feature a professional cast of five as well as more than 10 community members, many of whom have either past or present ties to Dominion Rd.
Liang listened to oral histories from the Auckland Libraries’ collection. She also held workshops with the community to inspire her writing.
Director Borni Te Rongopai Tukiwaho said he got involved with the musical after having worked with writer and composer Jun Bin Lee.
“I knew I would enjoy the musicality of it and I really liked the idea of the story.”
The original songs were inspired by different music genres ranging from Disney to Mandarin Pop.
Lee said the production included traditional instruments such as erhu, guzheng, sitar and tabla “to represent and enrich these multi-ethnic characters”.
Tukiwaho said the musical was a slice of Auckland life positively reflected on stage.
“In theatre, we don’t get to see diversity in one space; we usually see individual stories,” Tukiwaho said.
“Everybody gets put in a box and those boxes need to be broken down.”
The production was also open to the community and the oldest choir member was 87 years old.
Vocal coach and musical director Lavina Williams said “Dominion Rd The Musical is about being a voice for the people”.
“It is a huge roller coaster ride of emotions and good education about culture in New Zealand.”
Dominion Rd The Musical will run from August 9 to August 19 at Playhouse Theatre, Glen Eden.