Kimberley Fenton has an undeniable passion for musical theatre and opera. Taranaki Community News caught up with her to find out about her latest project, Opera Meets Broadway.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Twenty years ago I was born in New Plymouth to two scientist parents, Christine and Michael Fenton, the youngest of three daughters. I was drawn to music and performance very early in my life, choreographing dances with my sisters, reenacting my favourite episodes of Puff ‘n’ Stuff, and writing horrendously long plays which I made my parents sit through.
Right now I am working part time at the YMCA as a receptionist while I complete my third year of a Bachelor of Musical Arts. I absolutely love opera and classical music, especially from the Baroque era. However my voice is still young, and it tends to lend itself more to the Christine Daae-esque arias of the world, rather than the hearty vibrato sound of classical opera.
My very first taste of musical theatre was The Phantom of the Opera, which I saw live in Auckland at the tender age of about eight. At that time I already knew the show from my parents’ old tapes from the 80s, but there was a whole new magic to the show when you see it live, complete with the sets, costumes, and most importantly the magnificent orchestra.
From then on I became completely infatuated with the show, knowing every line to every song. I even read the book The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux, which I was definitely too young to be reading.
The pattern then continued when I was twelve I had the wonderful opportunity to see Les Miserables live in London, and you can guess what ensued – little Kimberley was hooked, yet again, only this time it drove her to look more into the world of musical theatre, and the rest is history. I ended up going to Otago University to study classical voice, and in 2018 I moved back to my lovely hometown of New Plymouth to play Cosette in Les Miserables, which pleased my inner twelve-year-old immensely.
Can you tell us about your latest project Opera Meets Broadway?
Opera Meets Broadway is set to be a 90 minute concert, featuring in the first half some of the most beautiful music from the classical genre, and a selection of modern Broadway classics in the second. These will include the beautiful aria Caro Mio Ben, Mozart’s famous duet La ci darem la mano, as well as musical theatre’s modern classics All I Ask of You, I Dreamed A Dream and many more.
The idea for the concert came to me during the season of Les Miserables last year. I noticed that New Plymouth audiences were thrilled to see the show, which could be considered essentially a modern opera with elements of musical theatre. So why is it that audiences are quicker to dismiss attending a classical opera than a Broadway-style show? And so Opera Meets Broadway was born, a concert which will showcase the beauty of classical music alongside the modern classics of musical theatre.
My talented friends Simon Mace, Josh Clarke, and Eleanor Grieve will be joining me on the stage. Simon, who will be accompanying us on the paino, is a very skilled musician and a New Plymouth native whom I actually met down at Otago University. Josh and Eleanor are both joining as singers, and were both involved in my previous show Taken to the Twenties. Both seventeen, they are wonderfully dedicated to their performances and are absolute joys to work with.
We will also be donating 10 per cent of profits to Taranaki Cancer Society, to honour my music-loving grandmother who succumbed to cancer fifteen years ago, and as a way of giving back to the community that supports us.
This is the second show in the last few months with you at the helm. Why are you creating these opportunities, and why are these shows important for young people in Taranaki?
Taranaki is a brilliant place for the arts, and our community is always so supportive of local theatre which is great to see. However opportunities for young people to get involved on the stage are, unfortunately, few and far between. Our local music, drama, and dance teachers I’m sure could write novels with the number of students who are passionate about their art, but sadly our young people are missing out on the experiences they need to nurture that passion into a craft. Often it’s considered a risk to cast young people, especially students, however I think you’d be surprised by how dedicated, talented, and eager to learn young people can be.
My main passion in life is for music and theatre, but it’s not exactly a straight and narrow path to get to a career in that area, which won’t come as a surprise to most. I am a strong believer in making your own opportunities and your own luck, but it’s definitely not easy. With my last show Taken to the Twenties, I was lucky in that I had the New Plymouth Little Theatre committee behind me in everything I did with the show. This time, I’m on my own! It’s a big task but I’m lucky to have family and friends who are always willing to help, and every day I am learning about a huge range of skills that I know will be invaluable.
I think these types of opportunities are incredibly important to young people in Taranaki, both to be involved in and to come and see. If we want the region to produce actors, musicians, and other artists, it’s very important that these budding performers have opportunities to hone their craft through doing it. They will learn how to rehearse effectively, how to be part of ensemble, how to manage nerves, and how audiences respond to them. These can be tough lessons to learn. Talent is great, but a professional performer must be experienced as well as talented.
Last year you played Cosette in New Plymouth Operatic Society’s production of Les Mis. What was the highlight of that experience for you?
The music of Les Miserables is beautiful and playing Cosette was a childhood dream come true, but I think the highlight of the experience has to be the people I met. A little family forms with every show you do, but with the cast of Les Mis there were so many times where I looked around and felt very grateful to have met and formed relationships with the wonderful people involved. A cast and crew goes through a lot together during the rehearsal and running of a show, and by the end I felt a real sense that I had made some lifelong friends.
What are your goals in the musical theatre/performance world?
First of all, I would like to complete my degree! After that, it’s very hard to pinpoint exact goals as it can be hard to know where or when opportunities will arise. While I am still finding my footing in terms of the world of music and theatre, right now I have a goal to continue creating my own opportunities in theatre and music, and definitely to encourage the involvement of our talented youth in local projects.
If you could perform any show on Broadway, what would it be, and who would you play?
It’s a soprano cliche, but for me it’s got to be playing Christine in The Phantom of the Opera. While there are many roles on Broadway and in opera that I would love to play, there are none which have followed me throughout my life quite like Christine Daae. Since I was eight or so I was singing Think of Me on the daily, performing reenactments with my barbie dolls, and doing my very very best to screech that top E, so I think there would be no role more personally rewarding to play than Christine Daae.
THE DETAILS: Opera Meets Broadway is running for two days only; Saturday 30th March at 7.30pm, and Sunday 31st at 3.30pm. Held at the TSB Showplace’s Alexandra Room, tickets are available on Ticketek or from the TSB Showplace box office. Be sure to check us out on Facebook, where we post regular updates and sneak peaks! We can’t wait to share what we’ve been working on with our wonderful community.