VTA history book updated, jubilee to take centre stage

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Checking out the updated Variety Theatre Ashburton history book are (from left) Glenn Vallender, Elaine Vallender and Yvonne Harrison.

The history of Variety Theatre Ashburton (VTA) has been updated and the spotlight is on the jubilee celebrations on July 3.

VTA will celebrate 60 years with a mix and mingle event in its rehearsal rooms followed by dinner at the Ashburton Trust Event Centre.

Those attending will be able to relive the last 10 years of shows, snippets and photos with an updated book compiled by the husband and wife team of Glenn and Elaine Vallender.

The pair worked long and hard to produce In the Spotlight – celebrating 50 years, which came out in 2009 and documents the first five decades of VTA.

The history update, called In the Spotlight II, was completed during lockdown and had been far less work than its predecessor,” Mrs Vallender said.

Ten shows had performed over the last decade, including Mama Mia in 2018, a joint show with the Event Centre to mark 10 years of the venue, and Sister Act in 2019.

VTA typically put on one show a year, but in the past there were two or even three productions a year.

The next show, Jesus Christ Superstar, was production number 92, Mrs Vallender said.

The history update includes a section on the rebuild of the VTA rehearsal rooms and Party People costume hire premises, which were completed in 2016.

Mrs Vallender was first involved with VTA in 1976 with the show South Pacific and has held many roles including musical director.

Back then the theatre group was called Ashburton Operatic.

Husband Glenn was first involved backstage in 1989, when he lent a hand with Oliver.

VTA jubilee committee chair Yvonne Harrison said there were around 60 confirmations so far for next month’s celebration.

Those attending included some with a long association with VTA including founding member and current patron Margaret Jackson, 92-year-old Nancy Winter and Colleen Corbett.

Registrations have now been extended until June 21, she said.

Mrs Harrison said VTA shows had entertained and touched the lives of so many people.

Thousands of talented people had performed on stage and average audiences had typically been 3500 per show.

“For every person on stage there are at least three people off-stage involved with technical support, wardrobe, make-up, music, front of house and many other roles.”

She had thoroughly her involvement and roles in wardrobe and front of house over almost four decades.

Anyone wanting to attend the jubilee or a copy of the new book can contact Elaine (021 234 8102) or Faye (johnston.fam@nullxtra.co.nz).