AWARD-WINNING entertainer Ali Harper is used to stepping into the shoes of some of the world’s most legendary performers.
Two years ago she performed A Doris Day Special and Legendary Divas at the Southland Arts Festival, and this Saturday she’s back to perform Songs for Nobodies.
“I’m really looking forward to coming down, I had such a great time last time,” Harper said.
The play was written by Melbourne-based playwright, screenwriter and novelist Joanna Murray-Smith and features characterisations of Judy Garland, Patsy Cline, Edith Piaf, Billie Holiday and Maria Callas.
With a career spanning 25 years, Harper said she felt Songs for Nobodieswas a very special show.
“Every now and then a script comes along and I just go ‘wow, this is amazing’,” she said.
“It’s just a very rich, mature piece where it stretches me as an actor, but also celebrates some incredible women that I’ve admired for a very long time, so it ticks a lot of boxes for me.”
Along with playing the “somebodies”, Harper also portrays five “nobodies” and three other supporting characters.
“When I say nobodies, they’re all just very everyday people.
“They each have an encounter with those somebodies, and those somebodies are the five fabulous singers that we all know,” she said.
“They are all affected in some way by these women.”
Harper said the way Murray-Smith had written the play was very clever.
“Every woman I play is different and has circumstances on how all these women have touched their lives.”
She said the stories were all very special and poignant.
“It’s just lovely.”
Each of the five somebodies had a very special presence on stage and Harper said she had to stretch and push her own boundaries to become them.
“I have to be these women, which has been a huge challenge for me.”
While she had sung Judy Garland and loved singing in French, which helped with performing the work of Edith Piaf; Patsy Cline, Billie Holiday and Maria Callas were more of a challenge.
“Well I’m no opera singer, I had to go back to singing lessons.”
Although each of the women had successful careers, they were also touched by tragedy and difficulties throughout their relatively short lives.
“What’s interesting and what all gels them all together is the women died young and had tragic lives.
“Really the whole conclusion of it is all those nobodies are the survivors. But they left their mark.”
A Court Theatre production, Harper said she had already performed Songs for Nobodies in Christchurch and Palmerston North and would be taking the show on a 20-town New Zealand tour before heading to New York in September.
She said she won Best Actress at the United Solo Festival in New York for Bombshells and had been invited back to perform at the festival this year.
Harper said she was very proud and honoured to be able to take on the role. It had been toured by one person extensively in Australia and many professional theatre companies had expressed interest in producing the show in New Zealand.
However, Harper said Murray-Smith only allowed the rights to be released if she was going to be the one performing it.
“That’s a great honour and that’s why I feel very privileged to be able to tour New Zealand with it and take it to New York.”