Joanne Naish / Tips
Robin Judkins, seen here blowing the starting horn for Coast to Coast in 2021, has written a new musical.
When Covid-19 enveloped New Zealand last year, Robin Judkins spotted an opportunity.
The founder of Coast to Coast had spent five years jotting down lyrics, poems and dialogue in a journal. As the country entered lockdown, he decided it was the perfect time to put all his ideas together.
This collection, a rock musical called Free bus to God, will hopefully make its Lyttelton Arts Factory debut this month.
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Judkins, who has previously published two books of his poetry, a novel and a memoir, performed the first version of the show at a series of open mic parties earlier this year.
He was so thrilled with the response that he decided to produce and fund a performance of the two-night play.
“I only decided to take the punt after these open mike nights and the audience response has been so good,” he said.
The plot of the musical was simple, he said.
“A group of musicians with nowhere to rehearse buy an old city bus and on Sundays they travel around town picking up players from bus stops and anyone else standing there.”
The musical features songs from many genres including punk, rock, blues and country.
“People said it was very experimental,” Judkins said.
“I can’t compare it to anything other than The Rocky Horror Picture Show because it also covered a range of genres.
“It’s very funny, but there are also two tragic moments that make you cry. I cannot recite them myself without crying. These two pieces are in the first act. The second act is very happy and [has] a pounding sound thoroughly.
Musician Adam Hattaway worked with Judkins to transform his lyrics and tunes into fully performed songs. Judkins heard them in full for the first time last month.
“It’s breathtaking. They blackmailed my lyrics. The pleasure is incredible to sit there and hear musicians playing my songs.
“It’s so much better than I imagined. They took my songs and either used them or completely modified and improved them. “
He has big plans for the show if the first run at Lyttelton is successful.
“If that’s good, we’ll take him to town, somewhere like the James Hay or the Theater Royal.” But it depends on how we go with this show.
“The idea is to do a regular tour with artists, musicians and actors from Lyttelton. Take a tour of small towns, like Geraldine, Methven and Wānaka, for example.
Plans for the show are based on the assumption that the South Island will be on Alert Level 1 of the Covid-19 restrictions for the dates of October 29 and 30 at the Lyttelton Arts Factory.
“If we’re not I will postpone to a different date and then it will be a different ball game,” Judkins said.
“I won’t make a decision until I find out.
To stage the musical, Judkins chose Shay Horay and Tom Trevella, Lyttelton Arts Factory alumni, actor Janice Gray and musicians Mike Kime on bass, Tom Isbister on drums, Adam Hattaway on guitar and Reuben Derrick on saxophone and piano.
The show is directed by Kiwi actor and Royal Academy of Dramatic Art graduate Hester Ullyart, who also plays a role in the show. Judkins will also take the stage, playing the role of a poet.
Judkins has always loved the theater and has fond memories of seeing poet Bruce Mason’s one-man show The end of the golden age in the 1960s.
“I grew up with musicals. My mother was passionate about dance and theater. I attended shows with mom from the age of seven to the age of 16.
He founded the Coast to Coast event in 1983 and, after many successful years racing from Kumara to Christchurch, sold the event in 2013 to Trojan Holdings Limited, based in Queenstown.
Judkins said writing and producing a musical was similar to organizing Coast to Coast.
“It’s such a change from coast to coast, but there are similar levels of excitement and stress.
“It’s so much fun doing something for the first time.”