Society honours pair with life memberships

The West Otago Theatrical Society named two new life members recently — Jeff Rea and Vicki Crawford. The two Musical Theatre New Zealand merit award winners both had a long association with the society, committee member Barbara Hanna told The Ensign. ‘‘They’ve contributed hugely to the society over the years.’’

Highest honour . . . West Otago Theatrical Society vice president Russell Johnston (left) and committee member Barbara Hanna award Jeff Rea with life membership. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

After playing the lead role in the West Otago Theatrical Society’s (WOTS) Phantom of the Opera, life membership is the ‘‘icing on the cake’’ for Jeff Rea, committee member Barbara Hanna says.

On the show’s closing night, Mr Rea was awarded life membership after his performance as the Phantom.

‘‘I just think it was a wonderful role for him to have,’’ committee member Mrs Hanna said.

‘‘We first saw Jeff on the WOTS stage in Follow the Star, back while staging in the old Tapanui Town Hall. Jeff then officially joined WOTS to play in the off›stage band for Godspell in 1995.’’

He had since played such notable roles as ‘‘a very convincing’’ Jesus in JC Superstar, Rev Shaw Moore in Footloose and Nanki Poo in Mikado.

‘‘He has played other cameo roles and sang powerful ballads in Silver Showtime, a compilation show celebrating 25 years of WOTS.’’

However, it was not just his contribution on stage that had earned him life membership, Mrs Hanna said.

‘‘Jeff has been the voice of calm wisdom on our committee and has held the roles of treasurer, vice-president and president.

‘‘He was a strong mover in helping our society secure our own sound system and radio mics as he took on the entire sound technician job in 1997, a role he still helps with today.’’

His sound role was a big commitment that went mostly unseen, she said.

‘‘He is always there to organise sound for someone who has hired our wonderful theatre. When schools put on shows, Jeff is there and helps with travelling shows.’’

Mr Rea had also teamed up with his wife Margie to put on some successful shows over the years, including Cats and Beauty and the Beast.

‘‘He took on the musical director role for Les Miserables 2018 and Annie 2021. These were big shows for a small society and no mean feat to stage,’’ Mrs Hanna said.

‘‘A man of many talents, and these were the reasons that he is awarded life membership.’’

Recognition . . . Vicki Crawford receives life membership with the West Otago Theatrical Society from committee member Barbara Hanna. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

Involved in theatre since the age of 5, Vicki Crawford is now fostering the next generation of performers in West Otago.

Her important work with young people is what helped the Blue Mountain College teacher earn life membership with the West Otago Theatrical Society, Mrs Hanna said.

‘‘She is really encouraging with the young people, not only at the school but in our society. She encourages and helps the young students follow their dreams of being on stage.’’

She even gave up her time to help young people reach their full potential through private tuition.

As the school’s arts co-ordinator, she had taken a major role in its performing arts festival and the annual BMC Pot Pourri Concert.

‘‘It was Vicki’s idea to move this concert to the community theatre so that the students could enjoy the wonderful facilities we have, where they have learnt theatre craft through running lights and sound for the productions.’’

Ms Crawford had spent a lot of time on stage herself, Mrs Hanna said.

Her first role in one of the society’s shows was in 1993 when she played the narrator in Joseph.

‘‘Since then she has taken on various roles in most of our productions.’’

She had also been a dedicated member of the committee since 1998, Mrs Hanna said.

‘‘Her wisdom and good theatre knowledge have been hugely helpful over the years.’’

She had been president and vice-president, and had taken on the role of musical director, director and publicity.

‘‘She has attended various workshops, always willing to upskill herself in theatre craft. She has attended numerous MTNZ (Musical Theatre New Zealand) conferences and enjoys these occasions to meet friends and take advantage of the workshops available. She is a great note-taker at South Island meetings and is able to report back fully to the committee of what has taken place.

‘‘We value Vicki’s commitment to West Otago Theatrical Society and we are thrilled to award her life membership,’’ Mrs Hanna said.