By Elizabeth Kolivuso
Fiji’s ‘Vude Queen’ will become the dancing queen as the star of iconic hit musical, Mamma Mia, when it is staged in Fiji next year.
Laisa Vulakoro will star in Mamma Mia in February, which is being presented alongside the second Fiji Fringe Festival as part of Arts Season 2024.
The Fiji Fringe Festival
The inaugural Fiji Fringe Festival this year hosted 262 local artists, attracted 11,361 audience members and saw participating artists collectively earn $80,000, says its organiser.
Festival Founder and Director, Sharleen Ali says in 2024 the aim is to again provide opportunities for young local artists to showcase their talents in dance, music and theatre.
“For next year’s festival lineup, we are going bigger,” Ali says. “There’s a lot more people coming in to showcase their work in terms of art and people creating pieces. [There’s] a lot more SMEs wanting to come in and sell products. So [we’ll have] creative artists, young performers, theatre, dance sessions, we’ve also got comedians coming back.”
The Fringe Festival will also provide an opportunity for a selected artist or group to perform at the Adelaide Fringe Festival in 2025, and for artists from the Adelaide Festival to come to Fiji.
“We will be announcing the winner [of this opportunity] at the end of Fringe and then they go to Adelaide the year after that. And Adelaide pays for their accommodation, they pay for the marketing, there’s a huge list,” says Ali. She is in discussions with two fringe festivals in Italy about the possibility of similar exchanges.
Next year’s festival will be held at the University of the South Pacific’s Laucala Campus, and at the Vou Hub in Nadi.
Director of the USP Oceania Centre, Larry Thomas says various parts of the university have also come together in support of the event. He hopes that this initiative will provide impetus for the USP’s plans to integrate expressive arts as a course of study.
Thomas says the beauty of the Fiji Fringe Festival is the direct benefit to artists, as they get 80% of ticket sales and do not have to pay for staging and production costs. He says artists do not receive as much support as they should in Fiji and the Pacific, “Yet, we go to them and we ask them to come and dance, paint a picture or sing a song.”
Say bula to Broadway
The Mamma Mia director in Fiji is Michael Payer, and he is excited about the opportunities it will provide for local talent.
“We’re really hoping that Mamma Mia will be able to create that community feeling as it is an amazing show,” Payer says. “Not only are we bringing that show here, the really great part is that we’re producing it with a local cast, giving local artists an opportunity to perform on the biggest stage.”
The Gang frontman, Soni Uluitoga has also been cast in the show, alongside Laisa Vulakoro.
Payer says they are committed to ensuring the show is inclusive and accessible for all Fijians, and the ticket prices reflect that. “We’re [also] happy to partner with the Fiji Association of the Deaf to offer a sign language interpretive performance and make that an accessible performance for the whole community to come on board,” he adds.
Auditions for the Mamma Mia will begin next week, with roles for people of all ages and backgrounds. Tickets are already on sale.