Thursday, June 13, 2024

Finding the hero within

Honiana Moli who plays the lead role in Moana Jr. with Emma Imrutai who plays Grandma Tala.
Over 50 talented performers promise to rock the stage with Disney’s Moana Jr, a 60-minute musical adaptation of the Disney animated film, bringing the adventures of Moana to life on stage. EastLife talks to local actors Honiana Moli and Emma Imrutai who star in National Youth Theatre’s production to be held at the Due Drop Events Centre.

Honiana Moli: Moana

Time stops for fourteen-year-old Honiana Moli when she is on stage. Playing the lead role in Moana Jr, Honiana who prefers to be called Nia, says, “Once you get prepared with the people you are performing with, time is frozen. It’s as if no one else is there.”

Passionate about the artform, a lot of preparation goes into getting in the character.

“I listen to the soundtrack of the movies. I like observing how movies get transformed into a play. I watch how the actors interact with other characters, the pace of movement, and read in-between the lines,” says the Pakuranga College student.

Nia, grew up surrounded by music and dance. Performing arts has played a stellar role in her life.

Dancing since she was two, she was part of the Ruske Performing Arts and is currently dancing with Norris Studios. This is Nia’s fourth junior musical and her first lead role.

Some of the other productions include: Childrens Musical Theatre’s Alice in Wonderland Jr , Ruske Performing Arts’ production Honk Jr, Farm Cove Intermediate School’s Shine and Dream, and Manukau Performing Arts, Singin’ in the Rain.

Emma Imrutai: Grandma Tala

Every cell in her body pulsates with energy and excitement when Emma Imrutai takes to the stage.

“I feel so alive once the spotlight is on….. that even when I pass away on stage and am resuscitated, I am very alive! It’s pure magic!” laughs Emma who plays Grandma Tala in the NYT’s production, that encapsulates the empowering messages of bravery and selflessness. Moana Jr. is scripted to bring out the hero within each of us.

“I’m a storyteller, a keeper of knowledge,” she says about her role of 70-year-old wise Grandma Tala.

The vivacious 16-year-old admits showtime can be nerve-wrecking.

“After practising for so long there is always one thing that can go wrong on performance day. However, we need to improvise and carry on as if nothing has happened,” says the Flatbush resident who loves to sing and dance.

“Singing plays a big part in my life because it is how I got into performing arts.”
Emma is also part of a St Cecilia Singers choir.

She says her life changed when she got her first lead role of young Nala in Lion King Jr.

“Oh my gosh, my 12-year-old self was ecstatic! I was over the moon.”

Since then, Emma has performed in Legally Blonde Jr and Moana Jr.

“This is the second time working on this script, so I knew it by heart! The wonderful thing is I’m working with a whole new cast and community of people in NYT’s Moana Jr.”


See the show

Celebrating the rich history of Oceania and based on the beliefs and culture of the people of Pacific Islands, Moana Jr was developed in collaboration with Oceanic Trust – a group of anthropologists, cultural practitioners, historians, linguists, and choreographers.

Showtime: Friday, September 8,
6.30 pm, Saturday, September 9,
11 am & 1.30 pm at the
Due Drop Events Centre.

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