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Rising Star takes centre stage in rendition of Disney classic

Riria Dalton-Reedy

A rising star from Whangārei has taken his talents from the sports field to the theatre.

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air


Jackson Terry (Ngāti Maniapoto) stars in a rendition of Disney’s High School Musical On Stage this week.


The 17-year-old is thrilled to step into this role, but acting wasn’t always on Terry’s radar.

Rugby was his primary hobby until an injury prevented him from playing.


“My doctor said I shouldn’t do contact sports anymore,” he says.


Terry’s mother encouraged him to join a local production with Whangārei Theatre Company.


After some encouragement from whānau and friends, Terry decided to take the stage - making his theatre debut in a rendition of West Side Story.


“I didn’t know anything about theatre. I did that one show and I never stopped.”


Terry says that performance gave him the ‘theatre bug’, despite only having one line to recite in the show.


“I was hardly in scenes but it was the people around me, and the bonds that I was able to make, that made that so fun.”



Although he was a novice in the theatre, Terry was no stranger to performing on stage as he grew up performing kapa haka.


He says that experience boosted his confidence to perform and gave him an advantage on stage.


“That experience with kapa haka performances when I was younger has definitely helped me transition.”


“That feeling of getting on stage, I don’t know what it was but it’s something that I never got from rugby, I never got from school and, I just, I would not trade that for anything.”


Terry recently landed the role of Troy Bolton in the rendition of Disney’s High School Musical On Stage - a National Youth Theatre production.


“I freaked out, I’m not gonna lie,” he says.


After stumbling upon a Facebook post, Terry’s father drove him to Auckland for auditions.


“My [whānau] said go for it because you never know - you might get in and, if you do, you’ll feel amazing,” he says.


“Actually, getting [the role] was quite a surreal moment for me.”


Terry has shown great commitment to his craft, travelling from Whangārei to Auckland twice a week for rehearsals with the help of his whānau.


Director Miles Ford has seen Terry along this journey and has nothing but praise for his commitment and work ethic.


“[Terry is] incredibly hardworking,” he says.


Over 250 children from across the country have been training hard in preparation for their performance this week.


Most songs featured in the production are from the first film in the High School Musical trilogy.


Ford, who has been part of the National Youth Theatre for many years, also played Troy Bolton in 2016 and mentored Terry in the leadup to the show.


“It’s very fulfilling providing these opportunities for kids that they sometimes won’t get otherwise,” Ford says.


Aside from adding a youthful flavour to your favourite High School Musical hits, Ford says spectators can expect to see a lot of ‘happy, energetic children’ on stage.


“I just think that these kids are doing the songs absolute justice - they sound so fantastic.”




Terry says the different styles that thespians bring to their roles are what keep theatre alive.

“There’s no character that’s played the same every show,” he says.


“I think that everyone bringing their own flavour to the roles is what keeps it interesting.”


Despite growing up in a small town, Terry says there is still support for aspiring thespians and he encourages others to dream big.


“I think opportunities such as [High School Musical] or Shakespeare don’t exactly occur in Whangārei, but the people that can get you to those places - like my teacher or my Dad - there is still support to help me reach those places.”


This is only the beginning for Terry, who plans on moving to the ‘big smoke’ next year to study at Unitec and pursue a career in theatre.


He also expressed his desire to be part of a travelling theatre company in the future and take his talents to the world.


The curtain will be raised for four shows only at Kiri Te Kanawa Theatre this weekend.




Hero Image: Whangārei teenager Jackson Terry is starring in a rendition of Disney’s High School Musical On Stage. Photo / Supplied





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