Maxine and Alan Rakiraki.

Despite the challenges presented to the entertainment industry last year, there was plenty to celebrate and reflect on at Musical Theatre Oamaru’s 64th AGM last month.

Maxine and Alan Rakiraki’s decades of dedication to musical theatre in Oamaru were recognised, as the couple were presented with individual Musical Theatre New Zealand (MTNZ) merit awards as well as life membership of Musical Theatre Oamaru.

Mrs Rakiraki has been a member of Musical Theatre Oamaru, formerly known as Oamaru Operatic Society, for more than 40 years.

She has been involved in several major productions and theatre restaurant shows, undertaking various roles. In 2017 she won the Otago Southland Theatre Award (OSTA) for best supporting female in a play.

Outgoing Musical Theatre Oamaru president Daniel Martin said Mrs Rakiraki had been a member of the production team for more than 20 major shows. Her contribution included directing, writing programmes, marketing and assisting with lighting and sound.

She also served on the society’s committee for eight years, and remains an active member to this day.

“Maxine’s knowledge of the theatre and the various aspects of performance and production is extensive and she is always willing to assist and mentor younger members,” Mr Martin said.

Mr Rakiraki has been a member of Musical Theatre Oamaru for more than 30 years. He had played major onstage roles and always been a valued cast member, Mr Martin said.

He was nominated because of his long service and willingness to help others, Mr Martin said.

“Alan is a stalwart of Musical Theatre Oamaru. He is always willing to put aside paid gigs to participate in shows and makes himself readily available,” he said.

He has been involved in putting bands together for a number of theatre restaurants and undertaking the role of musical director. He sources and arranges music for the band and singers, and music rehearsals are often held in his home studio.

MTNZ usually only awards one merit award per society each year, but a special dispensation was made to honour the couple for their respective efforts over the years.

“They have worked together supportively as volunteers for MTO for many years and for a number of other music-related organisations in the community. Anything you ask one to do, the other is there as a support person if required,” Mr Martin said.

“Alan needed a drummer in a recent theatre restaurant and no-one was available to help. He taught Maxine the drums – and problem solved.”

Last year’s Oamaru MTNZ merit award winner David Blair was also finally presented with his award, after Covid-19 delayed last year’s presentation.

A special tribute was also made to life member Avril Keep and committee member Bronwyn Waldron, who died last year. They had both committed hundreds of hours of service to MTO over many years of membership.

It had been a challenging year for musical theatre societies across New Zealand, and the world, and Mr Martin thanked past committees and members who, since 1956, had built up enough funds and assets that enabled Musical Theatre Oamaru to take a “small hit in the funds and still be afloat”.

Daniel Martin and Melissa Yockney.

The AGM also marked a changing of the guard. Mr Martin stepped down as president, after five years in the role, and Melissa Yockney was voted in as the new president.

“I’m really looking forward to picking up where Daniel has left off, and continuing his good leadership of Musical Theatre Oamaru,” Miss Yockney said.

“We have two great productions lined up this year, in May and July, and we’ve got ideas for next year, too. It’s always a little tricky in a small community to choose shows that we think people will A, be keen to be part of, and B, be keen to come and see – so there’s a lot research and discussion to take place at our next few committee meetings.”