From watching movies to performing on stage

SPECIAL: Nickie Wellbourn with her mother Monica Wellbourn, 95, who influenced her to get into theatre. Nickie features in the chorus for Showbiz Christchurch's new production An Evening of Rodgers and Hammerstein at the Isaac Theatre Royal. PHOTO: MARTIN HUNTER

Growing up with parents dedicated to running picture theatres throughout Canterbury meant there was no escape from a musical childhood for Nickie Wellbourn.

Rodgers and Hammenstein’s Oklahoma!, The Sound of Music, State Fair, The King and I were all popular musicals Wellbourn, 56, grew up watching on her parent’s screens.

MAJOR ROLE: Nickie Wellbourn has played the role of Matron “Mama” Morton twice for Showbiz Christchurch describing it as her “coming of age role” in the theatre scene.

Her parents Monica and Alan Wellbourn ran several picture theatres across Canterbury including the old Darfield community hall, the former Vogue Theatre at Barrington shopping centre which Wellbourn and her three siblings would tag along to.

Singing now as a mezzo soprano in a show featuring some of composers Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II best songs has brought back fond memories for the Spreydon resident.

Wellbourn will perform as part of a chorus of more than 100 in Showbiz Christchurch’s first traditional concert in a major theatre – An Evening of Rodgers and Hammerstein Classics.

“This one has no costumes as such, no choreography, it is just singers and it proves the quality of voices we have in our community,” Wellbourn said.

Having been involved with in Showbiz Christchurch productions for more than 30 years Wellbourn said it was surprising the company had not done a concert like this before.

Wellbourn remembers her first audition for the company very well, after her mother who performed in Showbiz Christchurch’s inaugural production The Belle of New York in 1938, forced Wellbourn along to her first audition as Nancy for Oliver!  in 1980.

“I started to sing this part and the pianist was not in the same key as me or at the same time because I had never done this before . . . then I was given a script to read and I read all the stage descriptions as well because I had never read a script before,” she said.

She may not have made the cut on that occasion, but several years later when more “attuned to theatre” she debuted for the company as Matron “Mama” Morton in the 1987 production of Chicago.

“That established me in the circle of theatre as far as I am concerned,” she said.

Before she established herself as a performer, Wellbourn initially had dreams to become one of The Andrews Sisters when growing up.

But that was before her father who served as a cinema projectionist at Guatemala for the Royal New Zealand Air Force sat her down at eight-years-old and told her she could not just join up and be a singer.

Wellbourn said in her time at Showbiz Christchurch, she has seen the company evolve from community theatre to “close to the statue of Broadway”.

She will next play the role of Sister Mary Lazarus in Showbiz’ next production Sister Act and will be required to rap – something she has never done before.

•An Evening of Rodgers and Hammerstein Classics will run at the Isaac Theatre Royal May 26-May 28. To book tickets go to