Rotorua Musical Theatre Igniting Passion and Nurturing Potential through the Staging of High Quality Entertainment

The Continuing Story of Casa Blanca Theatre – the Building

Expansion.   Stage I. 

On the 17th of June 1982 we left “A Funny Thing Happened at the Forum” on stage and the name Casa Blanca permanently established.

A LIVELY Social life began to develop with Casa Blanca being run as a Theatre/Restaurant venture.  Between four and five shows a year were being produced with a mixture of song and dance shows, band concerts and scripted musicals.  Space in the theatre was often too cramped for the size of several shows with large casts and rehearsals were moved out to rented premises or school halls around Rotorua.

Casts were running between the stage and a tiny lean-to dressing room that had been tacked on to the rear of the building.  At one point a caravan was hired to house several scantily dressed dancers.  Note the port-a-loo by the side door. Garages at the end of Riri St. were hired to store wardrobe, sets and paper work. The extension of Casa Blanca was a pressing matter.

Between 1983 and 1988 twenty six shows were presented and the members of the Building committee were also the back stage workers, busy making sets and running productions in Casa Blanca and the Civic Theatre.

“Oklahoma” and “The Best LIttle Whorehouse in Texas”, under the Direction of Duncan Whiting of Blenheim, came and took the audiences of Rotorua by storm.   “My Fair Lady” Directed by Maureen Potter of Taupo delighted the race goers at Rotorua Races and Robert Young came back to Rotorua to present the amazing “Chicago”.

Progress of the building plans was spasmodic and reliant on proposed costs to the Society, who should draw up the official plan, where money could be obtained and who would do the work.  Eventually, in December 1985, instructions were given to Barry Cutfield, a Registered Engineer from Whakatane, to undertake the drawing of the plans with the request that they be ready to present to the AGM in 1986.

Extension plans were submitted to three building contractors in Rotorua for budget estimates but nothing else was noted in this year.  However in 1987 things began to move when Terry Wood, a builder by trade, was welcomed to the first meeting of the year.  The meeting had been called with the stated purpose of putting a firm resolution to the AGM on progress being made.   Mr Wood explained the difficulty in pricing plans and suggested alternatives.  After more discussion it was moved that the committee recommend that the Society should  proceed with Stage I of the extensions whilst also applying for subsidy grants from Queen Elizabeth Arts Council and the Capital Assistance Fund of the Federation of Musical Theatres.

Stage I was the setting down of a concrete floor at the rear of the theatre.  Foundation work was to be sublet.  In March we were still waiting for the building permit to arrive, a quote for $20,000 for the floor had been received and it was indicated that for a cost of $30,000 the walls and floor would be finished and the drainage and toilets in and operating.

At last by June work had begun on the preparation of the site.  Excavation was needed to stabilise the ground, hard fill was delivered and packed over four days.  Trenches for footings and sewer drains were excavated and finally the concrete was poured.  Work had started on June 25th and ended on July 17th. A day by day account of this month is included in the Society’s minutes.

At the AGM in 1989 Ken Corbett was able to tell the meeting that Stage I of the extensions had been completed at the cost of $38.000.  The next stage would be to close in the building with walls and roof.

Written by Ursula Schraa, Archivist

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