A Musical About Transgender Love

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Cindy of Samoa, left, is the narrator of transgender musical, People Like Us, directed by Borni te Rongopai Tukiwaho, and written by Joanna Jayne St John.

A playwright is hoping people will be taken on an emotional rollercoaster when they see her show.

Joanna Jayne St John, 68, came out as a woman 10 years ago and is bringing a story about transgender romance to The PumpHouse Theatre on Auckland’s North Shore this month.

People Like Us is a musical about the love story between a cross dressing man and transgender woman.

It’s the first show St John has written and she hopes all audiences will be able to identify with the story.

“This is no different from any other show, it’s a human story,” St John says.

“There are lots of twists and turns and difficulties to overcome.”

People Like Us is written and produced by St John, and is set at Ponsonby bar, Dorothy’s Sister.

Narrated by Vera, played by Cindy of Samoa, the show follows the ups and downs of romance, complete with a happy ending.

St John says the show wouldn’t be what it was without the creative team, musical director Lavina Williams, choreographer Taiaroa Royal and director Borni te Rongopai Tukiwaho

Tukiwaho says he read three lines of the script and immediately said yes to being involved.
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“Transgender issues are like the flavour of the month but there’s something in this story that hasn’t been told before,” Tukiwaho says.

He hopes people will have a lot to take away from the show.

“When they’re asked about it they’ll be able to say they’ve seen some great music and performances and feel engaged with the story.”

It isn’t Tukiwaho’s first foray into transgender performance.

In 2015 he played transgender New Zealander Carmen Rupe in Page Turners, a show about famous Wellingtonians.

“I didn’t know a lot about transgender issues and I had a lot of research to do.

“I’ve always been open minded but now when I meet people I have more understanding of who they are.”

Both St John and Tukiwaho hope to take People Like Us to other theatres in the future.

“This show is only at the beginning, it’s definitely not going to be the end of it,” St John says.

The development season of People Like Us runs from February 17 to 21 as part of Auckland Pride Festival.

Go to pumphouse.co.nz for tickets and more information.