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Playing the lead female role in West Side Story, among a predominantly adult cast, has been an amazing opportunity for ACG Tauranga’s Kelsie Tong.
The gifted Year 13 student has just wrapped 12 performances of the much-loved musical, which burst onto the Broadway stage in 1957, and explores the rivalry between two New York City gangs.
The Tauranga Musical Theatre show ran from April 23 to May 8 and has received rave reviews. So too has Kelsie, with NZME (New Zealand Media and Entertainment) journalist Zoe Hunter commenting that “Tong’s elegant voice had the two women sitting in front of me hugging each other and searching for tissues to dab their eyes”.
For Kelsie, the chance to play Maria has been one of her proudest achievements.
“I was so excited after I had my call back audition. I was crossing my fingers for the rest of the night as I waited for that call from my director. I’m so happy that Tauranga Musical Theatre gave me an opportunity to shine, and I will be forever grateful to have landed this role.”
The West Side Story also allowed Kelsie to perform alongside Fletcher Oxford, another well-known face at ACG Tauranga and guest director of the school’s 2021 production – Shrek the Musical Jr.
While playing Maria was a huge thrill, the accomplished teen admits the honour didn’t come without its challenges.
“I was anxious about how I was going to juggle my schoolwork with rehearsals as I take quite time-consuming, practical subjects. However, I organised my time well and mostly kept on top of things throughout rehearsal season. Probably the biggest challenge was balancing my energy and sleep schedules. Late-night rehearsals can be so hard if you haven’t had enough rest. When I’m going into a production like this, I always make it my top priority to keep my sleep and vitamin C levels up!”
Dancing since the age of three and singing and acting since primary school, Kelsie is a natural performer.
“I love everything about performing! Just exploring and learning to portray your talent to everyone and for them to see all the effort and love that has been put into it. It’s an amazing feeling.”
A familiar face on the ACG Tauranga stage, she has starred in many school productions – from playing Helena in A Midsummer Night’s Dream to one of Jasmine’s handmaidens in Aladdin. She also landed the lead role in last year’s school production (a musical about the three little pigs turning into rock stars), which was unfortunately cancelled due to COVID-19.
With a string of accolades to her name, including ACG Tauranga’s 2020 Most Outstanding Secondary Musician, Kelsie clearly possesses a wealth of talent. And she’s not planning on taking a break from performing any time soon.
“I’m currently applying for performing arts schools here, in Australia and America, and I’m also looking at studying a Bachelor of Arts or doing a theatre degree down in Wellington. I just couldn’t see myself doing anything else!”
For additional profiles and articles on the success of our students at ACG Tauranga, please visit the following: Dance programme creates exciting new opportunities and Venice Harris takes centre stage