Santa's Coming . . . To Auckland

Friday 7 December 2007

As the nights start to warm up and the shops get busier, it's obviously a sign that Christmas is on its way - but what would the festive season be without the annual Christmas in the Park extravaganza?

Each year there’s one night when over 200,000 people come out to usher in the festive season and this year’s Coca- Cola Christmas in the Park at Auckland’s Domain promises to twinkle, sparkle and dazzle more than ever before.

This year is one of the biggest and best yet - with 31 acts in total, including both New Zealand and international performers. So there's pretty much a guarantee that there will be something for everyone - Santa's gonna make you smile.

The return of Jackie Clarke and Frankie Stevens, affectionately known as the godmother and godfather of Coca-Cola Christmas in the Park will herald another spectacular evening featuring a stellar cast of stars from stage and screen, as well as exciting new talent discovered in nationwide auditions held earlier this year.

Among the acts will be award-winning band Opshop will perform their hit song ‘Maybe’ which was number one on NZ Airplay for a record breaking 12 weeks as well as their new single ‘Waiting Now’. Ben Lummis, winner of NZ Idol 2004, and fiancée Sela Mahe will perform a Maori and English version of ‘Silent Night’.

Singer/songwriter and TV3’s Sticky TV host Drew Neemia will team up with his co-hosts Sam Wallace and Erin Simpson and the Coca-Cola Kids’ Crew for a Christmas favourite, then returns later in the night to lead a rock classic. Rap vocalist Gemma Copas from “Fast Crew” will turn her talents to a traditional carol, ‘Oh Come All Ye Faithful’, and Elizabeth Marvelly, a singer building an exciting international career, will perform ‘Hark the Herald Angels Sing’.

On the comeback trail, remember Alvin and the Chipmunks? To celebrate their new movie release Alvin and his chipmunk friends will join Coca-Cola Christmas in the Park on stage, singing their own Christmas song.

Emerging talent to watch out for includes King’s College student Cassandra McCowan performing ‘Welcome Home’ by Dave Dobbyn, Waiheke Islander Ben Kara, young singer-songwriter Elle Harris and dancer Joel Hewlett. High profile popular dancers Ginny Crocker and Nerida Lister also team up for the night.

The Auckland audience can also look forward to popular Christchurch entertainer Stig Eldred as Santa Claus, sporting a spectacular beard grown especially for the occasion. The job of co-ordinating this colossal ensemble lies in the hands of artistic producer Kate Ward-Smythe, who also masterminded the nationwide auditions to seek fresh talent. “A clear theme from this year’s auditions is the emergence of an increasing number of young talented singers who strive to be on the Coca-Cola Christmas in the Park stage. A whole generation have now grown up with this high energy, high quality epic gig being an annual feature,” she says. “They want a piece of it.”

For the last seven years, the event has also raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for charity Youthline. This year funds from the events in Christchurch and Auckland will be used to support youth work services and youth mentoring, helping young people to reach their potential. Last year Coca-Cola Christmas in the Park raised nearly $100 000 for the charity and in the past six years the money has been used to develop and provide Youthline’s 24 hour youth help line in ten centres around the country.

So make sure you've got some loose change to bring along to this worthy cause - and remember, Santa is watching - and he'll know if you've been naughty or nice . . .