Mark Leuthard has just turned 40, but when the curtain goes up on Les Miserables on July 26 it will be his 29th New Plymouth Operatic production.
It’s the ultimate commitment for Mark, who during the day is a busy commercial partner for the BNZ Bank and still has the energy to entertain tens of thousands of Taranaki people on stage at night.
“For many years I did two shows a year, the main operatic production in July and the Christmas Cabaret shows at the Plymouth Hotel.
‘’It’s not as though I’ve had anything better to do with my time,’’ he laughs.
That’s the thing about Mark, he’s refreshingly modest and is a great ambassador for the New Plymouth Operatic Society (NPOS).
The 2018 production will be the third time the Society has put on Les Mis (which is how everyone seems to refer to the show, leaving off the–erables)
The first time Les Mis was performed by NPOS was in 1994 and for one of the few times in his career, Mark auditioned and missed out.
“I was 15 at the time and too old to be one of the boys and too young to be one of the cast in what was quite an adult show. I was gutted at the time!”
Now, nearly quarter of a century later, Mark is almost over it, he says with a chuckle.
In the Society’s 2002 production, Mark played Thenardier. “I was pretty chuffed to get that role.’’
Then with more than a touch of self parody, Mark says he is equally chuffed to get the same role in this year’s production.
“It’s my sort of role. It’s perfect for a baritone like me, even though I can swing into the tenor and bass roles too though.’’
Mark also possesses a fine falsetto to hit the really high notes and not surprisingly always gets to do the Bee Gee numbers in the Christmas Cabarets.
Mark says he loves Les Mis. “It really is a classical theatre show and for me would still be No 1. At home we always had the LP Highlights from Les Misérables and Mum and Dad would often play it so I knew all the words inside out”.
When he wasn’t on stage because of work commitments, he would help out off stage. “I’ve been assistant stage manager, sound man, it’s hard not keeping your hand in. That way you can still feel as though you are part of the society and its good fun,’’ he says with a chuckle..
Rehearsals are a labour of love for Mark.
“Months before a show we’d start rehearsing on Sunday, Monday and Wednesday. Then it goes up to four times a week and a couple of weeks before the show it goes up again to five nights, with an all-day rehearsal on Sundays.’’
That commitment did bring its rewards. “I’m very lucky because my wife Krystal is in operatic, we met during Cats, in which she had a lead role as Jemima. She’s still in every show so we both are rehearsing together.’’
They have even more in common though, as Krystal also works for BNZ in the same building as Mark.
Mark has worked for the BNZ for 12 years and he is instrumental in getting together groups to take advantage of the society’s generous corporate packages.
He organises one for his mates at NPOB Cricket Club and one for his BNZ clients.
“Les Mis is the perfect show to do it for, and makes a great change from sport.”
Article written by Gordon Brown.
First published by the Taranaki Chamber of Commerce in the Taranaki Business Review Magazine.