When Hannah Kee was four years-old she went to her first ballet lessons. Her teacher was Joelene Murray and the dance studio was in the Monkey Theatre in Coghill Street, Whitianga. When Hannah was ten, and a student at Mercury Bay Area School, she won a talent quest which confirmed her childhood dream of being a performer. She loved her ballet and was good at it when at 11, she won a scholarship to a ballet workshop in Wellington for promising dancers. The Mercury Bay Lionesses sponsored Hannah’s trip to Wellington, all to encourage a very talented young girl focussed on being a performer for the rest of her life.
Last Thursday evening, there were two wonderful concerts in the Monkey House Theatre featuring three very professional, vivacious, talented, vocally and melodically gifted, young women known nationally as the Madeleines. Dance and jive rhythms, romantic and cheeky melodies, tight harmonies that have you guessing who was singing what, and dressed to kill (in a very attractive way), sums up the Madeleine’s performances and the way they come across as three personalities. The Madeleines are a class act and one that normally would not come to a small town such as Whitianga. One of those three personalities, a member of tis class act, is young Hannah, now 30 years old, but as globally travelled and achieving as she is, Hannah has not forgotten her Whitianga roots.
So Whitianga is indeed fortunate. This is the second visit of the Madeleines to Mercury Bay this year. The Monkey Theatre Managers and Proprietors, Kaspur Franke and Molly Burke are very proactive and well known and make it happen. The other reason is Hannah. She wants to visit; she is grateful for what this town did to encourage her and for the memories. This way Mercury Bay get the three Madeleines and concerts, not just the visit of one outstanding performer.
Caroline’s parents moved to Tauranga when she was 1, to enable her to have more opportunities in drama and dance. Not long after that, Hannah won a major role in Starlight Express. Sine then she has performed all over the world and been on stage in West End performing live in The Blues Brothers, which she regards as the pinnacle of a live stage performer’s vocation.
It was Covid and the prospect of being stuck overseas that brought Hannah back to New Zealand. The pandemic also brought back an old school friend who had attended Tauranga Girls High with Hannah and who was also a professional performer. That was Shannon, the Madeleine in the middle. And finally, the third Madeleine, Jessie, was also a professional entertainer refugee of Covid, returning to Auckland to be with family.
They girls teamed up, formed the Madeleines and the rest is history – a very successful trio doing three to four gigs a week in all the major performance venues of New Zealand.
A benefit all concert goers now enjoy, is that Hannah’s mother, Caroline Kee, does all the designing and sewing for the Madeleines, making their on-stage outfits down to the last shiny thread and hand sewn sequin. They are very beautiful, striking, and bold.
She says, “I find myself always looking at each outfit, meticulously scanning them while the girls are on stage. “ I just can’t help myself thinking about what can be done to improve them and sometimes I notice a little aspect is wrong or not sitting properly. Then they all hear from me in the intermission. “