The Most Experienced Cast Ever Performs in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

The Most Experienced Cast Ever Performs in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Published: Monday 12 February, 2024


500 years of acting between them

It’s with great excitement that we announce the extraordinary cast of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel – Live On Stage, between them boasting at least half a millennium of experience as professional actors!

Arriving in New Zealand this April, this cast is arguably the most accomplished ever assembled for a stage production in New Zealand, and will be led by Coronation Street fan favourite Rula Lenska (aka Claudia Colby). Her stellar career began 48 years ago when she burst onto our screens as Nancy 'Q' Cunard de Longchamps in the tv series Rock Follies which Kiwis fell in love with. Her stellar career also includes Minder, Footballers' Wives, To the Manor Born, One Foot in the Grave, Casualty, Space: 1999, Return of the Saint, Doctors, and film, commercials, documentaries and stage.

Rula stars as cougar Madge Hardcastle (played by Celia Imrie in the movie) who leaves her daughter’s home where she’s supposed to be babysitting, suddenly choosing to find a rich husband at the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel in modern Bangalore. Madge joins a motley crew of elderly Brits who have grown disillusioned with their own country and decide they want a change. Half of them have been widowed and are lost in the wilderness of their twilight years, trying to find a new meaning to their lives.

Based on the Sunday Times bestseller that became a blockbuster movie, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is a joyous comedy about taking risks, finding love and embracing second chances, even in the most surprising of places.

Presented by Stewart & Tricia Macpherson for The Stetson Group in association with Ben McDonald Presents, the Ryman Healthcare season of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel will premiere at Auckland’s The Civic on 23 April, then move to Wellington’s St James on 7 May and finally, the James Hay Theatre, Christchurch, on 15 May. Seasons are strictly limited. Tickets start at $65* via Ticketmaster and Ticketek.

With 38 years’ experience, London-based actor Harmage Singh Kalirai reprises his role as Jimmy from the UK tour. His credits include The Ruth Rendell Mysteries, A Touch of Frost, Holby City, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, The Bill, Casualty, Little Britain, Taggart, and Emmerdale. British theatre critics describe his portrayal of fatherly Jimmy as “fantastic”.

Award-winning actor/singer Helen Moulder is Jean (Penelope Wilton in the movie) with 50 years’ experience in film, television and stage. Her credits include Pictures, Close to Home, Country GP, Erebus - the aftermath, The Wall, Food for Thought, Sweet As and Growing Still. Jean’s husband Douglas (Bill Nighy in the movie) will be played by Edward Newborn (The Water Horse, 'Sergeant', The Brokenwood Mysteries ‘Wally’, Go Girls, Shortland Street, Xena: Warrior Princess, Hercules, The Original Phantom Of The Opera, Japan) whose career began some 31 years ago with the short drama Martha. The quarrelsome couple have sunk their life savings into their daughter’s failing start-up. Jean’s refusal to leave the hotel once they arrive, and her rejection of all things Indian while her husband happily explores the nearby temples, precipitate an inevitable explosion.

The character brought to life by Dame Maggie Smith, Muriel Donnelly, will be played by Annie Ruth, an industry veteran of 35 years (Shark in the Park 1989, The Strip 2003) and former Toi Whakaari New Zealand Drama School director. A xenophobic, racist termagant and retired housekeeper in need of a hip replacement, Muriel makes the trip because the surgery in India is cheaper and doesn’t entail a monthslong wait.

National treasure Cathy Downes MNZM began her career in 1973 and has traversed theatre, film and television on both sides of the Tasman as an actor, director, playwright and artistic director. While in her 20s, she developed her acclaimed one woman play The Case Of Katherine Mansfield, winning awards in Britain, NZ and Australia. She was also named in National Radio’s Millennium Golden Kiwi series as one of NZ’s finest theatrical talents and heralded a ‘theatre alchemist’. From 1999-2005 she was the artistic director of The Court Theatre in Christchurch and from 2006 – 2008, director of Downstage Theatre in Wellington. She plays Dorothy,  Dot or Dottie who is considered the soul of the show.

Aged lothario Norman is played by Paul Barrett whose illustrious stage career began in 1988 at The Court Theatre in Christchurch. He has appeared in over 100 plays, from English, Russian, and American classics, to contemporary New Zealand plays by Sir Roger Hall. He has appeared in numerous television shows and several films. He has sung roles in musical theatre, performed as musical director/ keyboard player on many more, and has recorded hundreds of commercial voice-overs for television and radio, as well as corporate videos and documentaries. Paul recently played Nostradamus in the Court Theatre, Christchurch’s sell-out summer season of the musical comedy Something Rotten. Beginning in March 2022, Paul has played the role of Stanley Thompson in Shortland Street.
Playing Evelyn (Judi Dench in the movie) is Georgina Monro whose career began in 1984 in the feature film Constance and has been in demand since for features including Ian Mune’s End of the Golden Weather, commercials, stage productions and television programmes including multiple roles on Shortland Street.

Understudying the female roles is Kate JasonSmith (Braindead, The Hobbit, Bread and Roses), the most veteran of all actors with 55 years notched up. Her career began in 1969 with the Children's Art Theatre touring company. As a theatre and film practitioner, she has been most recognised throughout her career for her role in establishing and producing Hens' Teeth, a platform for dozens of Kiwi female actors, musicians, and comedians that became a staple of the New Zealand theatre and comedy scene between 1988 and 1996.

In the pivotal role of Sonny, the young, wildly disorganized but enthusiastic young man who lures the pensioners to India on the promise of adventure before dementia, is Shaan Kesha (Power Rangers: Dino Fury, 'Pete', Things That Matter, 'Dev' Auckland Theatre Company). Playing his beautiful girlfriend Sahani is Dhiya Redding.

Mr Gupta is played by Alvin Maharaj who has featured in supporting and lead roles on both stage and screen, including Dirty Laundry, Shortland Street, internationally acclaimed romcom Love Birds and independent feature Crackheads.

Ravi Gurunathan (Shortland Street, The Panthers) plays Tikal/Mohan, Tiahli Martyn (One Of Us Is Lying) is Kamila and Mrs Kapoor is played by Sudeepta Vyas (A Fine Balance, Love N Stuff, Swabhoomi: Borrowed Earth, Rudali, Charandas Chor – The Honest Thief, First World Problems, Yatra). Sudeepta is also a co-director of the successful South East Asian theatre company – Prayas Theatre Group.

Are you ready to take the trip of a lifetime with our cast? Join us on this incredible and hilarious journey.


Rula Lenska – Madge
Georgina Monro – Evelyn
Helen Moulder – Jean
Annie Ruth – Muriel (U/S Evelyn)
Cathy Downes – Dorothy
Paul Barrett – Norman
Edward Newborn – Douglas
Shaan Kesha – Sonny
Alvin Maharaj - Mr Gupta (U/S Jimmy and Tikal)
Sudeepta Vyas – Mrs Gupta

Ravi Gurunathan - Tikal/Mohan (U/S Sonny and Mr Gupta)
Harmage Singh Kalirai – Jimmy
Tiahli Martyn - Kamila (U/S Sahani & Mrs Kapoor)
Kate JasonSmith - Female cover ( Dorothy, Jean, Madge, Muriel)
Steven Ray - Male Cover (Norman, Douglas)
Dhiya Redding – Sahani


For media inquiries please contact Sandra Roberts, 021 525104 or
Print quality photos available for download at

Rula Lenska on The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

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