Country music stars at opening of Chapel Theatre


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Welcome to My World Pukekohe

Dennis Marsh: “Welcome to my World”

On Friday evening, locals were invited to a function for the official opening/cutting of the ribbon of the new 88-seat boutique theatre at at LaValla Estate, 131 Dominion Road, Tuakau.

Named The Chapel Theatre, this amazing facility is set in idyllic grounds and the guests were not disappointed at the spectacle which saw Dennis Marsh, the gold-winning country music star, host a number of New Zealand’s top country music entertainers that included Tom Sharplin, Brendan Dugan, Chris Powley, Kevin Greaves and his younger siblings, Michelle and Lex, and the amazing musician, Mike McCarthy on keyboard.

The new theatre is part of a huge undertaking by the Jackson family, Peter, Maria, Shaun and Bernie and their two children, Holly and Oscar, to make La Valla a multipurpose venue for the public to visit and enjoy.

Dennis Marsh, a builder by trade, and a longtime friend of the Jacksons, has spent a great deal of time during the past couple of years helping the family establish the theatre and he will be the resident entertainer at the venue.

It was fitting then, that Dennis opened the concert with a Jim Reeves classic, Welcome to my World, which set the tone for a memorable night. All the performers drew instant applause from the audience which included two former mayors of Franklin, Heather Maloney and Mark Ball, as well as the incumbent mayor of Waikato, Alan Sanson.

Dennis, with the help of Chris Powley, rounded off the night with How Great Thou Art. Their rendition of this high-powered hymn was explosive and brought the house down.


LaValla 1 Pukekohe

The triumphant Jackson family during the celebrations: From left are Bernie, Oscar, Shaun, Peter, Maria and Holly.

The whole LaValla project is exciting and the Jackson family deserve the highest praise for taking on such a challenge.

The effort they have put in to the transformation of the property was evident in the slide show conducted by Bernie prior to the commencement of the concert which started in 1920 when the Marist brothers started a reform school. It later it became known as the Felix Donnelly School.

From derelict to magnificent in Tuakau

The Jacksons purchased LaValla in 2011. It was a derelict property and Alan Sanson, mayor of Waikato, said after the concert that it is quite mind-boggling what the Jacksons have achieved in such a short space of time.

Alongside the new theatre, LaValla now boasts a private school (the Eden Christian Acadamy), a function centre, lodgings, a huge gymnasium, outdoor convention facilities that is offered as a wedding venue with weekend packages (includes a spa), catering/licensed, and a waterfall/grotto area.

Audience Pukekohe

Part of the appreciative audience

Dennis Marsh has the honour of being the first resident performer at the theatre, but as of now it is available for various functions such as day trips, groups/senior citizens or for hiring to any entertainer of any genre.

The Chapel Theatre celebrations continue throughout the weekend with Open Days today and Sunday, between 1.00pm and 4.00pm.

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About the Author
Rex Warwood is a well-known local with a passion for Franklin and its people. He has been spreading the news in our area since 1979 and has held various journalism and Editor positions. Contact Rex at
  1. Lynette Porter Reply

    Wow what a great night, I was one of the lucky ones invited to attend the ribbon cutting of this wonderful theatre. I hope to attend many shows there in the future. Beautiful venue!! All the best Dennis for your upcoming shows, see you there

  2. shirley may Reply

    what a wonderful theatre such an asset to the district I hope it is used all the time and the people using it appreciate the work that has gone into building it to such a high standard I was honoured to be one of the 88 guests invited to the opening and hope to return in the future

  3. Dennis and Yvonne Marsh Reply

    Thank you for the wonderful account of a truly amazing weekend Rex. You sure have nailed the story! Looking forward to seeing you at many functions in this boutique theatre/setting. Aroha, Den and Yvonne

  4. Bernadette Jackson Reply

    Thank you very much Rex for a Lovely Write Up. Was great to have you there on what was an incredibly special and emotional day for the family and of course Dennis and Yvonne Marsh. We hope to see you again for many more.

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