Julia Deans return to the Auckland stage next month alongside express fave Anika Moa in the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra’s Divas – a label she tells Lydia Zanetti is not negative, just the Italian root of the word meaning ‘female deity’.

Close friends and work colleagues for years, apparently working with Anika doesn’t feel like work at all. From tours and random shows to The Adults with Jon Toogood (and the APO), they’ve done it all including starting a girl band. Sorry, grrrrrrrl. “We… have a sidelined grrrrrrrl band with Anna Coddington. We managed to have several jams and started recording, but then we all got too busy… As Anika says, ‘FML’ (Fuck My Life).”

Although she can’t remember where she first met Anika, Julia does remember the first time she saw her play. “[It was] way back when I was judging a Rockquest,” Julia says. “Anika had won the previous year and was performing while the judges were meant to be making their decision. I skived off in order to watch this fresh as, barefoot young diva mesmerise everyone.”


But they didn’t hang out properly until one fated party in Melbourne, where they apparently drank “heroic amounts of mulled wine. The rest, as they say, is herstory.”

DIVAS is an exciting opportunity to work alongside the APO again. “They’re fantastic,” she glows. “It is such a treat and an honour to get to perform with an orchestra – the kind of thing you dream about as a musician.” The show will be a mixture of originals and covers. “We’re both very excited about it!” she says. And yes Lydia will be in the mix, but not any Celtic tracks a la Banshee Reel – her band from the early 90s.

Based in Auckland for the first time, Julia is getting a degree at a ‘glacial pace’. “With any luck, i might get there by the time I’m 50,” she laughs. In the meantime, she is performing Both Sides Now: Julia Deans sings Joni Mitchell at the Festival of Colour in Wanaka and a couple more festivals throughout the year.

Both Sides Now is a collaboration with former Silo artistic director Shane Bosher – who she also performed alongside in Auckland Theatre Company’s Jesus Christ Superstar last year. Astounded by how physically exhausting the experience was, Julia says “I went into it thinking it would be a breeze compared to touring…but I seriously underestimated it all.”

From an Evangelistic Church background, she was “relatively clued up on the whole Jesus story.” Considering herself as agnostic with atheistic leanings, Julia reckons it was pretty funny being back in the story again. “Moments reminded me of the Youth for Christ rallies they used to send us to.”

She obviously loved the experience as she raves about cast and crew – having withdrawals for a long time after the show had finished. “I loved that our rag-tag group of on-stage disciples included women and a drag queen,” she says. “That, to me, seems to be more in line with what Jesus purportedly taught; all-inclusive, non-conditional love for your fellow humans.”

Julia Deans performs with Anika Moa in the Auckland Philhamonia Orchestra’s Divas on Thursday 25 June at Auckland Town Hall. Tickets through

  Article | Lydia Zanetti. Photos | Mareea Vegas.