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Puppeteers bring classic book The Very Hungry Caterpillar to the stage

It's one of the most-read children's books of all time.

The classic children's book is delighting audiences as it is performed for the first time in New Zealand. Source: 1 NEWS

Sales of The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle continue to rocket with a copy bought every minute since being published in 1969, around 38 million so far.

In the lead-up to the 50th anniversary of the deceptively-simple picture book in 2019, puppeteers are perfecting a new way to experience the story - on stage.

After performing for nearly 70,000 people in Australia since The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show premiered in 2015, the theatre success was performed for the first time in New Zealand in Auckland yesterday.

The audience said the performance made for return-viewing as it definitely "lived up to the story" and "even for the adults, it was fun".

Cast with one of the star's of The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show during rehearsal. Source: Supplied

For the youngest theatre critics, there was one moment in particular that had them transfixed - when the plump caterpillar came of age as a giant butterfly that gracefully flapped its 'tie-dye' colourful wings - an exact replica of Carle's watercolour creation.

The production is a career highlight for co-producer Michael Sieders.

"I feel really proud... We've had a lot of time to live with the show and seeing and hearing the audiences' responses from such a well-loved book as a producer is so fulfilling."

The courting process to convince Carle to sign-off production rights to the book took four years.

"The responsibility was very heavy on us... we felt a lot of expectation from not only the Eric Carle studios but also from the many generations of people who've grown up with these books."

"It was quite a weight on us but we had a really fantastic creative team that we trusted."

One of the four actors, Dannielle Jackson, says the reaction from the audience and the energy they bring to each show is what she loves about her role.

"It is always different genuinely.. they're constantly yelling out and that's surprising so it's really exciting to be on."

Former primary school teacher and nana Linda Reid brought her grandchildren to the production after having the book in her family and classrooms for several generations.

The puppets were made by New York-based Puppet Kitchen over an intensive five week period. Source: Supplied

"It's just, it becomes a tradition doesn't it... most schools start the year by having monarch caterpillars on plants... so school children everywhere read that book in relation to that," she said.

Close to 1000 hours went into hand-painting, cutting and sewing the 75 puppets used in the play, which also features another three of Carle's best-sellers.

The puppets were made in New York and travel between venues in unique protective cases.

A metamorphosis that's set to wow many more Kiwis as the show heads south to Christchurch, Dunedin and Invercargill in the next month.