BY BILLY SUTER
TWO fine productions, for which we in KwaZulu-Natal should consider trips to Johannesburg and Cape Town, are to be performed in South Africa for the first time soon – one being the hit comedy,The Play That Goes Wrong; the other the glossy musical Funny Girl.
First up is The Play That Goes Wrong which, to be presented by Pieter Toerien, has been described by audiences abroad as “Fawlty Towers meets Noises Off”.
The musical has won every major award on the London stage. It was the 2015 Olivier Award Winner for Best New Comedy and also took the 2015 BroadwayWorld Award for Best New Play. Also, in 2014, it took the WhatsOnStage Award for Best New Comedy.
The South African production will be directed by Alan Committee and will feature a fine cast including Robert Fridjhon, Russel Savadier, Craig Jackson, Roberto Pombo, Nicole Franco, Louis Viljoen and Sive Gubangxa.
The play is a celebration of the best of live theatre…and the worst.
The focus is on The Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society, which is putting on a 1920s murder mystery. However, as the title suggests, everything that can go wrong… does! The accident-prone thespians battle against all odds to make it through to their final curtain call, with hilarious consequences.
It will run from March 24 to April 30 at The Toerien Theatre at Johannesburg Montecasino (ticket prices: R100, R130, R180, R220), then moves to Cape Town’s Theatre on the Bay for performances from May 3 to June 17 (ticket prices: R120, R180, R220). Booking is now open at Computicket.
The original 1964 Broadway version of Funny Girl starred a then-little-known Barbra Streisand as comedienne Fanny Brice. She went on to play the same role in the film version – her movie debut role – which won her an Oscar for best actress.
Recently revived in London with Sheridan Smith in the title role, the Fugard Theatre prodcution of the musical will be staged in Cape Town from April 18. It will be directed by the wonderful Matthew Wild, who gave us the excellent revivals of West Side Story and The Rocky Horror Show.
Funny Girl tells the fascinating and bittersweet story of Fanny Brice, whose vocal talents and comedic ability saw her rise from a Brooklyn music hall singer to Broadway star. The show also looks at her tempestuous relationship with gambler Nicky Arnstein.
Charl-Johan Lingenfelder is musical director of the Fugard Theatre production. Louisa Talbot (who gave us the magical, tougher choreography for West Side Story) handles choreography, and set design is by Saul Radomsky.
Ashleigh Harvey, who has been in the entertainment industry for 10 years, will fill the title role in the musical that features popular songs such as People, Don’t Rain On My Parade and The Greatest Star.
Harvey is an actress, singer, voice-over artist, producer and writer who graduated from Wits University in 2004 with a BA in Dramatic Art.
Since graduating, she has played Hermia in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Hero in Much Ado About Nothing, Janet in The Rocky Horror Show and Ruth in Sophiatown at the Market Theatre, for which she earned a Naledi nomination in the category of Best Newcomer.
In 2009, Ashleigh was awarded a position at the International Shakespeare Fellowship and spent time studying Shakespeare in London at the Globe Theatre.
She is “thrilled, ecstatic and totally jazzed” to be a part of this production and to be back in Cape Town, working with the Fugard Theatre.
Funny Girl has a book by Isobel Lennart, music by Jule Styne, and lyrics by Bob Merrill. Booking is at Computicket.