BILLY SUTER interviews Durban’s PINKIE MTSHALI, star of local opera and the hit McBob production of Abbamaniacs, who is among the cast of Disco Fever. A new show she has long wanted to do, a humorous salute to disco music, it is to be staged at Durban’s Stamford Hill Bowling Club, 5 Arbuckle Road, at 7pm for 8pm on July 7, 8 and 9. Tickets cost R80 each and are available via webtickets.co.za. For more information contact Quintin White at (031) 811 9347.
HOW AND WHY DID THE NEW DISCO SHOW COME ABOUT?
I have always loved disco music and it has long been at the back of my mind to stage a full disco show. So I shared my idea with two friends, Quintin and Gareth, from Vintage Films in Durban, and we agreed to co-produce the show.
WHO STARS WITH YOU – AND WHAT SORT OF PROPS AND COSTUMES ARE USED?
Other cast members are Lorraine O’Brien, Kevin Gordan, Sandy Lawrence and Frank Melman. The show is colourful with combinations of glittery costumes and fancy headgear adding spark.
GIVE ME AN IDEA OF SOME OF THE SONGS AND ARTISTS BEING COVERED IN THE SHOW?
We present a humorous take on original disco songs and also add our own South African dancing songs – such as Destiny by Malakia, Ndihamba Nawe by Mafikizolo, Weekend Special by Brenda Fassie and even Kurt Darren’s Loslappie and Kaptein.
Disco songs include Disco Inferno by Trammps, Le Freak by Chic, Hot Stuff by Donna Summer, Boogie Wonderland and September by Earth, Wind and Fire and Celebration by Kool and The Gang. We also have It’s Raining Men, I Love the Nightlife, Ma Baker, I’m So Excited, Mamma Mia and YMCA, among others.
WHAT WOULD YOU SAY TO PEOPLE TO ENCOURAGE THEM TO SEE THE DISCO SHOW?
Disco Fever is a celebration of dance music, with elements of funk, soul and pop. It is brought to life by performers who have lived through the disco era – all in the cast are over 40. Audience members are welcome to dress up in their most twitchin’ disco-inspired outfit and ‘get down’ with us to their favourite tunes.
IS THERE A STORYLINE OR IS IT MOSTLY A COMPILATION OF DISCO HITS?
Yes, we do have a story line. The premise is that it has taken some 40 years for radio broadcasts from Earth to reach inhabitants of the furthest galaxy in the universe, known as Far Out.
They immediately fall for the groovy tunes and set their course for Earth. However, soon after landing they realise that delayed radio signals have meant disco has long had its heyday in our planet. To make matters worse, their intergalactic starship, Gertrude, encountered engine problems on its way to Earth and needs repairing.
Luckily for them, they meet one of the best-loved DJs of the 1970s… who might be able to come to their aid.
IS THE SHOW TO BE STAGED ANYWHERE ELSE?
We hope to do staggered prformances at different times around KwaZulu-Natal, and hope people will book us for corporate or party entertainment. We haven’t booked the show anywhere yet, although we tried to get on to September’s Hilton Arts Festival bill , but, sadly, all the shows were already booked for 2017.
WHAT WAS THE LAST SHOW YOU WERE IN?
Dazzling Divas in 2016 – at Suncoast Casino and Sibaya Casino’s iZulu Theatre.
WHEN AND WHERE WERE YOU BORN AND HOW DID YOU GET INTO SHOWBIZ? WHAT FORMAL TRAINING?
I was born on September 11, 1969, in Durban, and after matriculation in 1986 I studied opera at Natal Technikon (now Durban University of Technology), majoring in voice.
In 1989 I worked as an opera singer at The Playhouse Company for three years, and in 1992 I joined the Capab Opera Company in Cape Town for five-and-a-half years.
In 1996, the opera companies closed down and I had to start freelancing as an all-round singer, as there were no opportunities for young opera singers.
I sang at different shows in many venues around South Africa and in neighboring countries, touring with different companies – from opera to popular music. I performed with numerous musicians, bands and orchestras… like the KwaZulu-Natal Philharmonic Orchestra, City Orchestra, Johannesburg Orchestra, Durban Music School’s Wind Orchestra and the Moravian Orchestra in the Cape.
I established a new career in the music world – pop, jazz, African, rock, rhythm and blues, gospel… I did it all to stay in the industry.
WHAT SHOW MARKED YOUR FIRST PROFESSIONAL ENGAGEMENT – AND WHAT DO YOU RECALL OF THAT EXPERIENCE?
My first major roles was in February, 1994 – Show Boat in Bloemfontein’s Andre Huguenot theatre, for Pacofs. I sang the role of Queenie… and my mother and brother came from Durban to see me on stage. It was the most fulfilling moment of my life.
OF ALL SHOWS YOU HAVE BEEN IN WHAT ARE MOST MEMORABLE FOR YOU – AND WHY?
In May 1994, I featured in the rock musical Hair, at Johannesburg’s Civic Theatre, as Mother Goddess. I sang the opening number, Aquarius, as I came down a fancily decorated chair, lowered from above the stage. The audience applauded and some screamed.
That memory still brings butterflies to my stomach. It was my huge break from opera and, for the first time, my picture made the front cover in the Showbiz insert of The Daily News. I framed the picture.
From then on I was cast in different shows and concerts, singing with different bands and orchestras all over South Africa.
Abbamaniacs, in 1997, was another highlight. We toured South Africa for four years at different intervals, and I had fun every time on stage acting, singing and dancing to this popular music. The role earned me a nomination for best supporting role at the FNB Theatre Awards in 1998.
Being part of that show taught me a lot about discipline as a performer and observing how the show directors (Aaron McIlroy and Lisa Bobbert) put the show together encouraged me to create my own cabaret show and fulfilled a dream of forming a female trio that sing through all genres. That was the birth of my Durban Divas cabaret trio.
WHAT WORDS BEST DESCRIBE YOU?
Outspoken. Audience-pleaser. Disciplined when it comes to work. Friendly. Stylish.
WHAT ARE SOME THINGS ABOUT YOURSELF (HOWEVER TRIVIAL) THAT PEOPLE ARE UNLIKELY TO KNOW?
I watch Nigerian movies before I go to bed. I am obsessed with taking photos. I am always sober as I don’t drink. I love people, and it is important for me to embrace everyone I meet!
YOUR MOST EMBARRASSING MOMENT ON STAGE?
It was during my very first public performance, as an amateur in 1987. I was a dancer at in a musical staged by The Playhouse Company, directed by the late Eden Love.
I wore a grass skirt and when I got up to do my solo dance I didn’t realise that one of my co-dancers had loosened the knot on the skirt while we were sitting. As I did my dance routine, the skirt came loose and I was left on stage in my panties.
But I continued dancing, with a smile on my face, until my routine was done – then I ran off stage. Very embarrassing!
THE MOST FAMOUS PERSON YOU HAVE MET – AND WHO WOULD YOU GIVE GOLD TO MEET?
I have met Cardinal Wilfrid Napier. I would love to meet Shirley Bassey.
HOBBIES, PASTIMES AND FAVOURITE THINGS?
I love movies and dancing. I also enjoy travel and tasting different cuisine.
WHAT TWO THINGS WOULD YOU LIST UNDER ‘VASTLY OVERRATED’?
The Full Monty show and sushi.
WHAT HAS BEEN THE MOST SURPRISING THING SOMEONE HAS SAID OF YOU?
That I am an alcoholic. I always drink a lot of water and this person had thought I was doing so to avoid getting drunk and embarrassing myself.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE COLOUR, MEAL, ALBUM AND MOVIE?
I love white and gold. Meal? Anything Italian. Album? Ancient Evenings by Sibongile Khumalo. My favourite movie is How Stella Got Her Groove Back.
WHAT IS THE BEST ADVICE YOU EVER RECEIVED – AND WHO GAVE IT?
To be true to myself, understand my strengths and be the person I am happy to be. My late dad told me that.
THE MOST FRIGHTENING THING THAT EVER HAPPENED TO YOU?
It was when I spoke to my dad over the phone… and 10 minutes later my sister called back to say he had just passed away.
WHAT THINGS WOULD YOU LIST UNDER ‘SIMPLY IRRESISTIBLE’?
Red lipstick. Road trips with friends. Taking pictures with crazy faces. Dressing up in costumes for a themed party. Planning my birthday parties … and the excitement of choosing a theme and dress code for my guests.
WHAT IS THE MOST PAINFUL THING YOU HAVE ENDURED?
For two years I struggled to be at peace with my mother’s death. I got so stressed out that I ended up having a heart attack while on holiday in Johannesburg.
WHAT NEXT FOR YOU?
I am working on a one-woman cabaret show that I hope to stage around September next year. Watch this space.