BY BILLY SUTER
TWO popular and diverse stage musicals, a lavish new South African musical, and a revival of a local musical last staged more than half a century ago are headed for Johannesburg later this year.
The popular shows are the Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber spectacle, Evita, and the more modern, rocking Rock of Ages. The original local work is Calling Me Home, and the revival is the musical King Kong.
First up will be Calling Me Home, which has its world premiere at The Mandela at the Joburg Theatre, Johannesburg, from August 17 to September 3, before touring locally and internationally, reaching Cape Town in October 2018. There is no indication yet if Durban will be on the itinerary.
Calling Me Home, directed by Magdalene Minnaar, is said to be a powerful tale of hope and discovering the meaning of ‘home’. It tells of an African woman, Grace, fleeing her homeland during civil war to travel overseas, where she joins a migrant community and experiences heartbreak, hardship and joy as she starts a new life.
The musical’s book, score and libretto are by South African composer Alice Gillham, who is signed with EMI Music Publishing / Sony/ATV.
The 33-strong cast includes Zolani Mahola, lead singer of hit group Freshlyground, in her musical theatre debut, as well as the lovely Lynelle Kenned, who played Maria in the 2016 Playhouse production of The Sound of Music and Maria in the brilliant touring production of West Side Story.
Also in the cast are Samantha Peo (Thoroughly Modern Millie; Chicago) and opera singer Christiaan Snyman, as well as Carly Graeme, Clint Lesch, Pierre van Heerden, Riaan Hunter, Isabella Jane Snyman and Laura Lee Pitout, among others.
Performances will be at 8pm Tuesdays to Fridays, 3pm and 8pm on Saturdays, and 2pm and 6pm on Sundays. Ticket prices range from s R180 to R420.
The seven-time Tony award-winning Evita is headed for the Teatro at Montecasino, Johannesburg, from October 14 to November 26 before moving on to Cape Town’s Artscape Opera from December 1 to January 7.
The show will star South Africa’s young king of musical theatre, Jonathan Roxmouth (Grease, Beauty and the Beast, Phantom of the Opera, Sunset Boulevard, Sweeney Todd) as Che and Emma Kingston (In the Heights, Les Misérables), who has been personally chosen by Andrew Lloyd Webber, Tim Rice and sirector Hal Prince, to play Eva Perón. Robert Finlayson will make a welcome return to the stage as Peron.
Pieter Toerien and David Ian are presenting Evita, which charts the rags-to-riches rise of the First Lady of Argentina, who won the love of her countrymen after marrying military leader-turned-president Juan Peron.
Set in Buenos Aires between 1934-1952, the musical follows Eva Duarte Peron on her passionate and tragic journey from her humble beginnings as a fatherless child to ambitious actress to the most powerful woman in Latin America – and, eventually, to a saint-like figure after her death from cancer at age 33.
With more than 20 major awards to its credit, and an Oscar-winning film version starring Madonna and Antonio Banderas, Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Evita is iconic.
The musical features some of the best-loved songs in musical theatre, including Don’t Cry For Me Argentina, On This Night of a Thousand Stars, Oh What a Circus, High Flying, Adored, and Another Suitcase in Another Hall.
Evita will be choreographed by the original West End and Broadway choreographer, Larry Fuller, and designed by original designer Timothy O’Brien.
Performances at the Teatro will be Tuesdays to Fridays at 8pm, Saturdays at 3pm and 8pm, and Sundays at 2pm and 5.30pm.
Tickets from Wednesdays to Saturdays, and at Sunday matinees, range in price from R200 to R500.Tickets cost R150 to R450 for performances on Tuesdays and Sunday evenings.
Performances in Cape Town will be Tuesdays to Fridays at 8pm, Saturdays at 3pm and 8pm, and Sundays at 2pm and 5.30pm. Ticket prices range from R150 to R485 for performances from Wednesdays to Saturdays, and at Sunday matinees,. Prices range from R100 to R430 for performances on Tuesdays and Sunday evenings.
Rock of Ages will run at Gold Reef City’s Lyric Theatre, Johannesburg, from November 17 to December 10.
Turned into a film starring Tom Cruise, the musical has been described as “a sing-along, dancing-in-the-aisle, party show with tons of humour ,all supporting a charming love story”.
Performances at the Lyric Theatre are set for 8pm Tuesdays to Fridays, and 3pm on Saturdays and Sundays. Ticket prices range from R160 to R300.
Having spent six years on Broadway, Rock of Ages then went on to play Las Vegas and enjoy a nationwide tour of the US as well as spawn productions in Tokyo, Toronto, Sydney, Mexico City, Panama City, Manila, Malta and Singapore.
Featuring 28 nostalgic rock anthems – including the music of Pat Benatar, Styx, Twisted Sister, Poison, Foreigner and Reo Speedwagon – the musical pays homage to the big rock concerts of the 1980s.
Taking audiences back to 1987, to the fabled West Hollywood club, the Bourbon Room – set on LA’s infamous Sunset Strip – the show tells the story of Drew, a city boy from South Detroit, and Sherrie, a small-town girl that have both landed up in LA to chase their dreams of making it big.
Rock of Ages celebrates a time when big glamour rock bands where the epitome of decadence, superficiality, oversized egos, never ending guitar solos, extreme clothes and outrageous hairstyles!
The South African cast includes, as Drew, Josh Ansley, the runner up in The Voice SA), Claire Taylor as Sherrie, Zak Hendrikz as Lonny, Criag Urbani as Dennis Dupree , Durban-born Andrew Webster as Stacee Jaxx, Natasha van der Merwe as Regina and Mpumelelo Mayiyane as Justice.
The impressive set list of songs will be performed by a live band led by musical director Wessel Odendaal.
King Kong, produced by the Fugard Theatre in Cape Town, runs from July 25 to September 2 at the Fugard Theatre and then at the Mandela Theatre in Johannesburg from September 12 to October 8.
King Kong tells of heavyweight 1950s boxing champ Ezekiel Dlamini, whose self-appointed ring name was “King Kong”, and is to the exhilarating music of Todd Matshikiza.
The 1959 production of South Africa’s first black musical was set in Sophiatown in Johannesburg in the late-’50s. King Kong toured South Africa, and was seen by 200 000 South Africans, playing to record-breaking and multi-racial audiences – as apartheid was being implemented – before transferring in February 1961 to London’s West End for a 200-performance run.
King Kong launched the international careers of Miriam Makeba and Hugh Masekela, among many others.
The Fugard Theatre’s King Kong is directed by Jonathan Munby. The revised book (with additional lyrics) is by Academy Award-nominated screenwriter and playwright William Nicholson (Shadowlands, Gladiator, Les Miserables, Sarafina, Long Walk to Freedom).
South African choreographer star and recent French Legion D’Honneur recipient Gregory Maqoma is the choreographer.
The Fugard Theatre’s production sees musical direction by Charl-Johan Lingenfelder (West Side Story, Funny Girl, Cabaret) and Sipumzo Lucwaba, with arrangements and additional music by Charl-Johan Lingenfelder.
Cast in the title role is actor, singer and dancer Andile Gumbi. Gumbi made his Broadway debut as Simba in Disney’s The Lion King and has starred in productions of this musical in London, Sydney, Melbourne, Shanghai and South Africa.
Multiple award-winning actress and singer-songwriter Nondumiso Tembe will be recreating the role of Joyce, which propelled Miriam Makeba to international fame in the original production of King Kong.
The Fugard Theatre’s King Kong cast includes Sanda Shandu as Lucky; Tshamano Sebe as Jack; Ntambo Rapatla as Miriam; Sne Dladla as Pop; Lerato Mvelase as Petal and Sabelo Radebe as Caswell.
Among others performing with the ensemble are Joel Zuma, Ben Kgosimore, Athenkozi Mfamela,Shalom Zamisa, Sibusiso Mxosana, Aphiwe Menziwa and Namisa Mdlalose.
A nine-piece band, under the direction of Sipumzo Lucwaba, will accompany the action at every performance.