Feast of stage musicals for SA

Carmen Pretorius as Maria, with children, in a scene from The Sound of Music, opening in Johannesburg on March 31 and in Cape Town on May 6.

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BILLY SUTER reports that a feast of great musical theatre is planned for South Africa. Productions in the pipeline include Chicago – The Musical, Avenue Q, Kinky Boots, The Color Purple, Matilda the Musical and The Sound of Music. Also planned is a Durban production of Camelot by the award-winning KickstArt team, and a Hedwig and the Angry Inch revival for Johannesburg.
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AUDITIONS are being held in Cape Town and Johannesburg this month for a new international touring production of the sexy Kander and Ebb hit, Chicago – The Musical.

Plans are for the show to tour to New Zealand and China from August to next January. It is then scheduled to be staged from March to May 2019 in South Africa before a possible tour of Europe.

Cape Town auditions will be from January 26 at the Artscape theatre, while the Gauteng auditions are set for Montecasino’s Teatro theatre from January 30.

Poster detail from Avenue Q. It opens on May 9.

Other exciting news is that the wonderful Avenue Q – the audacious show, with puppets, that beat Wicked to take the 2004 Tony awards for best new musical, best score and best book is being presented at the Pieter Toerien Theatre at Montecasino, Gauteng, from May 9.

Described as “part flesh, part felt, and packed with heart”, this laugh-out-loud musical tells the timeless story of a recent college grad named Princeton who moves into a shabby New York apartment all the way out on Avenue Q.

He soon discovers that although the residents seem nice, it’s clear that this is not your ordinary neighbourhood. Together, Princeton and his new-found friends struggle to find jobs, dates, and their ever-elusive purpose in life.

Filled with gut-busting humour and a delightfully catchy score, Avenue Q is a truly unique show that has quickly become a favourite for audiences all around the world.

I loved it, and bought the soundtrack album, when I caught it a few years ago at London’s Noel Coward Theatre, but it needs to be clearly stated that, puppets notwithstanding, this is not a show for children and a has a no-under-16 age restriction.

As the press release states: “TV programmes like Sesame Street in America and Takalani Sesame in South Africa teach values and life-skills to young children through the use of puppetry and songs. Avenue Q applies the same principle by teaching real-life lessons and broaching hard-to-discuss adult topics such as racism, pornography and a whole lot more!”

No casting details have yet been announced but the show will be directed and choreographed in South Africa by Timothy le Roux. Musical direction will be by Dawid Boverhoff.

Poster for the fun Kinky Boots.

Musical theatre fans can also look forward to a production of the sassy Kinky Boots – Eric Abraham and Cape Town’s Fugard Theatre have already held first-round auditions for a new, original South African premiere production of the multiple-Tony award-winning, huge-hearted musical at the Fugard Theatre in the winter of 2019.

Based on the 2005 British film Kinky Boots, the musical tells the story of Charlie Price. Having inherited a shoe factory from his father, Charlie forms an unlikely partnership with cabaret performer and drag qieen Lola to produce a line of high-heeled boots and save the business. In the process, Charlie and Lola discover that they are not so different after all.

The winner of the Tony Award for Best Musical, Tony Award for Best Original Score, Tony Award for Best Choreography and Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Musical, Kinky Boots has played to sold-out houses on Broadway and in the West End since 2013.

Featuring an exuberant score by Cyndi Lauper and a hilarious, uplifting book by four-time Tony winner, Harvey Fierstein, the Fugard Theatre’s Kinky Boots will be from the same creative team that gave us the touring The Rocky Horror Show and West Side Story. Direction will be by Matthew Wild, musical direction by Charl-Johan Lingenfelder and choreography by Louisa Talbot.

First up for the year will be the eagerly anticipated South African premiere of The Color Purple, the musical inspired by the Steven Spielberg film success.

“What is set to be the highlight of the South African theatre calendar in 2018,” says Bernard Jay, executive producer of the local production, “will thrill, excite, engage, enthral and emote audiences like no other musical before it.”

A scene from the eagerly anticipated The Color Purple, directed by Janice Honeyman. It opens in Johannesburg on February 4.

The Color Purple entertains and ultimately uplifts audiences to a state of sheer joy, whilst taking them on a passionate journey of an inspiring family saga – telling the unforgettable story of a woman who, through love, finds the strength to triumph over adversity and discover her unique voice in the world.

The musical is based upon the 1982 novel written by Alice Walker and the 1985 film directed by Steven Spielberg. The musical’s book is by Marsha Norman, with music and lyrics by Brenda Russell, Allee Willis and Stephen Bray.

The Color Purple will be presented by Joburg Theatre and Bernard Jay on the stage of The Nelson Mandela Theatre at Joburg Theatre, with an official opening date set for Sunday, February 4. The season will continue until Sunday, March 4. Tickets start at R240.

Directed by Janice Honeyman, the show will have musical direction by Rowan Bakker, choreography by Oscar Buthelezi, production design by Sarah Roberts, lighting design by Mannie Manim and sound design by Richard Smith.

The cast features (in alphabetical order) Zane Gillion, Didintle Khunou, Sebe Leotlela, Dolly Louw, Andile Magxaki, Yamikani Mahaka-Phiri, Venolia Manale, Namisa Mdlalose, Phumi Mncayi, Neo Motaung, Lerato Mvelase, Tshepo Ncokoane, Thokozani Nzima, Funeka Peppeta, Aubrey Poo, Senzesihle Radebe, Lelo Ramasimong, Zolani Shangase, Ayanda Sibisi and Lebo Toko.

“I promise that South African audiences will laugh, will cry, will cheer,” says Bernard Jay, “but they will never forget The Color Purple.”

Book online at http://www.joburgtheatre.com or call 0861 670 670.

For a video feature on Janice Honeyman and cast discussing The Color Purple click here: https://youtu.be/K9ZgenKo0w8

Matilda The Musical is scheduled to run in South Africa from mid-October until mid-January 2019, and the plan is to tour internationally from February next year, to  Singapore, Hong Kong and China.

Poster art for the award-winning Matilda The Musical.

The show is based on the 1988 children’s novel by Roald Dahl and the film of the same name. It was adapted by Dennis Kelly, with music and lyrics by Tim Minchin, and centres on a precocious five-year-old girl who has the gift of telekinesis.

Matilda loves reading, overcomes obstacles caused by family and school, and helps her teacher to reclaim her life.

The show premiered on London’s West End on November 24, 2011, and went on to win seven 2012 Olivier Awards, including one for best new musical. The show still holds the record for the most Olivier awards won by a musical. At the 2013 Tony Awards, it took five statuettes.

Emails regarding details about South African auditions for adults and children must be received no later than January 24. Email info@musicaltheatreworkshop.co.za for more information.

The Sound of Music, with Carmen Pretorius as singing nun and governess Maria and Andre Schwartz as Captain von Trapp , will run at Montecasino’s Teatro theatre from March 31 to April 29, then at Cape Town’s Artscape theatre from May 6 to 27.

This lavish production, fresh from touring abroad, is presented in South Africa by Pieter Toerien, David Ian and The Really Useful Group. It tells the story of the Von Trapp family’s flight across the mountains from Austria, with unforgettable score that includes My Favourite Things, Edelweiss, Do-Re-Mi, Sixteen Going on Seventeen and Climb Ev’ry Mountain.

KickstArt’s production of Camelot, the Lerner and Loewe musical about King Arthur, Lancelot and Guinevere, has still to be cast, but will run at Durban’s Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre in May. It will be directed by Steven Stead, designed by Greg King and have costumes designed by Terrence Bray.

Auditions will take place on Sunday,  February 4. KickstArt seeks men and women, aged between 18 and 50, who can sing and dance, to play featured knights, and courtiers in the musical, which takes place in the mythical court of King Arthur.

All interested in auditioning should arrive at 9.30am on Sunday, February 4, to enter their names on a list. They will be required to sing a song from a classic musical showing off range (be it soprano, alto, tenor or bass) and with a backing track. Successful applicants will then be asked to return in the afternoon for a group dance audition, men and women separately.

Paul du Toit in his award-winning lead role in Hedwig and the Angry Inch.

Camelot will be rehearsed from April 22 to May 16, and runs at Durban’s Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre until June 2.

The award-winning Hedwig and the Angry Inch, starring Paul du Toit and Genna Galloway under the direction of Elizma Badenhorst, runs at Johannesburg’s Pieter Toerien Theatre at Montecasino from March 2 to April 1. Tickets are priced from R150 to R350.

An edgy punk-rock musical, it tells of a transgender singer from East Berlin who, to marry his American boyfriend and escape the confines of an oppressive state, undergoes a sex change operation, becomes Hedwig, marries and flees.

The operation is botched, the American leaves her, and she is broke. She subsequently develops a relationship with a younger man, Tommy, becoming his mentor and musical collaborator. Tommy steals her music and is rocketed to stardom, leaving Hedwig behind.

The musical follows Hedwig, her roadie, Yitzhak, and their fictional rock band, The Angry Inchas they shadow Tommy’s tour while exploring Hedwig’s past and her complex gender identity.

The ingenious musical score, brought to life on stage by a live rock ‘n’ roll band, is steeped in the androgynous 1970’s glam rock style of David Bowie as well as the work of John Lennon and Iggy Pop.


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