Varied festive fare for Playhouse

Shelley McLean and dancers who are part of the cast of A Christmas Celebration at Durban’s Playhouse this festive season,

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BY BILLY SUTER

DURBAN’S Playhouse Company is putting the wraps on a bumper package of 2019 festive season entertainment – glossy treats including a sumptuous ballet suitable for the whole family; a must-see concert showcasing top jazz talent; a sketch-based comedy show; a musical-comedy penned by award-winning Clinton Marius; and a colourful play for the young, centred on African wildlife.

Regular free Sundowner Concerts as well as that perennial Christmas cracker, A Christmas Celebration – featuring popular festive season songs and carols performed by diverse artists and the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra – will also be back at the company’s theatre complex in the Durban city centre. 

“Directed by Ralph Lawson with choreography by Luyanda Sidiya, A Christmas Celebration is a slick, colourful show that always encapsulates the spirit of the holiday season, and this year will be no exception. However, it is not the only glittering treat in our festive season programme which offers something for everyone,” says Linda Bukhosini, Chief Executive Officer and Artistic Director of The Playhouse Company.

Director Ralph Lawson will direct A Christmas Celebration.

“The Playhouse Company will spread good cheer even further this year with the second annual Okwethu Community Arts Festival, an outreach initiative offering a mix of free entertainment in the Uvongo Town Hall on December 6 and the Kokstad Youth Centre on December 7,” she adds.

This event, highlighting various art forms and upcoming local talent, was first held in 2018 in Umlazi and The Playhouse Company plans to rotate it annually, every December, eventually reaching all corners of the province. 

The eagerly anticipated Playhouse Company production of the Disney musical Beauty and the Beast, originally scheduled as the 2019 festive season flagship production, with direction by Ralph Lawson and choreography by Adele Blank, has regrettably been moved to a later date, explains Bukhosini.

“Sadly, circumstances beyond our control came into play which necessitated us dropping that well-loved musical from this year’s festive season schedule. However, there is good news – the production, inspired by the Oscar-winning 1991 animated movie, has been secured for the Playhouse Company’s 2020 end-of-year attractions.”

The following is the festive season line-up from The Playhouse Company, an agency of the Department of Arts and Culture, which embraces the government’s principles of social cohesion and nation-building:

FUDUKAZI’S MAGIC
(November 26 to December 7 in the Playhouse Grand Foyer)

The art of storytelling is a highly respected traditional activity in Africa and the versatile Gcina Mhlophe, an award-winning artist based in Durban but globally acclaimed, is one of few women prominent in this art form dominated by males.

Durban storyteller Gcina Mhlophe will star in and has written Fudukazi’s Magic, a play for the young.

So it is with excitement and pride that The Playhouse Company announces it will be presenting Mhlophe’s delightful Fudukazi’s Magic, based on the widely published children’s book of the same title.  

The versatile Mhlophe has written and directed, and also features, in this colourful play for the young of all ages, presented by The Playhouse Company.

Set in the African bush, Fudukazi’s Magic features three singer-actors (Mhlophe alongside Khwezi Becker and Nkosingiphile Mpanza) and two musicians (Victor Sithole and Njabulo Shabalala). They tell the tale of a female tortoise which, while interacting with other creatures of the bush, uses magic to transform duller looking animals by adding a rainbow of colours to their coats. 

Gcina Mhlophe is an author, poet, playwright, director and performer whose storytelling talent stems from being influenced as a child by her grandmother’s tales.

Mhlophe’s written and performance talent has taken her from South Africa to South and North America, to Europe, Greenland and Japan. She has performed  in some of the world’s most famous theatres, including the Royal Albert Hall in London and at the Kennedy Centre in America.

She has received honorary doctorates from the London Open University (UK), the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pretoria University and Fort Hare – all for a fine body of work that has contributed to literature and helped to preserve the art of African storytelling.

Performances of Fudukazi’s Magic are scheduled for 10am daily from Tuesday to Friday, November 26 to 30; as well as at 2pm on Saturday, November 30; and thereafter at 2pm daily from Tuesday to Saturday, December 3 to 7.

Tickets for the show cost R50 each if bought in advance and R65 at the door. Book at the Playhouse box-office – phone (031) 3699 596/40 – or online and at Pick N pay outlets via WebTickets (the customer support line is 086 111 0005).

A CHRISTMAS CAROL: THE STORY OF SCROOGE
(December 6 to 8 at the Playhouse Opera theatre)

Presented in partnership with the Cape Town City Ballet, this fun and enchanting ballet for all ages has been created by South African dance doyenne Veronica Paeper and features lighting design by Wilhelm Disbergen.

The sparkling production, featuring 40 dancers, tells the story of the elderly, mean and misery Ebenezer Scrooge, who gets opportunities to reassess the error of his ways and become a kinder and more gentle man after he is visited by ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future one cold Christmas Eve. 

A Christmas Carol: The Story of Scrooge is one of more than 40 ballets, among them 16 full-length works, that have been choreographed by Paeper, who was born in Port Shepstone and began choreographing in 1972

Performances are at 7.30pm on Friday and Saturday, December 6 and 7; and 3pm on Sunday, December 8.

Tickets for A Christmas Carol: The Story of Scrooge cost R150, R180 and R220. They can be bought at the Playhouse box-office – phone (031) 3699 596/40 – or online and at Pick N pay outlets via WebTickets (the customer support line is 086 111 0005).

BIGLY YUGE
(December 6 to 15 in the Playhouse Loft)

Presented by The Playhouse Company in association with Moving Acts Productions, this is a new musical comedy-drama by award-winning playwright Clinton Marius, marking his 25th script. It is directed by Tony Kgoroge, who appeared in the Clint Eastwood film, Invictus, and played Walter Sisulu in the 2013 movie, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom.

Playwright Clinton Marius has written a new comedy-drama with music, Bigly Yuge, for the Playhouse Company’s festive season programme.

A showcase for the talents of popular Durban TV and stage actors Bongani Mbatha, Bhekani Tshabalala and Mduduzi Nombela, it tells of three hefty friends who battle to maintain relationships. They embark on a dieting regime to please their loved ones and, in the process, learn more about themselves and their lack of self-worth.

Featuring several songs and some dancing, the production takes a humorous approach to its subject matter while still highlighting the pain of people who battle the bulge, explains Marius, whose successes include Lotus FM’s Lollipop Lane serial and the stage hits Sweetie Darling (starring Bongani Mbatha), B!#ch Stole My Doek and White Christmas.

“The show is aimed at audiences who enjoy uncomplicated and down-to-earth comedy. It will appeal to fans of the three awesome and much-loved performers, and also to people who struggle with weight and confidence issues,” says Marius.

Performances of Bigly Yuge are at 7pm on December 6; 2pm and 7pm on December 7; 3pm on December 8; 7pm on December 11, 12 and 13; 2pm and 7pm on December 14; and 3pm on December 15.

Tickets for the show cost R100 each. They can be bought at the Playhouse box-office – phone (031) 3699 596/40 – or online and at Pick N pay outlets via WebTickets (the customer support line is 086 111 0005).

JOKER IS QUEEN
(December 13 and 14 at the Playhouse Drama theatre)

A bulging bagful of ho-ho-ho is planned for Durban’s Playhouse complex this festive season with this zany, sketch-based comedy show that turns the spotlight on the diverse talents of two of the country’s most popular comics and stars of stage, film and television. 

Leeanda Reddy (Isidingo, 3 Days to Go, Scandal, Mr Bones 2) and Kaseran Pillay (Going Nowhere Slowly, Mr Bones 2, Binnelanders) present 10 hilarious, unrelated sketches featuring 24 colourful and diverse characters in Joker is Queen. 

The fast-flowing production is a collection of highlights from previous sketch-based stage successes from the team – shows including Buckled, Queens of Comedy, Old School, Glued and 150 Years and Still Laughing.

It is comedy at its best, with the characters – all depicted with lightning-fast changes of costumes, wigs and accents – including a concerned nurse, a frustrated teacher, an old-school principal, a sycophantic news reporter, early Indian settlers and assorted know-it-alls, oddballs and misfits. 

There are references to the Guptas and KwaZulu-Natal’s traditional Reed Dance festival, and the audience can also look forward to mirth being milked from a funeral, advice on plastic containers and a variation of the vuvuzela.

Reddy’s popular character, the drunken loser and wannabe-philosopher Uncle Eric, is also in the show; along with Pillay’s hilarious, bumbling sign-language interpreter. Also keep an eye out for the highly amusing Tamil Man, who gives handy hints on budget weddings to Queen Elizabeth.

Performances of Joker is Queen are at 7.30pm on Friday and Saturday, December 13 and 14.

Tickets for this show cost R150 and R180. They can be bought at the Playhouse box-office – phone (031) 3699 596/40 – or online and at Pick N pay outlets via WebTickets (the customer support line is 086 111 0005).

HORN HANG UP JAZZ CONCERT
(December 20 at the Playhouse Drama)

If jazz is your bag then you simply cannot miss this concert spectacle celebrating the legacy of two great South African artists who started their impressive careers in the mid-1950s and remain relevant and popular today. 

The musicians, both of whom are now 86, are tenor saxophonist Moses Sefatsa and vocalist Adolph Kunene, who teamed with Umkhumbane Jazz Ensemble about two decades ago and have produced some brilliant compositions.

Durban songbird Natalie Rungan features in the Horn Hang Up Jazz Concert at the Playhouse on December 20.

This year both Kunene and Sefatsa opted to retire from music but both will feature in the Playhouse’s celebratory concert arranged in their honour. It is an event that will also feature Umkhumbane Jazz Ensemble, a vibrant group with two tenor and two alto saxophonists, two trumpeters, a bassist, drummer and keyboardist. Their catchy music is in the marabi-meets-big band style.

Also on the bill are Durban jazz songbird Natalie Rungan; singer-guitarist Ernie Smith;  recording artist and music teacher Mthobisi Mthalane; multi-instrumentalist Victor Sithole; singer and recording artist Xolisa Dlamini; and jazz guitarist and pennywhistle expert Elias Ngidi. Mandla Mdletshe is programme director.

The performance is at 7pm on Friday, December 20.

Tickets for this treat cost R100 and R125. They can be bought at the Playhouse box-office – phone (031) 3699 596/40 – or online and at Pick N pay outlets via WebTickets (the customer support line is 086 111 0005).

A CHRISTMAS CELEBRATION
(December 21 and 22 at the Playhouse Opera theatre)

This glittering spectacle is a not-to-be-missed concert of exhilarating song and dance, as well as choral and orchestral music. It is simply perfect for Christmas cheer and bringing the curtain down on 2019.

Featuring the acclaimed KZN Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of Lykele Temmingh, as well as The Playhouse Company’s Phakama Dance Theatre and the Playhouse Chorale, the show is directed by Ralph Lawson.

The production promises to uplift spirits and ensure a joyous start to the Christmas season with guest vocalists including Shelley McLean, Aubrey Poo, Wayne Mkhize and Joel Zuma.

Joel Zuma is among the cast of A Christmas Celebration.

Performances are at 7.30pm on Saturday, December 21; and 2pm on Sunday, December 22; at the Playhouse Opera theatre.

Tickets for A Christmas Celebration cost R120 and R150. They can be bought at the Playhouse box-office – phone (031) 3699 596/40 – or online and at Pick N pay outlets via WebTickets (the customer support line is 086 111 0005).

OKWETHU COMMUNITY ARTS FESTIVAL
(Uvongo Town Hall on December 6; Kokstad Youth Centre on December 7)

This popular outreach initiative by The Playhouse Company offers a mixed bag of free entertainment by upcoming local talent.

The Playhouse Company is committed to tapping new talent and exposing young artists to training and mentorship through the many development programmes offered by the arts body. The aim is to empower this new talent to perform on Playhouse stages.

The skills impartment initiative, besides fast-tracking the growth of community artists in their ability to work professionally, is seen as an invaluable and far-sighted extension of the Playhouse Company’s own Audience Development programme.

SUNDOWNER CONCERTS
(Playhouse Cellar on dates listed below)

The Playhouse Company’s popular free Sundowner Concerts in the Playhouse Cellar are sure to prove a popular draw over the festive season. All performances start at 5.30pm. This is the programme:

November 1: The bands Afrosoul and Thobani’s Band, as well as poets Nhlakanipho Nguse, Athingahangwi Ramabulana, Sithabiso Nzala and Khwezi Becker.

November 6: Amanda Mo and Nhlanhla Sibisi, as well as poets to be confirmed.

December 13: Vusi Mkhize and Njabulo Nzuza, as well as poets to be confirmed.

December 20: Dani Foster Trio and Cebo Ngema Band, as well as poets to be confirmed.

 

 


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