……BY BILLY SUTER……
IN INCREASINGLY tough times, Durban Rhumbelow Theatre manager and entertainment co-ordinator Roland Stansell continues to plough on, constantly trying new ideas to keep the theatre franchise alive.
The showband tribute shows go on at The Rhumbelow’s Umbilo, Kloof and Pietermaritzburg venues, but the curse of ongoing Covid-19 restrictions remains a problem for the theatre. Not only are audience numbers being restricted, but fewer productions are being created, as more and more performers are forced to devote more time to earning their bread and butter elsewhere.
Stansell continues to present and promote the live shows and pay-to-view online screenings of recordings of previous Rhumbelow shows – and now, in another bid to swell the coffers, he has invested R55 000 of his own money in a fresh Rhumbelow Theatre offering: cinema.
He is presenting screenings, on various days midweek, at The Rhumbelow’s Umbilo and Kloof branches – and good news is that he will screen only the sort of filmed theatre and concert productions one usually sees locally on the Cinema Nouveau circuit.
If, as with me, the thought of movies in a hall not designed for them seems a bit of turnoff, please take note – Stansell’s money has been very well spent on an impressive, new, 3.2m x 2m screen (placed across the raised theatre stage) which comes with a very sophisticated projection unit offering truly excellent sound.
The set-up is as it is for the showband entertainment. Seating is at tables with light meals available (although one can take along one’s own snacks) and all drinks must be bought from the theatre pub (no beverages may be brought from home). The ticket for each screening costs R100.
Stansell has secured a partnership with More2Screen, a global pioneer in the harnessing of digital technology, to bring the very best in live music, performance arts and cultural entertainment to local cinema audiences.
He started screenings at the end of August with the Royal Ballet’s Giselle and a roster of acclaimed, filmed stage productions of Shakespearean classics (to be repeated early next year). Last weekend he showed the latest filmed concert compilation by the Waltz King, Andre Rieu.
Upcoming films will include The Three Tenors: Voices For Eternity (October 16 to 24), the recent London production of 42nd Street (October 24 to November 8), a superb production of The King and I starring Kelli O’Hara (November 22 to December 6), and Cliff Richard’s The Great 80 Tour which will only be staged and filmed in October and will be screened from November 12 to 21. Also in the pipeline is the film of the lavish recent stage production of An American in Paris.
The Rhumbelow’s current attraction is the high-definition film of the London West End stage production of the award-winning musical Kinky Boots. It is a total delight and drew constant, spontaneous applause from last night’s audience at the Umbilo Rhumbelow Theatre.
Featuring music and lyrics by Cyndi Lauper and a book by Harvey Fierstein, this sassy and colourful show centres on the true story of a shoemaker with a failing business and a drag queen with sass.
With a little compassion and a lot of understanding, this unexpected pair learn to embrace their differences and create a line of sturdy stilettos unlike any the world has ever seen! But in the end, their most sensational achievement is their friendship.
Enormous fun and also very moving in parts, the film runs for 133 minutes (with an interval) and is well worth catching. The final Umbilo Rhumbelow Theatre screenings are at 6.30pm today (September 29) and at 6.30pm on Wednesday, October 6. The film, which stars the original West End leads, Matt Henry and Killian Donnelly, then has screenings at the Kloof Rhumbelow, at Tina’s Hotel, on October 9 and 10.
A special treat for those who attended last night’s first screening in Umbilo was an appearance by amiable and leggy Tshepo Ncokoane – in red, kinky boots, of course! – who gave a short pre-screening chat about his experience performing in the brilliant Cape Town production of Kinky Boots, which ran for eight months at the Fugard Theatre. For my review of that production, click here: https://wp.me/p8dL0W-4Kb
Tshepo played one of the Angels drag queen troupe in Kinky Boots, but also got to often understudy in the lead role of drag queen Lola, for which Earl Gregory won a Naledi Award, as did the show itself. For his efforts, Tshepo received a Fleur du Cap award in the Male Featured Role category. He has also appeared in such successes as KickstArt’s Camelot and Shrek (Johannesburg season) as well as Priscilla Queen of The Desert: The Musical and The Color Purple: The Musical.
Kinky Boots was filmed live for the cinema screen at the Adelphi Theatre, London, in November 2018 by BroadwayHD, the US-based streaming service for live theatre, and directed by Brett Sullivan from Steam Motion and Sound.
The Kinky Boots stage show won three Olivier Awards in 2016 for Best New Musical, Best Costume Design and Best Actor in a Musical. Kinky Boots also won the London Evening Standard BBC Radio 2 Audience Award for Best Musical as well as three WhatsOnStage Awards for Best New Musical, Best Actor in a Musical and Best Choreography.
For bookings for all Rhumbelow Theatre performances, or any further information, contact Roland Stansell at 082 499 8636 or email firstname.lastname@example.org