2012 South African Theatre Retrospective: Opera and Musical Theatre
THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, KAT AND THE KINGS, CABARET, TROUBLE IN TAHITI, PORGY AND BESS, LA BOHEME
The second big musical to return to South African stages this year was KAT AND THE KINGS, David Kramer and Taliep Pietersen's musical from the 1990s, which had success around South Africa, in the West End and on Broadway in that decade. The nostalgia-fuelled look at the trials and tribulations of a vocal group from District Six during the apartheid era played a sold out season at The Fugard in Cape Town before transferring to Monte Casino for nine weeks and then returning to the Mother City for a summer season, where it continues to play until the 19th of January. The show's small ensemble cast features Danny Butler, Dean Ballie, Grant Peres, Zakariyah Toerien, Amy Trout and Carlo Daniels.
CABARET, John Kander, Fred Ebb and Joe Masteroff's unforgettable 1966 musical about a young American writer, Cliff Bradshaw, and his experiences in decadent, early 1930s Berlin; his relationship with an English cabaret performer, Sally Bowles; and the insidious rise of the Nazi party in Weimar Germany, was my personal favourite of the musical theatre productions I saw on stage in South Africa this year. KickstArt's production first appeared in Durban in 2011, before touring to Johannesburg and Cape Town in collaboration with Pieter Toerien Productions in 2012. The cast included Samantha Peo as Sally, a role which had been played by Lisa Bobbert in Durban, Bryan Hiles as Cliff and Sascha Halbhuber as the Emcee.
Some of the musical theatre productions that played South African venues this year included a reduced, five-man version of THE PIRATES OF PENZANCE at Old Mutual's Theatre on the Square in Johannesburg and KickstArt's festive season presentation of BEAUTY AND THE BEAST at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre in Durban. There were also a handful of original musicals of varying quality on offer at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown, the vast majority of which - as usual - will sadly vanish without a trace, without further opportunities for development.
What was your favourite musical or opera you saw in South Africa during 2012? Leave your comments beneath this article as we continue to celebrate local theatre in 2012 - and be sure to watch out for our feature in early 2013 where we take a look at the musicals and operas that await South African audiences in the New Year.
Photo Credits: Jesse Kate Kramer (KAT AND THE KINGS).