2013 South African Theatre Retrospectives: Musical Theatre, Opera and Cabaret

Grant Almirall in JERSEY BOYSThe penultimate column in BroadwayWorld's South African Theatre Retrospective series takes a look at some of the musical theatre, opera and cabaret performances that have been produced on stage in 2013. This is the fourth retrospective column, with three earlier columns having been focused on new South African plays, revivals of classic South African plays and South African productions of international plays, and stand-up comedy, variety shows and storytelling. One more column, celebrating dance and physical theatre, will appear.

Big musicals seen on stages around the country this year included JERSEY BOYS, THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW, BLOOD BROTHERS, WEST SIDE STORY, STARLIGHT EXPRESS and SUNSET BOULEVARD.

JERSEY BOYS, which played the Teatro at Montecasino in Johannesburg before transferring to the Artscape Opera House in Cape Town, was a smash success with audiences and critics alike. The show tells the backstory of the rock 'n roll group, The Four Seasons, using their music to document their rise to fame and the subsequent trials and triumphs experienced by the group as they churned out hits like "Sherry" and "December 1963 (Oh, What A Night)". With music by Bob Gaudio, lyrics by Bob Crewe and a book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, the show won four Tony Awards when it opened on Broadway. The cast album of the show subsequently won a Grammy Award.

Actress Candice van Litsenborgh, who is currently performing in both SUNSET BOULEVARD and Fred Abrahamse and Marcel Meyer's new musical adaptation of HANSEL AND GRETEL, raved about the show: 'JERSEY BOYS was incredible. Slick, in absolutely every respect. You couldn't help but get caught up in the story of the creation of all that amazing music. It's not often that I watch a show more than once, it really has to be something very special, and JERSEY BOYS earned a return visit to the theatre.'

Brendan Van Rhyn as Dr. Frank-N-Furter and Paul du Toit as BradExecutive Director of KickstArt Theatre, Steven Stead, agreed with her, mentioning the jukebox musical's 'great story-telling, stunning design and direction, and excellent performances across the board' as some of the elements that came together to make for a fantastic production of the show. The cast of JERSEY BOYS was headed up by Grant Almirall, Daniel Buys, Emmanuel Castis, Kenneth Meyer and Jaco van Rensburg.

This production of JERSEY BOYS was also a testament to the enduring quality of the music of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, which speaks not only to fans of that pop star and the dynamic boy group he helped propel to fame but also to members of younger generations who were introduced to songs like "Walk Like a Man", "Beggin'" and "Big Girls Don't Cry". Lauren de Bruyn, who was the head of the Culture Club at her high school, Springfield Convent Senior School, explained why JERSEY BOYS was one of the best things she saw this year: 'The show had tons of energy and it was very entertaining. It was the type of show that I would have loved to have seen again if I was given the chance.'

Steven Stead also named THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW as one of the musicals he enjoyed this year, praising it for being 'good on every level, finely detailed and performed with relish and skill.' THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW is Richard O'Brien's musical tribute to the B movies of the mid-twentieth century, a deliciously camp tale of a wholesome American couple, Brad (Paul du Toit) and Janet (Jenny Stead), whose naiveté and middle class morality comes crashing down around them when they stumble upon a group of sexy Transylvanians, commanded by Dr Frank N. Furter (Brendan van Rhyn). The show opened at the Fugard Theatre in Cape Town in the middle of the year, with a Johannesburg run planned for 2014. Arts publicist, Christine Skinner, applauded the show for presenting 'two unbeatable hours of polished, superlative fun with a popular favourite.' One of the main features of the design of THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW was a series of animated video graphics, which were created and brought to life by James Cooke and Anwar McWhite.

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David Fick Born and bred in South Africa, David has loved theatre since the day he set foot on stage in his preschool nativity play. He graduated with a Master of Arts (Theatre and Performance) degree from the University of Cape Town in 2005, having previously graduated from the same university with a First Class Honours in Drama in 2002. An ardent essayist, David won the Keswick Prize for Lucidity for his paper "Homosexual Representation in the Broadway Musical: the development of homosexual identities and relationships from PATIENCE to RENT". Currently, he teaches Dramatic Arts at a high school in Cape Town and also freelances as a theatremaker and performer.

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