BWW Review: LAMTA's Final ENCORE! Has Audiences Wanting More
The Luitingh Alexander Musical Theatre Academy (LAMTA) ended 2019 on a festively Lloyd Webber note with its first musical theatre production, ENCORE!. Supported by well-known names in local theatre and touring productions, ENCORE! showed off the triple threat stylings of their 20-plus students by taking the audience on a trip down musical memory lane.
A tribute to Pieter Toerien's many productions from the past 18 years, ENCORE! began with a youthful rendition of Grease is the Word and stuck to solo and duet pieces throughout majority of the first act. Recent productions of JOSEPH AND THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT, THE SOUND OF MUSIC and EVITA were showcased; whereas the second act paid homage to more of Toerien's pre-2010 productions such as JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR, HAIR and CHESS. The entire production was both nostalgic and refreshing, as LAMTA's musical theatre training was superbly debuted.
It's expected in a production of ENCORE!'s nature that some students shone brighter than others, yet Duane Alexander and Anton Luitingh did well to exhibit performers' strengths in solo and duets numbers while also hiding weaknesses in larger ensembles. Michael Stray and Stuart Brown were standout talents in both singing and dancing, and Ché-jean Jupp performed an impressive solo of Close Every Door To Me.
The female students of LAMTA could perhaps use more work in developing their all-round skills; but singers Amy Reed, Tannah Levick and Noluthando Dlamini had beautiful Broadway voices in their solo and duet pieces. Morgan Marshall was intensely noticeable as a dancer, but it was really Liné Koen as Eva Perón in Buenos Aires that was the most memorable performance of closing night.
Bethany Dickson, Edith Plaaitjies, Sven-Eric Müller and Loukmaan Adams boosted the production with a handful of cameos both solo and alongside students. This not only raised the entertainment value of ENCORE! but also gave the students fantastic examples to aspire to. ANNIE's Emma-Rose Blacher and MATLIDA's Lilla Fleischman also gave guest performances, and Fleischman especially was just as engaging with the smaller Theatre on the Bay audience as she was with Artscape Opera House's.
Sets were appropriately simplistic for ENCORE! with lighting and costuming filling up the ambience of each scene. Costumes by Niall Griffin seemed plucked from professional productions, with PHANTOM OF THE OPERA's Masquerade being outstanding. It's clear Alexander and Luitingh work well together as Luitingh's direction was constantly complemented by Alexander's staging, and vice versa. Choreography by Alexander was also a standout in ENCORE! and was a delight to watch in group numbers such as Gaston and Good Mornin', while also showing stylistic versatility in Sixteen Going on Seventeen and King Herod's Song.
There was no doubt when watching ENCORE! that one was watching talent that will make up the future of local, and perhaps even international, productions. With only 11 months of training at LAMTA under their belts, Cape Town audiences eagerly await to see what another 11 months will do.
Photo credit: Gustav Klotz