Full Cast Announced for the Fugard Theatre's KING KONG: THE MUSICAL

Poster artwork for KING KONG

Over half a century since the original production, the Fugard Theatre's forthcoming, brand new production of the legendary South African musical KING KONG is fully cast, with rehearsals commencing on 12 June.

Eric Abraham produces and presents this Fugard Theatre production, which tells the story of heavyweight fifties boxing champion Ezekiel Dlamini whose self-appointed ring name was "King Kong" to the wildly exhilarating music of Todd Matshikiza.

Set in Sophiatown in Johannesburg in the late-fifties, the original 1959 production was first South Africa's black musical. Born in Vryheid in the then Orange Free State, Ezekiel Dlamini himself became and unwitting symbol for freedom and the wasted power of his people under apartheid. After a meteoric boxing rise, Dlamini's life degenerated into drunkenness and gang violence. In 1957, Dlamini was to become a classic Greek tragic figure when, in a fit of jealousy, he killed his girlfriend and at his trial asked for the death sentence to serve as a warning to others. Instead, the white judge, refusing to take instruction from a black defendant, sentenced Dlamini to twelve years hard labour. Three months later, Dlamini was found drowned in a dam on a prison farm. At 36 years old, King Kong had taken his destiny into his own hands and, inadvertently, become a legend.

The original production featured music by the late great South African composer Todd Matshikiza and lyrics by Pat Williams, with Williams collaborating on the book with Harry Bloom. Songs such as "Back of the Moon", "King Kong" and "Sad Times, Bad Times" have become popular South African favourites and are firmly entrenched in this country's musical history. Sales of the original cast recording, the first release of an all-black production in South Africa and which included the libretto with the LP, achieved unprecedented numbers. Arthur Goldreich designed the sets for the original production, with original musical direction by Stanley Glasser.

Ezekiel "King Kong" Dlamini

KING KONG toured the country and was seen by 200 000 South Africans, playing to record-breaking and multi-racial audiences during the time that apartheid was being implemented, before transferring in February 1961 to London's West End for a 200-performance run. KING KONG launched the international careers of Miriam Makeba and Hugh Masekela among many others.

Daniel Galloway the Executive Director of the Fugard Theatre, comments on the revival:

We are thrilled that this long awaited production of this iconic and first South African musical of KING KONG, is a Fugard Theatre production which will showcase the very best of South African talent. The original production united audiences of all colours, launched careers and put South African talent firmly on the international map. We are excited to be re-creating the world of the "Back of the Moon" shebeen with an all South African cast and superb creative team. While remaining true to the original production, our Fugard Theatre KING KONG will refresh the musical for the 21st Century.

A revised book, with additional lyrics, will be penned by Academy Award-nominated screenwriter and playwright William Nicholson (SHADOWLANDS, GLADIATOR) for the Fugard Theatre's production of KING KONG. Charl-Johan Lingenfelder (WEST SIDE STORY, FUNNY GIRL) will provide new arrangements of Matshikiza's irresistible original score music as well as additional music for the production.

The production will be directed by Jonathan Munby, who staged the Fugard Theatre's production of A HUMAN BEING DIED THAT NIGHT with Noma Dumezweni, the only double Olivier award-winning Southern African actor. Having taken the helm of many other international productions, Munby will follow up his work on KING KONG by directing Sir Ian McKellen in Shakespeare's KING LEAR for the Chichester Festival in the United Kingdom.

Andile Gumbi as King Kong

South African star choreographer and recent French Legion D'Honneur recipient Gregory Maqoma will choreograph KING KONG, which will feature musical direction by Charl-Johan Lingenfelder and Sipumzo Lucwaba, who will conduct a live nine-piece band to accompany the action at every performance.

Set design is by Paul Wills (A HUMAN BEING DIED THAT NIGHT, AMERICAN BUFFALO) costume design by Birrie le Roux (DISTRICT SIX - KANALA, FUNNY GIRL); lighting design by Tim Mitchell (A HUMAN BEING DIED THAT NIGHT, KING LEAR) and sound Design by Mark Malherbe (WEST SIDE STORY, FUNNY GIRL). The associate director is Mdu Kweyama.

Cast in the title role of King Kong is South African actor, singer and dancer Andile Gumbi. Gumbi made his Broadway debut as Simba in Disney's THE LION KING and has starred in productions of this musical in London, Sydney, Melbourne, Shanghai and South Africa. Gumbi, who was voted by The Sowetan as one of Mzansi's Sexiest Top 12 Celebs in 2015, is the character Zweli in the Mzansi Magic soap opera ISIBAYA, which was voted most popular TV soap at the 2017 SAFTA Awards.

Multiple award-winning actress and singer-songwriter Nondumiso Tembe will be recreating the role of Joyce, which propelled Miriam Makeba to international fame in the original production of KING KONG. Tembe's extensive list of credits include HBO's Golden Globe and Emmy-award winning TRUE BLOD, SABC's GENERATIONS, the military drama SIX on the History Channel and ZULU WEDDING opposite Darrin DeWitt Henson. She won the Best Actress in a Supporting Role Naledi Theatre Award in 2014 for her portrayal of Susan in David Mamet's RACE, which toured South Africa, and to the Edinburgh Festival. Her debut album IZWI LAMI - MY VOICE received much acclaim including a Metro FM Music Award for Best Music Video.

Nondumiso Tembe as Joyce

The Fugard Theatre's KING KONG cast also includes Sanda Shandu (ORPEHUS IN AFRICA) as Lucky, Tshamano Sebe (THE PAINTED ROCKS AT REVOLVER CREEK) as Jack, Ntambo Rapatla (MENOPAUSE THE MUSICAL) as Miriam, Sne Dladla (DISTRICT SIX - KANALA) as Pop, Lerato Mvelase (ISIBAYA) as Petal and Sabelo Radebe (WEST SIDE STORY) as Caswell.

Performing with the ensemble are Joel Zuma (SOPHIATOWN), Ben Kgosimore (THE ADVENTURES OF OLIVER TWIST), Athenkozi Mfamela (IN THE CITY OF PARADISE), Shalom Zamisa (SARAFINA), Sibusiso Mxosana (FUNNY GIRL), Aphiwe Menziwa (PASSAGE), Namisa Mdlalose (RENT), Siphiwe Nkabinde (EXIT/EXIST), Lungelwa Mdekazi (AFRICAN ANGELS) , Dolly Louw (THE BOYS IN THE PHOTOGRAPH), Barileng Malibye (EMOTIONAL CREATURE), Edith Plaatjies (BLOOD BROTHERS), Rushney Ferguson (DISTRICT SIX - KANALA) and Given Mkhize (SACREDSPACE).

The United Kingdom's Portobello Books will publish OUR KNOT OF TIME AND MUSIC, a personal memoir of the original musical by KING KONG's librettist Pat Williams. Athol Fugard descibes the book as:

An extraordinary memoir of the first ever South African musical, which has since acquired mythical proportions. Essential reading for anyone who loves our country - and, of course, its music.

The book will be available at the Fugard during the run of the show.

KING KONG will run at the Fugard Theatre from 25 July until 2 September 2017, on Tuesdays through Saturdays at 20:00, with a 16:00 matinee on Saturdays. The Fugard Theatre is situated in the heart of District Six, on the corner of Harrington and Caledon Streets, Cape Town. Tickets range from R130 to R280.

The production will then transfer to the Mandela Theatre in Johannesburg from 12 September until 8 October 2017, on Tuesdays through Saturdays at 20:00, with 16:00 matinees on Saturdays and Sundays. The Mandela Theatre is situated at 163 Civic Boulevard, Braamfontein. Tickets range from R150 to R350.

Bookings for both seasons of KING KONG can be made online through Computicket, by phone on 0861 915 8000, or at any Shoprite Checkers outlet. Bookings can also be made at the Fugard Theatre box office on 021 461 4554. There is a generous 15% discount available for the Friends of the Fugard members. For further information about the production, visit the official KING KONG website.

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