Rehearsals for The Producers, the hilarious Mel Brooks musical comedy, are underway at Artscape, ahead of the productions’s first season at Theatre On The Bay. Brought to local audiences by Pieter Toerien Productions, the musical is directed by Joseph Pitcher, with musical direction by Garth Tavares and choreography by Duane Alexander. Mila De Biaggi serves as assistant choreographer.
In The Producers, Max Bialystock (a role which will be played by Alan Committie), the onetime king of Broadway producers who is hungry to strike it rich, and Leo Bloom (Richard White), an accountant with dreams of someday becoming a theatre producer, discover that they could get richer by producing a flop than a hit and start by finding the worst show, worst director, and worst actors. When their new production, Springtime for Hitler, turns out to be a smash success, the plan is thrown off and the partners lives are thrown into chaos.
Below, Dean Roberts provides a glimpse into the rehearsal room, where the production team is putting together what promises to be a hilarious reading of this international smash hit musical theatre hit.
The company of The Producers is rounded out by Raquel Munn, Terence Bridgett, Schoeman Smit, Earl Gregory, Devin Butterworth, Nathan Muller, Philip Schnetler, Joshua van Niekerk, Nicolette Fernandes, Michele La Trobe, Chloe Perling, Nadine Suliaman and Claire Glover. The creative team includes costume designer Penny Simpson and set designer Michael Mitchell, with Alyssa Harrison, assisted by Shakir Bester, handling the stage management.
The South African tour of The Producers kicks off at Theatre on the Bay in Cape Town on 4 February, with a season to follow at Pieter Toerien’s Montecasino Theatre and Studio from 3 April. Bookings are through Computicket.
With two weeks to go until the curtain rises on the 54th Fleur du Cap Theatre Awards at the Artscape Opera House, it is time for the South African Theatre Archive to offer its congratulations to the musical theatre nominees that hit the high notes in several categories awarded by the awards programme for their work in 2019. The Fleur du Cap Theatre awards are regarded amongst the most valued and prestigious in the South African performing arts industry.
The Fleur du Cap Theatre Awards are sponsored by the Fleur du Cap wine brand. At inception in 1965, the awards were known as the Three Leaf Awards, becoming the Fleur du Cap Theatre Awards in 1978 to celebrate one of Distell’s leading wine brands. The panel of judges, chaired by a non-voting chairperson, is made up largely of local critics, journalists, writers and drama educators and comprises Africa Melane, Dr Beverley Brommert, Eugene Yiga, Lwando Scott, Marina Griebenow, Maurice Carpede, Peggy Mongoato, Tracey Saunders and Dr Wayne Muller.
Nominees and winners are chosen from productions performed at professional theatre venues in and around Cape Town. Theatre practitioners are recognised for acting, directing, staging and technical ability. For musical theatre productions and opera, the casts on opening night are considered. The full list of nominees per category is available on the Fleur du Cape website.
The outstanding production of Matilda the Musical (produced by Pieter Toerien Productions and GWB Entertainment) earned a nomination for Best Production, alongside Endgame, Curse of the Starving Class, Kudu and Womb of Fire. The production collected a further ten nominations, including three in the category of Best Performance by a Supporting Actress in a Musical or Music Theatre Show: Bethany Dickson, who offered a masterclass in emotion as Miss Honey; Claire Taylor, who played the deliciously dreadful Mrs Wormwood with style; and Nompumelelo Mayiyane, whose presence as the endearing librarian, Mrs Phelps, left a lasting impression on local audiences.
Further acting nominations were garnered by Cameron Seear(Best Performance by a Supporting Actor in a Musical or Music Theatre Show) as Bruce Bogtrotter, the character that kicks off one of the flagship numbers of the show, “Revolting Children,” as well as Ryan de Villiers (Best Performance by a Lead Actor in a Musical or Music Theatre Show) for his astounding musical theatre debut as Miss Trunchbull and Kitty Harris (Best Performance by a Lead Actress in a Musical or Music Theatre Show) for her memorable turn as Matilda.
In the design categories, nods were given to Rob Howell (Best Costume Design and Best Set Design), Simon Baker (Best Sound Design) and Hugh Vanstone (Best Lighting Design).
Original South African works also earned their fair share of nominations, with Tsotsi the Musical receiving eight nominations, and Calling Us Home and Langarm three apiece. The lack of writing nominations for any of these new productions perhaps reflects the long journey ahead for local musical theatre pieces before they can hold their own as dramatic works in the South African theatre landscape.
Tsotsi the Musical, however, already has one award in the bag, with Janni Younge and Craig Leo having earned the single nomination in the Best Puppetry Design category. The strongly designed production will also compete for Best Costume Design (Noluthando Lobese Moropa), Best Sound Design (Marcel Bezuidenhout) and Best Set Design (Michael Mitchell and Neil Coppen). The balance of the nominations were for Kgomotso Matsunyane as Miriam and Thembisile Ntaka as Adedola (both for Best Performance by a Supporting Actress in a Musical or Music Theatre Show), Msizi Njapha as Boston (for Best Performance by a Supporting Actor in a Musical or Music Theatre Show) and Mxolisi (Zuluboy) Majozi as Tsotsi (for Best Performance by a Lead Actor in a Musical or Music Theatre Show).
The best hope for Calling Us Home winning an award is the luminous Lynelle Kenned (Best Performance by a Lead Actress in a Musical or Music Theatre Show), who played Grace in this second iteration of the production that debuted as Calling Me Home in Johannesburg. Conroy Scott (who played Ivan) and Musanete Sakupwanya (who played Nelson) received nominations for Best Performance by a Supporting Actor in a Musical or Music Theatre Show and Best Performance by a Lead Actor in a Musical or Music Theatre Show respectively.
The strongest contender from Langarm is Elton Landrew, the sole nominee from the show in the Best Performance by a Lead Actor in a Musical or Music Theatre Show category. His nuanced performance as Eddie mined David Kramer’s script and score for both comedy and pathos. In the category for Best Performance by a Lead Actress in a Musical or Music Theatre Show, Kim Louis, who played Dinah and returned to the professional stage following two decades out of the spotlight, will go head-to-head against Rushney Ferguson, who stepped into her first leading lady role as Angelina in the production.
Earning nominations as replacements in returning productions were Carmen Pretorius, as Maria in The Sound of Music, for Best Performance by a Lead Actress in a Musical or Music Theatre Show; Kevin Hack as Tony in West Side Story, for Best Performance by a Lead Actor in a Musical or Music Theatre Show. Dueling it out in the category for Best Performance by a Supporting Actor in a Musical or Music Theatre Show will be Daniel Mpilo Richards as Bernardo in West Side Storyand Desmond Dube as Pop in King Kong.
A further musical theatre production, Fred Abrahamse and Marcel Meyer’s Alice in Wonderland, has been nominated in the category for Best Theatre Production for Children and Young People.
This year’s ceremony will take place on Sunday, 10 March at 17:30, promising to offer an evening celebrating Vintage theatre and wines. Mbongeni N. Mtshali will direct the ceremony, with José Dias serving as musical director. Africa Melane, returns to host the evening with a variety of co-presenters who have been recipients of the Innovation in Theatre and Encore Awards in the past decade. Winners are chosen from productions performed at professional theatre venues in and around Cape Town. The winners of the Lifetime Achievement and Innovation in Theatre awards will also be named at the ceremony.
Tickets for the ceremony are available at R250 per person. Bookings can be made at online at Computicket, by phone on 0861 915 8000, or in person at any Shoprite Checkers outlet as well as the Artscape Box Office on 021 410 9838 and Dial-a-Seat on 021 421 7695.