Cast of superstars shine at Naledi Theatre Awards

Naledis There were lots of gasps, some sighs, plenty of laughter and even a few tears at Tuesday night’s dazzling Naledi Theatre Awards ceremony at Gold Reef City in Johannesburg.

A fabulous cast of South Africa’s most colourful characters kept the audience entertained throughout a glittering evening that also paid tribute to more than a few local legends.

There were plenty of thrills, and even some spills, with one glamorously attired award winner taking a tumble from her nine-inch heels and doing a full roll on the stage before getting up and giving her acceptance speech looking surprisingly unruffled. She will remain anonymous since, as we all know, what happens in the casino stays in the casino.

The lady in question’s graceful recovery and Jonathan Roxmouth’s copycat roll on stage soon banished any remaining anxiety. Roxmouth was a star of the night, walking away with the Best Performance in a Musical award for his captivating lead role in Sweeney Todd, The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, as well as performing a genius of a number on the night.

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Gaynor Young accepts the inaugural Lesedi Spirit of Courage Award

From great recoveries to extraordinary ones: Gaynor Young appeared on stage to accept the inaugural Lesedi Spirit of Courage Award. After the ghastly accident during a production of the musical Camelot at the State Theatre in 1989 doctors hadn’t expected her to be able to live independently at all, much less to travel widely giving inspirational speeches and accepting awards.

Giving all the credit to her mother, Young said: “Courage! That is such a noble and powerful word suggesting bravery and fearlessness. I possess neither!”

“I am simply taking part in this wonderful thing called life. Like everyone, I have experienced downs as well as ups. I am unbelievably fortunate in that my life is surrounded by love. And that has made all the difference,” she said.

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The Lyric Theatre at Gold Reef City

The Lyric Theatre at Gold Reef City provided a suitably smart and shiny backdrop for a star-studded audience, although Idols judge Somizi Mhlongo outshone even the dazzling surroundings with his silver suit, pink hair and luminescent talent. His camply gorgeous (or was it gorgeously camp) performance was a huge crowd pleaser.

Reminding us of another time and another dream coat, Alvon Collison, on stage to accept a lifetime achievement award, took at least one of us back more than three decades to that wonderful Joseph and his Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat, in which he played what the show’s author Tim Rice described as the best Pharoah in the world.

David Kramer paid tribute to the late, great Taliep Petersen, another of Tuesday’s lifetime achievement award winners, with the help of Petersen’s sister and youngest daughter.

Fiona Ramsay won Best Lead Performance in a Play for two different plays after apparently “tying in first place with herself” for roles in Miss Dietrich Regrets and Doubt. Her co-star in Doubt, Janna Ramos-Violante, won the Best Supporting Actress award.

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High-flyer Cathy Specific was among the star-studded audience
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Up and coming theatre critic Sphelele Dludla, left, and Phakamisa Zwedala who plays ruthless gang leader Pope on Isibaya

Marking an important first, Moagi Modise’s Lepatata (director: Makhaola Ndebele) had the crowds cheering in many languages when it won the Best Ensemble category, the first Setswana play to win a major theatre award.

Another bulls-eye in terms of the zeitgeist was scored when Khayelihle Dominique Gumede was named Best Director of a Play for his vivid interpretation of the evergreen Crepuscule about love across the colour line.

Baxter Theatre’s Lara Foot walked off with a clutch of awards for Fishers of Hope: Best Production of a Play, Best Supporting Actor: Phillip Tipo Tindisa; Best Set Design: Patrick Curtis and Best Original Choreography: Grant van Ster.

Much favoured leading lady Thembi Mtshali was also honoured with the Executive Director’s Award for the vast contribution she has made over the years.

Another steady South African favourite who has tread the boards at the Baxter in the not-too-distant past, Mark Banks, was fantastic as host of the show.

Musical maestro Nataniël’s out-of-the-box After Animals took home five awards: Best Score/Arrangement/Adaptation; Best Lighting Design: Kevin Stannet; Best Sound Design: Larry Pullen; Best AV/Animation: JanHendrik Burger; and Best Costume Designer: Floris Louw.

In addition to Roxmouth’s Best Performance in a Musical award, Sweeney Todd, The Demon Barber of Fleet Street took home the award for Best Director of a Musical/Revue (Steven Stead) as well as the Joan Brickhill Award for Best Production of a Musical.

Janice Honeyman’s Sister Act also caught the eye of many, with Candida Mosoma taking Best Performance in a Musical, while Rowan Bakker won Best Musical Director and Phumi Mncayi took Best Support/Featured Performance.

Gregg Homann’s thought-provoking drama about Alan Paton, A Voice I Cannot Silence, walked away with three awards. Best Lead Performance in a Play (Male) went to Ralph Lawson, who portrayed Paton. Bright newcomer, Menzi Mkhwane, won the Brett Goldin Award for Best Newcomer/Breakthrough and Homann and Lawson won the award for Best New SA Script.

The powerful and searing one-man show, Johnny Boskak is Feeling Funny, received the Best Production: Cutting Edge nod for writer and co-director Craig Morris.

Best Production for Children (0-12) went to Shrek, The Musical JR, which was staged by Jill Girard and Keith Smith’s People’s Theatre, while Making Mandela took the honours in the Best Production for Young Audiences (13-17).

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Surprise and delight: Ladysmith Black Mambazo ended the evening on a high

Gamelihle Bovana received the award for Best Performance in a Childrens’ Theatre Production for his performance in James and the Giant Peach.

A special award, the Sophie Mcinga Emerging Voice Award, went to Thandazile ‘Sonia’ Radebe.

Just when the audience thought it couldn’t get better, the evening ended on a truly high note when the internationally renowned Ladysmith Black Mambazo appeared to accept a World Impact Award and to rock the house a capella style.

– African News Agency (ANA)

Siobhan Cassidy

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