Posts tagged "Artscape"

Fabulous fabulous leads and a whole lot more

Review: West Side Story, Fugard Theatre production at Artscape opera house

Run extended until April 22

In this mad and fast-moving world appetites change constantly, attention spans narrow and it is easy to dismiss things as old or tired. That said, this fabulous pairing of a sensational Maria and a reliable and gorgeous Tony in a grand-scale production of West Side Story is anything but.

Lynelle Kenned as Maria is out of this world. Hers is an absolutely sensational voice that seems to soar ever higher and higher. Even when the whole cast of 40 is singing their hearts out her crystal clear soprano is unmistakable. US-born actor Kevin Hack as Tony, in a role he has performed almost 400 times, provides a powerful balance to her brilliance.

These two alone make the trip to Artscape worth it and you might even get tickets now that the run has been extended to April 22. But don’t muck about: it must end then.

This production of the classic inspired by Romeo and Juliet and set in New York in the Fifties, by Eric Abraham and the Fugard Theatre, blew us away in the winter of 2015.  It is back at Artscape for one final season in South Africa “due to overwhelming demand”. Well, that is what they say (and judging by the full house and standing ovation they might just be telling the truth).

The story is so well-known and borders on the cheesy but an unforgettable score that marries stirring music by Leonard Bernstein and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim (“Something’s Coming”, “Maria”, “I Feel Pretty”, “Tonight”, to name a few ) blows any cynicism away.

High octone dance-fighting scenes between two warring street gangs, the Jets and the Sharks, add a helping of excitement and brash big bang thrill.

Go on, take your kids, take your Mum and Dad, take the bridge club or your drinking buddies. There really is something for everyone in this very impressive production with a few absolutely standout performances.

Other principal cast members reprising their roles are Bianca Le Grange as Anita; Stephen Jubber as Riff; Sven-Eric Müller as Diesel; Craig Urbani as Shrank; and Richard Lothian as Officer Krupke. Daniel Richards re-joins the cast as Bernardo and James Borthwick plays Doc.

Matthew Wild is director, Charl-Johan Lingenfelder is musical director and conductor, and Louisa Talbot is the choreographer, with Grant van Ster as resident choreographer.

Last time it was the set that stole my heart …

(full review from August 2015 available here)

I managed to secure some of the last seats at the Artscape Opera House for West Side Story. The balcony was all that was left. I was only a little disappointed, knowing that a seat upstairs gives such a great view of the group pieces, in this case two gangs of hot young dancers play-fighting with choreography by Louisa Talbot under the direction of Matthew Wild. What’s not to like?

Being a little way back also helps me not fall in love with one performer and follow them around the stage to the detriment of the others, in this case, so many others in a large and talented cast of 40.

Blah-di-blah … A fragile balance is upset … Cue hatred and violence … breathtaking, high tempo dance scenes. Blah blah blah (as I said, full review from August 2015 available here)

Seamless mood changes are achieved by deft set changes between cavernous, clunky, concrete landscapes and intimate love scenes on a balcony or in the sewing factory where Maria works.

About my special little stage crush for the night, I will admit to being a bit mechanical here. Lead contenders had to be Maria (Lynelle Kenned), so sweet and winsome until she opened her mouth and filled the auditorium with soaring vocals, and the sexy Anita (Bianca le Grange), who is Bernardo’s girlfriend.

Le Grange, a South African sweetheart of an order I have heard compared with the way America adored Natalie Wood, who played Maria in the original film version of West Side Story, is one of those performers who doesn’t need a spotlight, her performance is already illuminated by her own fiery red circle of hotness.

But this time the crush award went to … [add drumroll here please] … the stage itself: the mechanics of a three-story set being moved seamlessly on and off stage; the lighting – sometimes knock-out sparkly, other times delightfully subtle; the stage that seemed to go on forever. (I really did lean over the balcony to check if they had fitted in more than a few rows of seats downstairs).

Power + grace = survival


Enemy Behind The Gates. Photo: Pat-Bromilow-Downing

Review: Sacred Spaces by Cape Dance Company, Artscape Theatre in Cape Town until December 10


At a time when the arts – like journalism and even life as we know it – seems to be under threat of extinction, Sacred Spaces gives us a peek at a wide scope of what survival might look like.

The show, by the neoclassical Cape Dance Company, comprises three pieces: Enemy Behind The Gates, Cliffnotes, and A Thousand Shepherds.

Christopher Huggins’ Enemy Behind The Gates has never seemed so relevant. This representation of power and grace really strikes a chord at a time when we seldom see the two combined in life.

In this powerful piece one gets glimpses of individuals – each one stronger, more beautiful, and even more certain than the next – but mostly we see a group united by a military precision and a graceful dedication to the whole.

Enemy is edge-of-your-seat dance that leaves the audience breathless, wondering what the hell could come next. It left me reflecting on the choices we are told we must make, the black and whiteness of it all, the idea that we can only have power or grace.

If these beautiful, graceful soldier-dancers are the enemy behind the gates let them in immediately please.


Cliffnotes. Photo: Pat-Bromilow-Downing

Cliffnotes, the premiere of the work by South African-born choreographer Andrea (Andi) Schermoly, leads us into a more reflective mode.

Schermoly trained at the National School of the Arts under Vyvyan Lorrayne before studying at Rambert Ballet and Contemporary School and the Royal Ballet School in London. She has danced with Boston Ballet and the Netherlands Dance Theatre and now works as a freelance choreographer and performer. She lives in California.

The title of this piece is an American expression that refers to study notes, what others might call crib sheets. It is a series of vignettes, fluid, expansive movement set to the music of Tom Waits, Ludovico Einaudi and Rob Fidel, with lighting design by Wilhelm Disbergen.

We get glimpses of moments and feel flashes of emotion as we catch our breath and regain our equilibrium. Cliffnotes’ beautiful snapshots help us to transition from the breathless excitement of Enemy Behind The Gates to the deeply meditative A Thousand Shepherds. (I sense the hand of CDC artistic director Debbie Turner.)


A Thousand Shepherds. Photo: Pat-Bromilow-Downing

Sacred Spaces ends with Spanish-UK choreographer José Agudo’s acclaimed work that skillfully takes the audience on a spiritual journey that borders on the religious.

This is a piece that reminds one of how many choices there are, that power and grace are, in fact, not just opposite ends of a continuum. There two can be combined in millions of meaningful ways, just like one doesn’t have to choose between the course or the cliffnotes, most people settle on a combination of the two.

Sacred Spaces is on at Artscape until December 10.

The bohemians of District Six

Another re-imagining of a classic opera? Hmm, I am not sure. “La Bohème with a South African twist”: Giacomo Puccini’s classic set in District Six … okay, I will be there … I am a gambling woman after all, and hope is always the last thing to go.

I am not ashamed to say that I always feel a little flush of nerves when I hear the words “opera … with a twist”. Not (only) because I am a crusty old traditionalist, but because I want so badly for it to work. And it never quite lives up to its promise, always feeling like a bit of a compromise.


Blowing those preconceived ideas away: Given Nkosi as Rodolfo and Amanda Osorio as Mimi

Before this, it always seemed that there was something about opera, whether tackling the most sinister of power games or even the sweetest of seductions, that demanded more than a nod to tradition.

Africa Arts’ production of La Bohème in District Six blows that apart quite spectacularly. What a perfect fit this beautiful, tragic story is for the bohemians of District Six. How lovely that nothing seems lost in translation. In fact, there is nothing at all missing in this show set among a community that is.

It seems very poignant that, like Jo’burg’s Sophiatown, District Six’s artistic legacy keeps on delivering 50 years after the bulldozers ploughed through it.


Wow, we have got some opera stars in our midst!

The show also confirmed the abundance of talent on these shores – there are at least six sensational opera singers in our little village!

Ululating in unison seemed a perfect response to this glorious storytelling.

One last performance is on Sunday May 1 at 3.30pm. Tickets available at Computicket.

A little birdie whispered in my ear that Africa Arts is going to wave their magic operatic wand over Nicholas Spagnoletti’s London Road next … Watch this space.