West Side Story Artscape Theatre

In March after popular demand, producer and human rights activist Eric Abraham and the Fugard Theatre’s production of West Side Story returned to the Artscape. The American musical has been performed in Cape Town before and audiences raved about the brilliant actors, singers, dancers, music, and sets!

Jerome Robbins – Choreographer

Grant van Stern – Choreographer

Artscape Theatre

Artscape is one of my favorite performing arts venues in Cape Town. The theatre opened in 1971 as the Nico Malan Theatre Centre. It was renamed in 2001 and now belongs to the Western Cape Government.

Officer Krupke and Detective Schrank

The spectacular opera house has an exciting ambiance, including gardens, rehearsal rooms, and a stylish foyer. Over the years, I’ve joined friends there for memorable opera, ballet, musical, and comedy performances! Last night’s brilliant performance didn’t disappoint!

Eric Abraham – Film, Television, Theatre Producer

Stephen Sondheim – Songwriter

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“West Side Story is a musical about cultural differences, racism, forbidden love, revenge, and death.”
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Arthur Laurents – Screenwriter

Plot

Inspired by Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, West Side Story’s timeless plot is set on the “harsh streets of New York City’s Upper West Side in the 1950s”.

Rival street gangs, the Puerto Rican Sharks and Caucasian Jets, battle in a turf-war to gain control of the neighborhood. Tensions rise when Tony, a former member of the Jets and best friend of the leader, Riff, falls in love with Maria, the sister of Bernardo, leader of the rival Sharks.

Production

American choreographer Jerome Robbins conceived the story in 1957, and playwright and screenwriter Arthur Laurents wrote the West Side Story book. Renowned composer Leonard Bernstein created the musical score with lyrics written by songwriter Stephen Sondheim.

Michael Brenner – Producer

The 1961 film version of West Side Story “won 11 Academy Awards, including best picture, best supporting actor and actress, best director, and best cinematographer”. The film also won a Grammy for best soundtrack. It’s undoubtedly one of the best musicals ever written.

Louisa Talbot – Choreographer

South Africa’s Matthew Wild directs the Artscape production with Charl Johan Lingenfelder as musical director and conductor of the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra. Louisa Talbot choreographed the production with Grant van Ster as resident choreographer and dance captain.

Charl Johan Lingenfelder – Musical Director and Conductor

In 2018, West Side Story is once again “sweeping Capetonians off their feet”! How could it not with the fabulous Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra performing in the pit and an outstanding cast of forty exceptional performers?

Cast of Characters

Lynelle Kenned plays the role of Maria, a hopeless romantic who falls in love with Tony and finds herself at the center of a violent conflict between the Jets and Sharks. Kenned won the Fleur du Cap Award for Best Actress in a Musical for her performance. Among her many talents Kenned is a soprano opera singer with a marvelous voice!

The main character Tony – former Jets leader – is torn between his gang friends and love for Maria. The part is played by talented US actor Kevin Hack who has performed the role almost 400 times. Hack recently completed an international tour playing in the 60th anniversary international tour of German producer Michael Brenner’s production of West Side Story.

Matthew Wild – Director

Singer, pianist, violinist, dancer, and actress Bianca Le Grange plays Anita, Maria’s friend and Bernardo’s girlfriend. Daniel Mpilo Richards plays Bernardo, proud leader or the Sharks.

Leonard Bernstein – Composer and Conductor

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“The choreography exudes vibrant waves of emotion from act to act leaving its audience’s heart thumping!”

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Artscape Foyer

Artscape Theatre Centre Cape Town

Artscape Foyer Upper Level Lounge

Sculptures Artscape Entrance

The actors are multi-talented with impressive accomplishments and careers. The beautiful, strong dancers were magnificent!!! Main characters include:

  1. Lynelle Kenned – Maria, Bernardo’s sister in love with Tony
  2. Kevin Hack – Tony, former Jets leader in love with Maria
  3. Bianca Le Grange – Anita, Jet, Bernardo’s girlfriend, Maria’s friend
  4. Daniel Mpilo Richards – Bernardo, Shark leader, Maria’s brother, Anita’s boyfriend
  5. Stephen Jubber – Riff, quick-­tempered Jets leader
  6. Sven-Eric Muller – Diesel, Jets second-in-­command
  7. Craig Urbani – Schrank, police detective
  8. Richard Lothian – Officer Krupke, beat cop
  9. James Borthwick – Doc, owner of the store where the Jets hang out
  10. Clint Lesch – Chino, Jet, Maria’s suitor, and friend of Bernardo
  11. Logan Timbre – Action, quick-­‐tempered member of the Jets

West Side Story Artscape Willem Law Photographer

It was an interesting, eclectic crowd attending the performance – an evening of entertainment by extraordinarily talented young artists! Many more than mentioned here helped with production of the musical.

Cape Town International Jazz Festival

Next weekend Artscape hosts the 19th Cape Town International Jazz Festival. The exciting lineup includes Alistair Izobell, Amanda Black, GrazRoots Project, Blinky Bill, Claire Phillips, Miles Mosley, Nduduzo Makhathini, Mabuta, Louis Moholo, and many more outstanding artists!

In Bocca al Lupo

Actress and Artist Jemma Kahn

You never know what might happen at Cape Town’s Alexander Theatre – that’s the beauty of the place! The Mother City is rich in creativity, energy, and talented artists. Last night’s performance – In Bocca al Lupo – was a phenomenal one-woman show!

Jemma Kahn

Before last night, I hadn’t experienced the art of kamishibai – “a twelfth century Japanese form of storytelling where a storyteller’s tale is presented with the help of cardboard panel illustrations”.  In Bocca al Lupo was totally engrossing!

Jemma Kahn studied kamishibai under “veteran Japanese performer Roukda Genji, and the two performed throughout Japan”. In Bocca al Lupo is Jemma’s memoir – or maybe not. I didn’t know about her before last night’s performance, so the story that kept the audience engaged could have been her own, or perhaps it was fictional?

Alexander Bar, Café & Theatre

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“While kamishibai may be the device Kahn uses to portray her tales, it’s not the only thing that sets her apart as a master storyteller.”

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Jemma Kahn

To summarize simplistically, the memoir begins as the story of a young South African woman who feels like a failure living a boring life. She decides to spice things up and expand her world by embarking on a two-year adventure teaching English in Japan.

Alexander Theatre

Alexander Bar, Café & Theatre

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“Kahn has the charisma of an old Hollywood starlet. To be a member of her audience is to be in a state of enchantment for a full 80 minutes.” 

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Alexander Bar, Café & Theatre

Alexander Bar, Café & Theatre

After living in Japan for several months, Jemma experiences culture shock and ponders its four stages – honeymoon, frustration, adjustment, acceptance – ha ha ha. This is something I can relate to firsthand having traveled abroad extensively on my own!

Jemma Kahn

The romantic concept of living in a foreign country is often deceptive. Jemma does a masterful job of telling her (or someone’s) story of alienation as a foreigner in Japan – an unfamiliar country that in the end, was not for her.

Jemma Kahn

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“One’s travels can be rife with anxiety, loneliness, culture shock, and the depression that inevitably comes with isolation.”

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The Epicene Butcher

Using a series of four “beautifully drawn images displayed on cardboard story panels” Jemma meticulously connects with her audience, drawing them in and leaving them hanging on her every word and description! She adds humor to her stories, even though some of the subjects she discusses aren’t funny.

A multi-talented artist trained in fine art and drama, Kahn created many of the kamishibai panels she uses. Her talented award-winning crew are remarkable:

Jemma Kahn

In Bocca al Lupo (into the mouth of the wolf in Italian) follows two of Kahn’s other popular kamishibai shows:

Actress and Artist Jemma Kahn

The Epicene Butcher – described as stories that “seduce the sinless and astonish the immoral” toured internationally and was performed 400 times.

Jemma Kahn We Didn’t Come to Hell for the Croissants photo by Dean Hutton

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Jemma Kahn has “captivated audiences from Cape Town to Edinburgh to Amsterdam with her unique take on the 12th century Japanese art form Kamishibai”.

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Alexander Theatre

The phrase “in bocca al lupo” is an Italian idiom used in opera and theatre to wish a performer good luck before a performance. The standard response is “crepi il lupo” or, more commonly, simply “crepi” (may the wolf die). The Italian expression is similar to the English actor’s idiom “break a leg, reflecting a theatrical superstition in which wishing a person ‘good luck’ before a performance is considered bad luck”.

In Bocca Al Lupo Poster

There are several theories on how the Italian expression originated. For this show, “the phrase illustrates the leaps of faith Jemma took to create her third kamishibai play”.

Alexander Theatre Bar

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“The play follows Kahn on her journey to Japan and then Ireland, as she regales her audience with all the things we fail to mention when asked about our travels to another country.”

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Alexander Theatre

Kintsugi is the Japanese art of restoring broken ceramics using lacquer and gold dust to repair cracks, emphasizing and assigning value to the site of repair. In Bocca Al Lupo has a similar effect. Kahn, co-writer Tertius Kapp, and director Jane Taylor expertly curate her story by selecting the cracks as the focal points which form the narrative.”

Jemma Kahn

Although I often find memoirs boring, if In Bocca al Lupo really was one, it was a delightful, thoroughly enjoyed, and well-performer story – a must see in Cape Town!

Kirstenbosch and Claremont

Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden is one of the most peaceful, beautiful places on earth. It touches me every time I visit. Fog is back in the Cape, mysteriously draping itself over Table Mountain – yesterday was a great day to see the garden.

It’s hard to say which Kirstenbosch delight is best – fragrant gardens with pristine fynbos, forested areas, dramatic mountain views, gourmet restaurant, exotic birds, stone sculpting, or the gallery of South African artists. It’s a big dose of beautiful!!

James Yates – Namaqualand in Bloom

I visited the art gallery and especially liked the landscapes of James Yates. The current exhibition – Professional Cape Artists – features paintings, ceramics, and wooden sculpture of popular local masters. The exhibition is on display between 16th February and 11th March.

Cape Dutch Manor House

Dutch Colonial House

Southey Cottage Claremont

Cape Dutch Manor House

Cape Dutch Manor House

Other favorite artists include Bill McGill, Mieke Teijema, Lionel Smit, and Tony Butler. It was too much trying to sort names with each piece. I took the curator’s card.

James Yates

I hiked a close-in trail, had lunch, and enjoyed the spectacular stone sculptures perfectly placed throughout the grounds. Families were relaxing and picnicking on a lush carpet of grass.

Bill McGill

Kirstenbosch’s water shortage isn’t as dire as Cape Town’s. Its irrigation flows from a different source – surface runoff and streams in Window Gorge and Nursery Ravine.

Gorges, Buttresses, Ravines Table Mt.

Nelson Mandela by Tony Butler

Chemicals aren’t used in Kirstenbosch’s drinking water. It’s “extracted from boreholes that tap deep into the Table Mountain Aquifer 200 ft. below ground level”. The drinking water from the aquifer is of “such high quality it could be bottled”!

Everyone is taking the drought very seriously. It was nice drinking fresh spring water, washing my hands, and flushing the toilet without feeling guilty. Most public toilets in Cape Town have hand sanitizer dispensers. Sink water is turned off.

James Yates

James Yates

James Yates

This trip I’m exploring Claremont – a leafy suburban neighborhood 6 miles south of Cape Town. Although nothing beats the energy and excitement of Cape Town, I wanted to experience  a new area.

Lionel Smit

My B&B is between Claremont and Rondebosch, both are growing suburban areas surrounded by spectacular natural beauty and Cape Dutch architecture. The University of Cape Town is nearby. It’s quite a change from the daily city chaos in Maputo!

Cape Town – MOCAA and Magic Club

Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa

I drove to Cape Town Monday to run errands before exploring the Garden Route later this month. The scenery along the way is wonderful, but driving over Sir Lowry’s Pass isn’t my favorite. Drivers are erratic and aggressive, and most of the N2 is not divided, so there’s no median strip to separate opposing lanes. It gets to me every time, especially when it’s windy.

 

 

Cape Town is one of my favorite places (no surprise to anyone), not only because of its exceptional beauty, but also its special charm, energy, and friendly vibe. It was nice to see Table Mountain, visit friends I haven’t seen for a while, and eat at favorite restaurants. The two days were fun but hectic, and I stayed overnight at a B&B.

Garden at Sea Point B&B

Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa

The only disappointment was not being able to visit the new Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (Mocaa) which opened on September 22. The museum is closed on Tuesday and free to the public on Wednesday. I peered through the windows, walked around the exterior, took a few photos, and hope to visit the Mocaa soon!

Cape Town Waterfront Silo District

The unique museum has a five-star hotel and features African artists like Nandipha Mntambo and Nicholas Hlobo. The Silo District is Cape Town’s newest art, culture, and design area. It sounds like the opening event was quite a soirée!

 

 

“The Zeitz-Mocaa building is in a converted grain silo overlooking the Atlantic Ocean on the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront. The area was regenerated 30 years ago for retail, real estate, and tourism. Development was on the remnants of two dilapidated 19th-century harbour basins (Victoria and Alfred). The silos were built over coal sheds that once supplied steamships. They were part-funded by capital from slave compensation received after slavery abolition in Cape Colony.”

 

 

Cape Town Magic Club

Since I was in town Monday night, when many performing arts venues are closed, I decided to attend a Cape Town Magic Club performance. The show is in the “original basement bank vault of the 5-star luxury Taj Cape Town”. The small creative theater has a back entrance and is especially set up for each magic performance. The venue allows the audience to sit close to the magicians and interact with them.

 

 

Three magicians performed, and it was clear that they loved what they were doing and put their heart and soul into it. The show included two young, talented magicians:

The third seasoned magician / mentalist was impressive Larry Soffer. His magic and synergy with randomly selected members of the audience was mind-boggling!

 

 

“Larry Soffer is one of the most influential names in magic across South Africa. As his brand grows, he’s fast earning an exceptional name abroad. Larry has performed for royalty, celebrities, politicians, and sports stars. His popular live show and corporate event performances inspire his audiences to ‘Believe to See’ instead of ‘Seeing to Believe.’ In so doing, he truly opens their minds to new possibilities by believing in the impossible and thereby creating their own dreams.”

 

 

I sat next to a fun woman – Portia – and her husband. It was their first time at the Magic Show. Portia’s husband interacted on stage with magician Josue Musenge. The exceptional magic delighted the audience and blew us all away!

Nandipha Mntambo Artist

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“The Zeitz-Mocaa is in a converted grain silo overlooking the Atlantic on the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront……”

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Table Mountain Backdrop to Silo District

Victoria and Alfred Waterfront Boats Silo District

Garden Route and Durban

On the way back to Hermanus I took a break in the lush Elgin Valley. Found out about a four-day slackpacking trip along Green Mountain Trail in the Kogelberg Biosphere.

Nicholas Hlobo Artist

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Larry Soffer inspires his audiences to ‘Believe to See’ instead of ‘Seeing to Believe’.

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I’m anticipating a slackpacking adventure somewhere along the Garden Route, if I can find an affordable one. Slackpacking is “enjoying the benefits of a multi-day hike, beautiful scenery, and fresh air – without carrying a heavy backpack”.  Sounds great – but some of the trips are pricey.

 

 

Back in Hermanus, I’m concentrating on planning the solo Garden Route drive beginning October 25th. Decided to take the N2 coastal route with a few inland side trips. I’m booked to arrive in Durban November 1, leaving 7 days to explore!

Cape Town Opera at Simonsig Wine Estate

Although the time in Hermanus is peaceful and wonderful, I miss Cape Town’s energy and incredible performing arts venue. It’s only a two-hour drive, but unsettling not knowing what weather might occur while crossing Sir Lowrys Pass at night. Wind and fog on the Pass can be fierce, and there are no lights or dividers along the two-lane freeway. If something happens, you’re toast.

Martin Mkhize Baritone

Abongile Fumba Mezzo Soprano

When I heard that Cape Town Opera was performing at Simonsig Wine Estate in Stellenbosch, I jumped at the chance to attend the performance! Although I still had to cross the Pass, it’s only about an hour away. The fact that it was a dinner concert at Simonsig’s Cuvée Restaurant was an extra added delight.

Simonsig Wine Estate Vineyards

Simonsig Wine Estate Vineyards

Cuvée Restaurant

Simonsig Wine Estate Vineyards

Simonsig Wine Estate

Singers from Cape Town Opera appear at Simonsig every year performing arias and ensembles from well-known operas and musicals. The spectacular opera program was entitled “Love In All Its Splendour 1750 – 1950”. It was thrilling to be so close to the singers while they performed! I don’t have friends in Hermanus interested in opera, so I went on my own.

Sir Lowry’s Pass

There were about 8 tables seating 12 or so people and I sat at a front table with five couples – four German and one South African. Everyone at the table was a transplant from Germany. I’m sure that, except for me, everyone spoke fluent German, Afrikaans, or both. The Germans were interesting and I enjoyed our conversations. One German woman had a small vineyard specializing in champagne and another a PR firm. Most of them lived near Paarl in the small town of Windmeul (Windmill). The South African couple was friendly and interested in my African travels.

Simonsig Wine Estate

I’ve seen several Cape Town Opera performances at Artscape Theatre and have never been disappointed. The Germans were a bit critical of the diction and pronunciation of some singers. The MC for the evening was quick to notice. Before she introduced the second set she discussed the libretto (text of an opera) explaining that many were written so long ago that even native speakers don’t always understand every word. The singers were brave to perform for a small audience of discerning Germans.

Thomas Mohlamme Bass

Cape Town Opera singers have performed internationally at festivals and productions throughout Europe and the world. I spoke briefly with Melanie Daniels, Cape Town Opera Development Manager, who said it had been difficult to find venues in the US.

Sir Lowry’s Pass

I’m not an opera expert but enjoyed every song performed and thought the singers were all magnificent!

Frances du Plessis Soprano

Program Before Main Course

Cecilia Rangwanasha Soprano

Program Before Dessert

  • Giuditta – Franz Lehár Solo Cecilia Rangwanasha
  • Paganini – Franz Lehár
  • Die lustige Witwe (The Merry Widow) – Franz Lehár
  • Camelot – Lerner & Loewe
  • West Side Story – Bernstein Solo Johannes Slabbert
  • Porgy & Bess – Gershwin
  • Der Vogelhändler (The Bird Seller) – Zeller

An amazing pianist, Paul Ferreira, accompanied the singers.

Nkululeko Masuku Tenor

Nonhlanhla Yende Mezzo Soprano

The talented singers included:

Cuvée Restaurant

I enjoyed the entire program. Johannes Slabbert’s Maria from West Side Story was magnificent. The bass, Thomas Mohlamme, has a mesmerizing voice, and the sopranos, especially Frances du Plessis, were all amazing. It was a memorable evening!

Johannes Slabbert Tenor

James Grace Guitarist

I spent the weekend in Cape Town enjoying Table Mountain and other favorite places like the Alexander Theatre. Guitarist and South African Music Awards nominee James Grace was performing at the Alexander. Although I’d never heard his music, a little research made me curious, so I booked the performance – glad I did!

Only after committing and making reservations in Cape Town did I realize August 11 – 12 was Hermanus Wine and Food Festival weekend – sorry to have missed it!

Alexander Bar and Theatre

Creative laid-back Alexander is a favorite small venue in Cape Town, but this was the first non-theatre performance I’ve attended there. My last visit was in October 2016 for a performance of The Emissary, a gripping two-actor play written and directed by South African playwright Louis Viljoen.

James Grace has appeared at the Alexander many times, including performing his Guitar Hero shows. His current performance celebrates the September launch of his 6th album, Chilled, and 10 years of his record label, Stringwise Records.

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“Breaking with tradition from his previous five solo albums consisting largely of music for classical guitar, Chilled features Grace’s own unique arrangements of songs by artists including The Beatles, Eric Clapton, Jesse Harris, Carol King, and Billy Joel.”

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The very handsome Grace has a shy but endearing stage presence. Between brilliantly performed songs, he interacted with the audience providing insight into his successful music career, life, and artists he admires, including John Denver and James Taylor.

It’s easy to see why he’s one of South Africa’s leading concert artists. He has an impressive background and clearly “knows his stuff”. Some of his many awards include:

Grace is a regular performer at arts festivals and concerts throughout South Africa, Europe, and the U.A.E. He was born in England and began playing the guitar at seven. His family moved to South Africa when he was ten where he studied with the late Dietrich Wagner, Professor of Music at Stellenbosch University, and at the Royal College of Music in London.

1600_Marco-Pereira_1

Marco Pereira

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“Chilled introduces a South American element with a medley of original compositions and arrangements by Brazilian guitar maestro Marco Pereira.”

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“After spending two years in Doha, in the Arabian State of Qatar where he taught guitar at an International Music Centre, James returned to South Africa to become Head of Classical Guitar Studies at the University of Cape Town’s College of Music.

James works with other talented artists on a variety of projects. His performance was an evening well spent!

Table Mountain Hike Devil’s Peak

Cape Town Vista

Yesterday was wonderful hiking Table Mountain for the first time since returning to Cape Town – a euphoric day! I was feeling tired from recent travels, but my friend Jenny encouraged me to join the hiking group – so glad I did!

Jenny and Willemien

Sue and Jenny

It was perfect hiking weather and an easy-going group. We missed substantial rain on Friday and it’s raining lightly today – a welcome phenomenon for everyone!

The hike began at the Devil’s Peak trailhead. We climbed to the contour path enjoying spectacular panoramic views of Cape Town and the coast. The hike wasn’t difficult, but trails on Table Mountain are strewn with boulders and loose rocks.

Next week I head to Hermanus Bay – about a 1.5-hour drive from Cape Town. Hermanus is famous for the migrating whales that visit to have their calves in the safe, peaceful bay. July is a few months early for whale watching season, but the beautiful Bay is always active with dolphins, seals, and other sea life.