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!

The Emissary Alexander Bar and Café

Emily Child and Andrew Laubscher

Emily Child and Andrew Laubscher – The Emissary

Yesterday I attended a Cape Town Fringe Festival performance – The Emissary – at Alexander Bar and Café Theatre. Written and directed by South African playwright Louis Viljoen, the gripping two-actor play stars impressive award-winning actors Emily Child and Andrew Laubscher. The short production is a “dark study of a friendship rooted in a lie”.

Plot Summary

“While waiting for her long-term boyfriend Patrick to return from an extended stay overseas, Delia agrees to meet Douglas, Patrick’s best friend, to discuss the tensions brewing between them since the beginning of their relationship. One of them is hiding something terrible and this is the night when old wounds and secrets resurface. What follows is an unnerving examination of two troubled people who think they know each other, but have no idea what awful things can lurk in the soul.”

Louis Viljoen

Louis Viljoen Playwright and Director

Louis Viljoen Playwright and Director

Louis Viljoen is a Cape Town based playwright. He’s the Writer in Residence for The Fugard Theatre. No nonsense, self-taught Viljoen helped create the successful short-play initiative “Anthology” which had three successful seasons at the Alexander. He won Fleur Du Cap awards for his plays Champ (2013) and The Kingmakers (2015) and in 2015 the Rosalie van der Gucht Prize for New Directors for The Pervert Laura.

Emily Child Actress

Emily Child A Certain Lady

Emily Child Actress

Emily Child graduated from the University of Cape Town with a Theatre and Performance Degree. She performs independently and as a member of the acclaimed Cape Town based theatre troupe – The Mechanicals.

An accomplished actress, Child has won many awards and nominations, including the 2015 Fleur Du Cap for Best Actress for the role of “Laura” in Viljoen’s The Pervert Laura. Some of her other theatre projects include King Lear and Viljoen’s Champ which traveled to the Edinburgh International Fringe Festival in 2013.

Alexander Bar, Café and Theatre

Alexander Bar, Café and Theatre

In 2014 her one woman show, A Certain Lady, based on Dorothy Parker’s short stories and directed by playwright Greg Karvellas, performed around Cape Town. Recently Emily appeared in Born in the RSA at The Baxter Studio Theatre and Grahamstown Festival directed by Thoko Ntshinga. She also starred in UK playwright Mike Bartlett’s production Contractions performed at Alexander Theatre.

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Billboard The Pervert Laura

On camera Emily’s projects include the South African Film and Television Awards (SAFTA) winning series Armed Response and BBC’s youth series Young Leonardo. She stars in two compelling feature films to be released in 2017 – Director Craig Freimond’s Beyond the River and Shirley Adams written by South African filmmaker Oliver Hermanus.

Andrew Laubscher

Andrew Laubscher Actor

Andrew Laubscher Actor

Andrew Laubscher is a Cape Town based film and theatre actor. Andrew’s performance highlights include Mirror, Cosi, As You Like It, Antony and Cleopatra, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Scandinavian playwright Jorgen Lovborg’s play Lovborg’s Women.

In 2014 Andrew won the Fleur de Cap Award for Best Supporting Actor in a Musical for his performance as Riff-Raff in The Rocky Horror Show. His most recent work includes Anthology: Anti-Matter directed by Louis Viljoen and the compelling South African film Modder en Bloed – Blood and Glory in Afrikaans.

Laubscher graduated from the University of Cape Town’s School of Drama. He’s involved in children’s theatre, Shakespeare at Maynardville, and productions for The Mechanicals and The Pink Couch, including Mafeking Road, an adaption of short stories by South African writer Herman Charles Bosman.

Alexander Bar, Café and Theatre

Alexander Bar, Café and Theatre

The Emissary is a shocking play and the edgy performances of both actors were extraordinary! I planned to stay for dinner at the Café but was so taken by the performance needed to get outside and walk. I met a French tourist on the patio who was also reeling from the play and after a second viewing still dazzled by the high-quality acting.

Andrew Laubscher and Emily Child

Andrew Laubscher and Emily Child

This was the last run for The Emissary but several other plays are appearing at the Alexander. I enjoyed the atmosphere and will return for more entertaining performances by talented actors, playwrights, and directors in a theatre-rich city.

A Steady Rain – Fugard Theatre

Actors Brent Palmer and Nicholas Pauling

The Fugard Theatre’s powerful production A Steady Rain doesn’t disappoint. I attended the pre-opening of playwright Keith Huff’s award-winning Broadway hit last night and was transfixed by the high-quality performance! Before the Fugard run, actors Brent Palmer and Nicholas Pauling performed the two-man play for sold-out audiences at the Alexander Bar, Café & Theatre.

Palmer and Pauling are brilliant in the “gritty, rich, and entirely gripping noir tale of two morally compromised Chicago police officers whose inner need to serve and protect consumes them and rips them apart”. The play takes place with two actors and a simple set of three props (two chairs and a table) highlighted by excellent lighting. The scenes alternate between “separate monologues and present-moment dialogues” requiring the actors to memorize an incredible amount of text. They slay the Chicago accent!

Nicholas Pauling and Brent Palmer

Nicholas Pauling and Brent Palmer

After years as a successful actor, including a role in the television series Black Sails filmed in Cape Town, Adrian Collins makes his début directing the production. Collins and Palmer were Fleur du Cap award nominees this year for Best New Director and Best Actor.

A Steady Rain takes the audience on a “riveting, relentless journey”. Huff uses “razor-sharp story-telling” to portray the tormented lives of two Chicago police officers, Joey and Denny, who are longtime beat partners and childhood friends.

Director Adrian Collins

Director and Actor Adrian Collins

“Joey and Denny have serious problems. Joey struggles with alcohol while he secretly obsesses over Denny’s wife. Denny is resentful, aggressive, and a racist cheater. During the course of the compelling and devastating narrative, the audience is kept white-knuckled right until the moment the lights go down”.

Nicholas Pauling and Brent Palmer

Joey and Denny

The plot recounts a real-life event involving infamous serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer’s encounter with the Chicago Police. It focuses on the policemen who “unknowingly return a Vietnamese boy to the cannibalistic serial killer who claims to be the child’s uncle”. When the boy becomes Dahmer’s latest victim the two partners are pressured to take responsibility for their gross negligence in assessing the situation. As the play unravels it reaches a critical point threatening their friendship.

Bret Palmer - Denny

Brent Palmer – Denny

Writer, director, and actor, Brent Palmer is a native of the Western Cape. He grew up in Grassy Park, a suburb of Cape Town in Cape Flats. He trained to be an actor in London. Palmer has appeared in TV and film and stared in theater productions at the Baxter, Artscape, Fugard, Maynardville, and University of Cape Town’s Little Theatre.

Nicholas Pauling-Joey

Nicholas Pauling – Joey

Palmer has written four plays. Two of his plays – Bench and Witness – won Fleur Du Cap awards. The multi-talented Palmer is also a stand-up comedian. He appears at local theatres and has directed and co-written shows for other comedians.

Produced in Chicago in 2007, the acclaimed play won multiple awards. It made its Broadway début in September 2009 starring Hugh Jackman and Daniel Craig.

In a compelling and right-on-the money review of the play Steven Oxman of Variety (magazine) observed, “Keith Huff’s cracker jack two-hander … turns out to be less like the perpetual drizzle of its title and more like a snowball that builds to an avalanche. While Huff starts with a couple of familiar characters — good cop/bad cop Chicago patrolmen with alcohol and racism issues — he deepens them into complex figures, compellingly human even at their most despicable. The adroit character development combines with a billowing narrative to deliver some rattling emotional crescendos…. While he could maybe pull back on a contrivance or two, the playwright smartly sticks to his conceit of piling one worse complication on top of another, effectively investing A Steady Rain with genuine dramatic power and a sense of true outrage.”

Loose strands of the spellbinding plot draw together in the play’s masterful finale. It wasn’t light entertainment but gripping, well-performed drama at its very best. Cape Town has provided an incredibly rich live-theatre experience during this visit!

Stof Rooi – Cape Town Fringe Festival 2016

Dustin Beck

Dustin Beck

This is my first Fringe Festival and the visually graphic solo dance performance Stof Rooi (red fabric in Afrikaans) is one of the most unusual and dynamic I’ve seen. Described as “physical theatre,” the powerful production “explores the conflicts of language and identity associated with the world of ancestry and the present-day reality of a boy in the Northern Cape”.

It was performed at Cape Town City Hall in the catacombs of the small KleiSand Theatre, with the audience seated intimately close to the riveting performance.

Dustin Beck

Dustin Beck

Performer Dustin Beck portrays a young matriculate contemplating how he will leave his mark in the world. Described as a “ritualistic performance” at times the dancer in Stof Rooi seemed mime-like to me. The audience watched the “anxiety to pass metric consume the young boy as he battled to prove his worth”.

Dustin Beck

Dustin Beck

Beck’s spellbinding performance graphically communicates the boy’s emotions. His “intricate foot work, the stage lighting, and magic of dust” explore a “boy running from his name and bloodline towards a future filled with more promise, hope, and meaning”.

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Stof Rooi was made possible by the Theatre Arts Admin Collective. The Collective provides a venue for local theatre practitioners and enables people from diverse backgrounds to “come together to create work, develop skills, and perform”.

Jason Jacobs

Jason Jacobs

“Stof Rooi’s sound and movement speak to the dream space of the ancestors in a language and vocabulary” deeply rooted in the boy’s mind and body but one that he does not understand. His reality is the language of school systems and gang initiations.

The two worlds (dream and real) fight to occupy the boy’s body. He “fights against both and to prove himself beyond a culture and heritage that seems to have no future”.

Cape Town City Hall

Cape Town City Hall

The original production was performed at the Obs Family Festival. During the Festival young people encouraged high school learners from the Cape Flats to engage with the performance and really physically understand the complex struggle it addresses.

Dustin Beck

Dustin Beck

Director Jason Jacobs is skilled in teaching, acting, dance, and physical theatre. He was nominated for a coveted Fleur du Cap Theatre Award for Best Young Director.

fringe

Jacobs lectures at drama, dance, and creative writing workshops and has won many awards. He is recognized as a theatre-maker, playwright, and mentor for the ASSITEJ SA Theatre4Youth Western Cape Mentorship Programme. Jacobs co-founded KleiSand Theatre which encourages positive thinking in South African youth through “inventive, cutting-edge theatre and dance”.

Jason Jacobs