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!

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!

The Sleeping Beauty Ballet at Artscape

Artscape Opera House

Artscape Opera House

Cape Town City Ballet (CTCB) is performing  Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s The Sleeping Beauty ballet at Artscape Opera House. The Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Brandon Phillips accompanied the dancers. I attended the premier performance on September 2. It was an excellent, exciting production!

Brandon Phillips Conductor

Brandon Phillips Conductor

CTBC is South Africa’s oldest ballet company. The premier performance of Sleeping Beauty featured impressive guest artists Hikaru Kobayashi from The Royal Ballet as Princess Aurora and David Moore from Stuttgart Ballet as Prince Florimund. Outstanding performances by Johnny Bovang as the evil fairy godmother Carabosse and Kim Vieira as the Lilac Fairy were captivating.

Johnny Bovang as Carabosse

Johnny Bovang as Carabosse

“About ten years after the presentation of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake, he was asked to write a ballet for the famous Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg. The ballet would be based on Charles Perrault’s fairy tale The Sleeping Beauty in the Wood. Tchaikovsky was very happy this story was chosen. It was set in the age of Louis XIV. He would have the chance to write music in the Baroque style.”

The dancing, dramatic musical score, costumes, and beautiful sets were exquisite – a memorable Cape Town evening!

Pytor I Tschaikowski

Pytor I Tchaikovsky

Johan Botha and Friends at Artscape Opera House

Johan Botha Tenor

Johan Botha Tenor

Johan Botha Don Carlo 2006 – Photo Ken Howard

Last night I was lucky to attend an Opera Gala at Cape Town’s Artscape Theatre celebrating life with South African Tenor Johan Botha and his friends:

Goitsemang Llehobye Soprano

Goitsemang Llehobye Soprano

Conductor Bernhard Gueller and the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra accompanied the four singers.

Bongiwe Nakani Mezzo-soprano

Bongiwe Nakani Mezzo-soprano

“Botha was born in Rustenburg, South Africa. He made his stage début in 1989 and an international breakthrough in 1993 at the Opéra Bastille, Paris as Pinkerton in Puccini’s Madama Butterfly. Since then Botha has performed at leading opera venues around the world, including the Metropolitan Opera, Vienna State Opera, Opera Australia, Royal Opera House in London, La Scala in Milan, and the Salzburg Festival. He lives in Vienna with his wife and two sons.”

Mandla Mndebele Baritone

Mandla Mndebele Baritone

The program included an overture and intermezzo by the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra and arias from composers Verdi, Puccini, Leoncavallo, and others. There were duets and quartets and the Artscape Opera House looked very elegant.  I found Goitsemang Lehobye to be especially talented. Her duet from Otello with Bongiwe Nakani was touching.

Artscape Light Fixtures

Artscape Mezzanine Light Fixtures

Sadly I had to leave the performance early since I’ve been suffering from a very bad case of flu and knew coughing would not be appreciated. Hearing these talented singers perform in person was a wonderful experience and fond memory!

Artscape Theatre