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!

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!

The Painted Rocks at Revolver Creek – Fugard Theatre Cape Town

Fugard Theatre Cape Town

Yesterday I saw Athol Fugard’s play The Painted Rocks at Revolver Creek performed at the Fugard Theatre in Cape Town. The short play is touching and emotional and one of the best I’ve seen! Before opening in South Africa, it débuted at Pershing Square Signature Center in New York City performed by the Signature Theatre Company. Fugard’s play was also performed in Los Angeles at the renowned Fountain Theatre.

Nukain-Mabuza and His Stone Garden

Nukain Mabuza’s Stone Garden

Mr. Fugard has written over forty plays. Many of them were made into films. Tsotsi, a moving film based on a novel he wrote in the 1960s, won the 2005 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. Tsotsi is set in the 1950s in a squalid township outside Johannesburg destroyed by the white community.

Tshamano Sebe and Siya Jantjie

Tshamano Sebe and Siya Jantjie

“Throughout his long and distinguished career, Fugard has been anatomizing the evils of apartheid and the troubling legacies it left behind. His new play considers both the brutal injustices of apartheid and the violence that roiled South Africa after its dismantling. His work spans the period of apartheid in South Africa through the first democratic elections and Nelson Mandela’s presidency into present day post-apartheid South Africa.”

Nukain Mabuza Stone Garden

Nukain Mabuza Stone Garden

Inspired by the life of outsider artist Nukain Mabuza, there are three characters in Fugard’s play – Nukain, Bokkie, and Elmarie. Scene One opens with Nukain speaking to young Bokkie about the culture of apartheid and the “moral blindness” it embraced.

Nukain Mabusa Rocks

Nukain Mabuza Painted Rocks

The first act takes place on a Sunday morning when the old farm worker performs his chore of painting bright colors on the rocks that dot the dry South African landscape. “The creation of these ‘flowers’ as Nukain calls them, was a task he began years before, and which has become a weekly pleasure he shares with young Bokkie, the 11-year-old boy in his charge.”

Anna-Mart Van Der Merwe

Anna-Mart Van Der Merwe

“They got eyes but they do not see us”, says the gentle old man to the boy. “Both are black South Africans, and the man’s observation refers to the white farmers for whom he works.”

Bokkie, Elmarie, Nukain

Bokkie, Elmarie, Nukain

Much to the “consternation of young Bokkie who is eager to watch him work,” Nukain cannot seem to get started painting the one sizable rock remaining. “Taller than Nukain and a good six feet wide, the rock is a looming final challenge that he shies away from for reasons he cannot quite understand. While he considers the prospects, the energetic young Bokkie tries to cajole and coax him into beginning, and Nukain finds himself reflecting on his life.”

Siya Jantjie

Siya Jantjie

The arrival of Elmarie, the wife of the white farmer who owns the land, “dampens the excitement both Nukain and Bokkie have taken in their work”. Elmarie comments about the colorful design Nukain has painted on the big rock, and casually “insists that he paint over it next week in his more decorative, innocuous style — a suggestion, or rather a demand, that Bokkie angrily rejects.”

Tsotsi

Tsotsi

“Nukain accepts Elmarie’s demand with the reflexive humility born of a steady diet of privation, dependency, and racism. Bokkie is left with only the wistful thought that in some future day Elmarie and her husband will open their eyes and then see us.”

Nukain Mabuza Rocks

Nukain Mabuza Rocks

Tshamano Sebe (Nukain) was born in the Johannesburg suburb of Soweto. He moved to Berlin and became a founding member of the Soyikwa African Theatre group. Sebe returned to South Africa in 1993 where he starred in the SABC hit television series Stokvel and won many awards for his performances in local and international films.

Athol Fugard

Athol Fugard

Siya Jantjie (Bokkie) is 11 years old and goes to school in the Cape Town suburb of Rondebosch where he enjoys soccer, playing the piano and marimba, and singing in the choir. Siya also attends the Waterfront Theatre School where he studies tap dancing, modern dancing, drama, and musical theatre. The Painted Rocks at Revolver Creek is Siya’s first professional performance. He clearly has a bright future ahead of him.

Tshamano Sebe

Tshamano Sebe

Anna-Mart Van Der Merwe (Elmarie Kleynhans) is “an award-winning bilingual (English and Afrikaans) actress, best known for her leading roles in local television series.”  She has starred in many films and theatre productions.

A Number Fugard Theatre

Tim and Samuel West A Number

Last night I saw Caryl Churchill’s moving father and son play, A Number, well performed at Cape Town’s Fugard Theatre. The sell-out London production stars British father and son thesps Timothy and Samuel West. Churchill is an English dramatist acknowledged as a major playwright in the English language and “known for her use of non-naturalistic techniques and feminist themes, the abuses of power, and sexual politics”.

Athol Fugard

Written in 2002 when the controversial subject of human cloning made news headlines, A Number features a father (Salter) and his three sons, Bernard (B1), Bernard (B2), and Michael Black. Two of the three sons are clones of the original. “The play examines the concept of identity, the age-old question of nature versus nurture, and the highly controversial concept of human cloning.” It examines what makes us ‘us’ – the mixture of genetics and upbringing. A Number “comes down more heavily on the side of nurture being the great changing thing”.

Fugard Rehearsal Studio

A Number originally debuted at the Royal Court Theatre in London on September 23, 2002 with Michael Gambon and Daniel Craig. It had many sold-out runs in London and the USA. The play comes to Cape Town’s Fugard Theatre after its most recent sold-out run at the Menier Chocolate Factory, an award-winning 180 seat “fringe-studio” theatre, restaurant, and gallery in London.

Named in honor of Athol Fugard, South Africa’s iconic playwright, the Fugard Theatre is in the historic Sacks Futeran building in Cape Town’s District Six. For generations the Futeran family traded from the building. In the early twentieth century it was frequented by generations of District Six seamstresses and tailors and as a factory supplied the Cape with textiles and soft goods. Before that, the building was the Buitenkant Congregational Church.

In 2010 the building housed an annex of the District Six Museum displaying the Fields of Play exhibition on the history and development of soccer in the Cape. “The Fields of Play exhibition explores the dynamic intersection of memory, football, and forced removals in the history of Cape Town. More than merely a scene of pastime and leisure, football offers insights into the complex social history that defined Cape Town as a modern South African city.”

Coming Home

The building is a well-preserved National Heritage Site consisting of two redeveloped warehouses and a Gothic church. It includes a 270-seat theatre, small rehearsal studio, foyer space, dressing rooms, and staff facilities.

Sarafina

Performed for a small audience in the intimate studio, the fifty-minute presentation last night was extraordinary with superb acting by Timothy and Samuel West. I’ve been a fan of small live theatre for many years and compare last night’s performance to those seen at the Magic Theater at Fort Mason Center in San Francisco. The Fugard Theatre itself has incredible ambience. You clearly sense the historical significance of the space.