The play that goes wrong (2017)

Hi everyone,

So this is a super exciting review to write! Last night I went to go see “The play that goes wrong” at the theater at Montecasino. A couple of years ago the British company of this same production did a scene at the annual Queen’s Variety performance. I remember laughing myself silly. When I saw that this play was being put on at Montecasino I jumped at the opportunity and booked tickets right away- luckily I did because the performance we went to was sold out. ( 15 April 2017)

The play is about a play that goes horribly wrong. Everything you can imagine going wrong goes wrong. From the actors forgetting their lines to the stage hands forgetting to set props- even the sound and lighting techs forget to do their jobs. It is a wonderful comedy of errors with a few story plots in between. The play is directed by Alan Comittie and he has done a fantastic job of creating these epically comedically timed moments throughout the show.

The cast is relatively small however dynamite comes in small packages. The performances I enjoyed the most last night were Russel Savadier who played the detective, Craig Jackson who played two roles- the gardener and brother of the man in question and Robert Fridjhon who played Thomas Colleymoore. However, the entire cast had wonderful chemistry which really made the play tick.

There were many elements that I really loved about this play. The way that the set fell to pieces was hysterical and so well timed and the way the actors ‘improvised’ their performance was brilliant. However the element I loved the most was the experiential element of this production. This production was not just a walk in sit down and watch sort of play. It was a complete experience. From the moment the audience walks up to the theater, there are signs of things going wrong.

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The signs are the wrong way round, audience members are given the wrong seat numbers to create confusion and stage hands are still busy trying to fix broken pieces of scenery on stage. All these elements make for a wonderful experience which is so important when one visits the theater.  Another element I noticed was how backstage was set up. There were moments in the play that the audience are able to see bits of backstage. Even the backstage is set up in correlation with the theme of the play.

This play was PERFECT for me. Whenever I visit the theater I enjoy looking for mistakes or ‘things that go wrong’ because it makes me feel like there is an extra bit of humanity within the craft. In this instance, EVERYTHING goes wrong which is probably why I enjoyed it so much. By the reaction of the audience Last night I think everyone enjoyed it just as much as I did. The theater was literally vibrating from all the laughter coming from the audience. I think that the whole team behind this production can take it as the highest of compliments. Being able to keep a packed audience howling with laughter for the entire duration of the play is pure talent.

This wonderfully funny play is on at Montecasino until the end of the month. If I were you I would book tickets right away- your stomach muscles will thank you after…

(Tickets are available through computicket)

*lights out*

Natalia

xxx

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West Side Story- 1 Feb 2017

Hi everyone,

Last night I had the absolute privilege of attending the official opening night of the South African version of West Side Story. This musical has already completed a successful run in Cape Town and now it is finally Jozi’s chance to witness this master piece. However, I feel, that in order to truly appreciate this show one needs to understand the background from which it stems. For those of you who don’t know, West Side Story is based on the Shakespeare classic Romeo and Juliet. Romeo and Juliet is a story about forbidden love and everything that comes along with it. The play in itself is not a complicated storyline however as I watched the musical unfold last night I was left shocked at how relevant and pertinent this story still is today.

The narrative is about two gangs, the Jets and the Sharks, who despise one another and want sole ownership of the territory. As ‘Romeo and Juliet’ then goes, one of the Jets falls in love with a young Shark. But here is the Twist, the reason why the Jets dislike the Sharks to such an extent is because the Sharks are immigrants who have left Puerto Rico and are now living in America. The young girl, Maria, moved to America with her family and is now trying to make a life for herself. In doing so, she falls in love with Tony and this is where the trouble starts. I do not want to give away the entire story line but everything makes an appearance in this story- Death, love, commitment, immigration, hope. It is kind of all twisted together to create the most wonderful production.

Technically, this production is spot on. I am consistently impressed with the quality of South African talent. After every show I see, I always comment on the talent that is shown on stage. I admire actors and actresses for their unconditional bravery. Whether that be singing on stage, talking on stage, dancing on stage or whatever else they do on stage, their bravery to do so constantly impresses me. Lynelle Kenned who played the lead role, Maria, stole the show for me. Her voice is beautiful and her portrayal of Maria was so believable and yet it didn’t feel forced. I really enjoyed watching her on stage.

Another performance that stood out for me was Bianca Le Grange’s portrayal of Anita. The character of Anita is feisty, confident and loud however I felt Bianca brought a sense of calmness to the character. Anita goes through a lot during the narrative of the production and the way Bianca played the ups and downs was really wonderful. She showed the audience both strength and vulnerability when needed. Her voice, by the way, out of this world!

I am an art department baby. In the final year of my degree I specialized in Special Effects makeup. This is why I loved the parts of the production that included SFX. The show made use of false blood which can sometimes loose effect on stage. Having said this, the SFX that was used in this production was just right! It was bright enough to make an impact but not in your face that it looked false. I haven’t seen these kind of effects used on stage before and I must say, it really added a whole new side to the show.

West Side Story is not your typical ‘glitzy’ musical. There is a roughness and a strength to the musical that feels almost male driven. However, since the show is about forbidden love, the female energy as well as the male energy provide a wonderful contradiction that seems to balance out. The boys are violence driven, they want to fight. Each side wants to be the winner but, I felt, that the woman allowed me to relate even more to the story. The men might be fighting for dominance but the woman are fighting to create a liberating life for themselves, with their men by their sides of course. I really enjoyed watching this dynamic be played out on stage.

West Side Story is the type of musical that feeds my theater obsession. Reason being that this show explores more than an over the top dance sequence. It shows off life. It shows the audience what they are experiencing and the audience responds. And it is this transaction between audience and cast that fascinates me. On stage last night I watched actors pretend to be characters that were going through situations but what I took from it was so much more. Good old Shakespeare knew what he was talking about!

Congratulations to the entire team that put together this musical, it was well worth the wait.

West Side Story is on at the Joburg Theater until the 5th of March, DO NOT MISS THIS ONE!

*lights out*

Natalia

xxx

Saturday Night Fever in South Africa

Hi all,

Last night I was fortunate enough to go and watch the South African production of Saturday Night Fever. Ironically enough, it is one of the only musicals I had not see before and I was excited to go to a musical with no expectations or ideas about what the production ‘should’ be like. I knew about John Travolta and his fantastic white suit and I knew that the movie was about dancing and popularised Disco music, but that was where my knowledge more or less ended.

Let’s start with the music, I LOVED IT. Disco music is such a fast paced and exciting genre to dance to and it was really fun to watch this come alive on stage. I was surprised to see how much music I recognised throughout the production. Songs like Boogie shoes, staying alive and more than a woman were performed and it made me very happy. The music used in the play is just so happy that you can’t help but tap along.

What goes hand in hand with a story about dancing? The choreography of course and WOW was it amazing! The cast was so extremely talented in the dancing department that I was blown away by how wonderfully all the dances were executed. From complicated lifts too fast disco moves, it was all put together so beautifully. Being a past ballroom dancer myself, many of the dance moves brought back such great memories. Watching the actors dance on stage made me miss dancing and the high that it can give you. There is something different about Disco choreography. It is not as gender specific as other styles of dance and it was fascinating because instead of watching couples dance as a leader and a follower, it was more a sense of just keep up! Everything moved so fast that if you had to blink you would miss it all and I loved that feeling of not knowing what comes next.

Whichever way you look at it, I am an art department baby. My passion lies within the art department and it is the first thing I notice at any production. What stood out for me in this production was the Production design. It was so inventive and honestly nothing like I have seen on South African stages before. The way the stage moved and how the different ‘blocks’ were used to manipulate the surroundings was brilliant. The underground Disco club and the top of the Brooklyn bridge were so well presented and it gave the production a whole new perspective. The club felt deep and heavy and the bridge felt high and daunting.

One of the scenes that stood out for me with regards to the production design was towards the end when the main characters were singing about their misfortunes and every block was lit differently, revealing different people and their different situations. It was really a wonderful moment in the story and it was executed so well. The costumes, scenery and background action all gave the audience a very good sense of where the story was and the type of feel that was in the city at the time.

From the beginning, it was obvious that the cast of the production is very talented. However, the leads Daniel Buys and Natasha Vander Merwe were exceptional. There are many cases where a supporting role can outshine the lead role however this was not the case in this production. Both leads were so extremely strong with their performances that I could not take my eyes off of them. Daniel Buys sang and danced all at once while staying slick. His accent was also so well done and within an hour and a half or so, I grew to love his portrayal of the character. Natasha Vander Merwe, on the other hand, was equally as strong of a dancer and her voice was just beautiful. When she sand the song ‘What kind of fool’ I felt like I was in a trance and I did not want it to end. The two of them together made such a fantastic team on stage and I wouldn’t be surprised if they found themselves acting opposite each other in many other productions in the future. They really were the whole package.

Overall the production was a celebration of good music, good dancing and a great story. A story full of friendship, passion, honest mistakes and honest apologies. From not knowing much about Saturday Night Fever, I can now declare that I am a big fan! The production is running until the 9th of October at the state theatre in Pretoria. Tickets are available from Computicket and I highly suggest you make the trip to be transported into the 1970’s and the world of Disco.

*lights out*

Natalia

xxx

Shrek the Musical at Gold Reef City

Hi guys,

Yesterday my girls and I decided to go on a girl’s day. We went to go see the musical “Shrek” that is on at the Lyric Theatre in Gold Reef City. I had seen the Broadway version of this show before and have watched many behind the scene videos about the production. I was really excited to see it right here live in South Africa because I had seen what a complex production it is to put together.

The musical brings everyone’s favourite Ogre and fairy tale friends to life in such a ‘shrektacular’ way. The production is extremely aesthetically exciting as well as funny and charming. When Shrek the movie first came out in 2001, it pushed so many boundaries. It changed the face of traditional fairy tales because the princess does not end up with the prince, she ends up with the ugly Ogre. It also showed so many new and interesting techniques in animation that it won the first ever academy award for an animation feature film in 2002.

With a film so unique and special it only made sense to turn it into a Broadway musical. The production opened on Broadway in 2008 and spent almost two years in The Broadway Theatre. The original cast included the amazing Sutton Foster as Princess Fiona and the wonderful Brian Darcey James as Shrek. During 2010 and 2011 the production toured the USA and played on the west end in London. After a successful tour, the rights for the musical were opened up to theatres all over the world. The production has been put on in countries like Israel, Madrid, Sydney and Budapest and now South Africa…. Lucky us!

After seeing this production live, I understand why it is such a thriving production and franchise. The production is very kid friendly however the humour is aimed at parents which makes the perfect combination. Kids are drawn to colour and excitement which is exactly what this production incorporates. It truly is an experience for the eyes! The set design and costumes are so bright and eye catching that I could not take my eyes off of the stage. There were no boring moments that allowed my eyes to wonder, they were hooked on the bright backdrops and over the top outfits the entire time.

Another aspect of this show, or in fact franchise, is that the characters are so relatable! Yes, it is about an Ogre, a princess and their friends. But after about the first 5 minutes you don’t see an Ogre anymore. You see a man who has always been told he does not fit in and now he is learning to be in touch with his emotions. The audience does not watch an Ogre fight his way to solitude, rather they watch the emotional journey of two ‘freaks’ becoming comfortable with themselves and each other. It is actually pretty deep once you think about it…

The story embraces difference and emotions in such a beautiful way. Every character has a back story that comes through, even the fairy-tale creatures. Because of the back stories we understand the context that the characters are in so much more clearly. The song “I think I got you beat” that Shrek and Fiona sing is a brilliant example of this. In the song they try and beat each other on who had the worst childhood. it quickly becomes obvious that they both had equally difficult childhoods and because of it have more in common than other one of them thought. This scene particularly is a really lovely turning moment in the show. We watch as Fiona becomes less fairy-tale princess and more real and Shrek becomes less scary Ogre and more emotional.

As I was watching the show yesterday I kept think of how professional it all felt. I genuinely felt like I was watching a show that could hold its own next to any current Broadway or west end production. Everything was on point. The only criticism I could give the production is that it felt a bit to long for a child orientated show. The show was almost 3 hours long and I feel like that is a long time to sit still for children. Luckily though the music and bright colours managed to keep majority of the children still for 80% of the production.

All in all, this production really is a must see during the July Holidays. It is completely family friendly and I guarantee everyone will enjoy it. There is a Princess for the girls, a hero for the boys, humour for mom and dad and music for everyone in-between! The show is running at the Lyric Theatre in Gold Reef City till the 17th of July.

*lights out*

Natalia

xxx

 

The 70th Annual Tony awards

Hi guys,

So, anyone who knows me know that I am a broadway FANATIC! I love all things broadway. I am constantly researching what is happening in the broadway community and I watch pretty much every video I can find about the subject. I especially love musicals and am constantly inspired by how music moves people. Some people think musicals are silly and cliche but I know that musicals change people.

James Cordon hosted this years Tony show. (If you have not yet stumbled upon a carpool karaoke video of his then you are really missing out. They are HILARIOUS.) I was very excited about it because I find him very funny and its apparent how much he appreciates his job and the industry that he is in. He opened the show with a very emotional tribute to the Chicago terrorist attack victims. He said “You are not on your own right now. Your tragedy is our tragedy. Theater is a place where every race, creed, sexuality and gender is equal, embraced and is loved. Hate will never win” While watching this monologue I could feel the emotion and truthfulness in what he was saying. This was one of many moving moments that happened throughout the night.

His opening number was also fantastic. In the number he expresses his love for theater and how it has been apart of him since he was a little boy. The song had funny moments and some touching ones. Towards the end of the song all the musical performance nominees were brought on stage and everyone sang about how anyone can make their theater dreams come true. It was a really great moment.

I find that any awards show is about so much more than just the awards. The Emmy’s celebrate TV, the Oscars celebrate film and the Tony’s celebrate theater and it truly is something that deserves celebrating. I think that it must have been extremely difficult to choose the winners this year because there were so many moving plays and musicals that have taken place throughout the year. Theater rarely means nothing anymore. The stories that people are choosing to tell are all so powerful and all hold such special meaning.

Hamilton won BIG time this year. They made history by being nominated for 16 tony awards. They won 11 Tony awards which is an amazing accomplishment. After watching their performance and listening to Lin-Manual give his acceptance sonnet I understand why the musical has made such an impact. Combining a history story with hip hop music really is a new and exciting idea. It makes the story accessible for the youth. Many young people will say they do not enjoy history because it is boring. Well with music and choreography like this, Hamilton could never be boring!

Besides for Hamilton, there were 2 performances that stood out for me. ‘Waitress’ and ‘Bright star.’

Waitress is based on a film of the same title that follows the story about an extraordinary pie baker who works in a Diner. Stuck in a unhappy marriage she learns that she deserves to be happy and gains the courage to chase after what she truly wants. The music for the broadway musical was written and composed by Sarah Bereilles, an extremely talented artist with a unique sound. Together with the equally as talented Jessie Mueller, they manage to bring the story and music to life. I am obsessed with the song “She used to be mine” from the musical and can’t help but cry every time I hear it. The lyrics are so truthful and the melody is so beautiful. It is the PERFECT combination. The performance at the Tony’s was no exception. Sarah appeared on stage and sang the beginning of the song and Jessie finished it off with an extremely emotional performance. it was beautiful.

Bright Star is about a true story that took place during the early 1940s in North Carolina. The musical was written by Steve Martin and he also composed the music. I didn’t know much about the play until I watched the performance at the Tony’s. I was completely taken aback by how good it was. The music was so moving. It is not your typical musical theater kind of music. It was deep and heart wrenching. I absolutely loved it. I was sad to find out that the show set a closing date for the end of the month. I feel like the show did not get as much praise as it so clearly deserved. I wish I could have seen this show live because if it managed to touch me from over the internet I can only imagine the impact it must have live.

I feel like this years Tony awards show was filled with so much heart and happiness even though it was dedicated to the terrible tragedy that was the Orlando attack. Every Tony winner mentioned how lucky they felt to be apart of such an inclusive, accepting, creative and loving community. It goes to show that in a world with so much evil there are still good people and that is the strongest message possible. Some one or some people wanted to hurt a group of people for being different and they succeeded. Many people lost loved ones because of the hate. However, on the same day a different group of people tried to comfort those hurt by reassuring them that there is a place where everyone is accepted. No matter who you are. That place is the theater.

Natalia

xxx

Bye bye baby, baby goodbye…

I love Frankie Valli and The four seasons. I love their music, I admire their story and I am obsessed with their broadway musical. However, I am not as in love with the show “Bye Bye Baby”, a tribute to Frankie and the seasons…

I attended the opening night of this show and I was so excited. My thinking went as follows; how can you go wrong with such iconic music and such an inspiring story? Well….Um… apparently you can. Now let me begin by saying I admire any performer who is willing to make himself so vulnerable in front of an audience nights on end. To be an entertainer is an extremely difficult job. People are going to like you and other people are going to criticize you. It is part of the process. The trick is to take the criticism and use it to you advantage. Learn from it and improve.

Having said that, my criticism on this production is more towards the behind the scenes team than the performers. Creating a production is much like an iceberg. The audience sees the tip and are spared of all the blood, sweat and tears that happen before the performers take the stage. Your job as a director is to guide the performers. You need to be able to show them the right path before they can display that to us, the audience. Your job as a choreographer is to create steps that showcase the performers talent and that compliment the story that you are trying to portray. Your job as a musical supervisor is to create a composition that compliments the singers voice and range. AND your job as a producer is to make sure that your crew are doing the best that they can so that you and your brand can put out the best show possible so that audiences CAN’T GET ENOUGH!

Now tell me, why would you not do your job? My biggest issue with this performance was that it felt like no one had put effort into making sure that everyone was prepped and ready to go. It felt like there had been no final checks to make sure that each performer was ready for the opening show. Now the show had it’s moments. The audience were able to recognize the songs that they love and sing along and there is no doubt that the performers were talented. They just were not guided in the right direction. I mean dialogue mishaps happen but forgetting the song title you are about to sing? It just goes to show that planning and preparation makes a world of difference.

I want to give this show the benefit of the doubt and blame it on nerves perhaps? But I feel like it would then be a lot to prove, and after all first impressions stick like glue… I hope that as the show progresses the performances improve because the music is really beautiful and to not give it justice would just be a waste…

*lights out*

Natalia

xxx

 

Sleeping Beauty…. The pantomime of your dreams

On sunday afternoon I was lucky enough to go to the opening of the annual end of year pantomime at the Joburg Theater. Every November/December there is a pantomime which is written and directed by the fabulous Janice Honeyman. Surprisingly, I had never gone to a Pantomime before, I had only ever heard about the spectacular end of year event. So when the opportunity presented itself I was super excited to go and see the show live!

As we walked into the theater I turned around to my brother and said “This is SO beautiful!” The stage backdrop was beautiful designed with stars and glitter. From the first moment I knew we were in for an absolute treat! Beautiful seemed to be the word of the afternoon with every design element out doing the previous one.

The show really was a feast for the eyes. The set design was enchanting and really placed the audience in the center of the story. The palace garden scene had some stunning elements. I particularly loved how members of the cast were used as statues in the garden. I don’t think the joburg theater is given enough credit about how wonderful their stage is. To display the tower where princess Aurora- Adora pricks her finger, the stage was moved into different levels which transformed what was a flat surface into a high tower.

The costumes automatically caught my eye and were designed so well. There was not a single cast member that looked out of place. Every costume was created with such detail and precision that I was blown away by how magical every person on stage looked. You cannot have a fairy tale without beautiful costumes and this show did not disappoint! The wedding costumes at the end of the show were so eye catching that I wanted to attend the wedding, just so I could dress up in one of the many spectacular ball gowns.

In staying with the word of the afternoon, I have to give mention to Christopher Jaftha who played Prince Harry Hunkador the handsom. Boy, is this guy handsome! The moment he came on stage all the woman in the audience could not take their eyes off of him. The whole cast in fact where all so strong. I especially loved Tobie Cronje’ who played nutty Dame Nora Nursey. He was so funny and everyone packed out laughing when he arrived onto stage. Michelle Botha who plays the wicked fairy Kakkamella Khakibos was also a stand out for me. She brought such a presence to the stage and as evil as she was, her performance was effortless.

Something that Janice Honeyman does so well is make her work relevant. She incorporated contemporary hits like ‘Uptown funk’ into the show which kept the classic story up to date. She also incorporates South African culture into the performances which adds a whole new level of comedy to the production. Using Afrikaans lingo mixed with moments of political humor is what makes her pantomimes so unique and proudly South Africa.

I loved every second of the show and by the end we were on our feet doing the whip nay nay. Just as we thought there were no more surprises left, when we left the theater there was a huge sweet bar that had been set out for the audience. Lindt chocolates and marshmallows galore! It was such a nice touch to add to the fantastic experience.

The show is full of surprises but I cannot disclose these for you because you need to experience them for yourself. Sleeping beauty the Pantomime is showing at the Joburg Theater till the 30th of December. Trust me, you do NOT want to miss out on this magical adventure! Young or old, this show speaks to everyone.

To book tickets go to http://www.joburgtheater.com

*lights out*

Natalia

xxx

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