It’s kudos galore for exhilarating King Kong revival

2017-09-24 09:00
 

CITY PRESS THEATRE REVIEW

Production: King Kong: Legend of a boxer

The staging of the iconic musical King Kong was easily Joburg’s most anticipated opening night of the year. The cast exceeded all expectations as they worked their magic on the Joburg Theatre stage. I don’t have enough superlatives in my lexicon to do the production justice.

The show comes here after enjoying a wildly successful Cape Town run and much critical acclaim. A glorious tribute to 1950s Sophiatown, where the story is set, the musical revolves around the tragic heavyweight boxing figure, Ezekiel “King Kong” Dlamini, who knows how to win – but when life and love thwart him, he crumbles.

Sitting a few rows in front of me during the musical was the show’s legendary – another justified superlative – choreographer, Gregory Maqoma. Elegantly decked out in a white tuxedo, he was patient and gracious as I gushed about how much I adored watching his joyous, sensual dance routines. He said he was pleased I enjoyed them, especially as he’d had such fun working on them. And it shows.

Maqoma also let the performers lead the choreography, instead of arriving with a style to impose on them – and this also shows.

The production, first staged in the 1950s, has taken more than half a century to be revived, but what a revival. Those lucky to have made the guest list added to the auspicious occasion by arriving dressed in their finest, with many sporting Madiba shirts and shweshwe skirts.

To link the past to the present, the creative team came up with an opening scene of having a quartet of schoolboys race through the theatre on to the stage and start a fight over a football game. Enter Pop (Sne Dladla), who evokes the past, and the boxing champion who set Sophiatown alight, King Kong.

It is, like every minute of this production, expertly conceived and masterfully executed (to dig into my bag of superlatives again).

After the show, the theatre hosted a party in celebration of the talent we have in South Africa and how great it is to watch our stories told so well. Among the revellers was original cast member Sonny Boy Loate. Also present were Timothy Moloi, Bianca le Grange and the fabulous cast, headed by the gorgeous leads Andile Gumbi and Nondumiso Tembe.

King Kong is the dancing, singing, jazz-playing embodiment of South Africa’s rich heritage. Don’t miss it.

. King Kong is on at the Joburg Theatre until October 8. It returns to Cape Town’s Fugard Theatre on December 12. 

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