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King Kong: The Musical hits all the right notes

2017-08-15 18:00
Nondumiso Tembe, Sne Dladla
Nondumiso Tembe, Sne Dladla (Photo: Daniel Rutland Manners, Jesse Kramer, Supplied)

Cape Town – King Kong: The Musical made its stage debut in 1959 and caused waves during Apartheid-era South Africa with its racially mixed cast.

It is based on the life of South African heavyweight champion, Ezekiel Dlamini and was such a hit locally that it moved to London’s West End for over two hundred performances.

Theatre-goers were enthralled by the cast which included a young and relatively unknown Miriam Makeba, who we of course know today as a modern music legend. Miriam played Joyce in the musical.

The 2017 production, which is on at the Fugard in Cape Town until September before moving on to Joburg Theatre, is amazing and lives up to the original. It packs a localised and powerful punch that knocked me out.

Director Jonathan Munby and the entire crew created an impeccable world that I got swept up in. The cast - which includes Isibaya hunk Andile Gumbi, True Blood star Nomdumiso Tembe and comedian Sne Dladla among others - shine brightly in that well-crafted historical accurate version of world that is filled with meticulous details. I walked away from The Fugard marvelling at the incredible costumes and stellar set design. 

For me, it is between Sne Dladla as Pop and Nondumiso Tembe as Joyce for my favourite performances. Sne is a true scene stealer in the best way, with his levity taking a dramatic turn at just the right moments. Nomdumiso is easily one of the most talented assets to South African theatre that I have ever seen. Her small frame and sweet smile belie a heavyweight voice that matches her acting chops. She makes me wish (her character) Joyce was someone that I knew in real life. 

Andile Gumbi seems effortless in everything he does on stage as the title character, King Kong. It’s never easy to be the lead protagonist in a large production but Andile (seemingly) hardly broke a sweat in his role as Ezekiel Dlamini, a feat that is not to be underestimated. I also have to mention stage and screen actress Lerato Mvelase as Petal, who I think is not only generous in her scenes shared with Andile and Nomdumiso but was strong in her own right when she stepped into the solo spotlight.

The band - who are led by Sipumzo Trueman Lucwaba on the bass - work in a symbiotic relationship with the cast to bring an added depth to the musical numbers giving the production an X factor that some local musicals (and even reality singing contests) often miss. These songs and their performances by the local cast could easily be played on radio and be top 10 hits.

The Fugard’s stage might be small in size but what it lacks in dimensions it makes up for tenfold by putting on strong productions that capture South Africa in a way that few other theatre houses have done before. 

I think that if you have the opportunity to go and buy a ticket to this show, do it, because it would be money well spent. A show like this must and should be supported by local theatre goers who can show their appreciation for our home-grown talents with their wallets. 

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