Isn’t it just ridiculous that in 2018, we adults have learned absolutely nothing … and that the more things change, the more they stay the same … and that the more progress we’ve made, the more backward we really are?!? Well, thank goodness for bright, bold, unapologetic children’s musical theatre! It says it like it is, without sugar coating or subtlety – kids just don’t buy into that nonsense.
Written by Melvin Tunstall III, composed by our very own SA boykie, Greg Borowsky together with Douglas Lyons, who also wrote the lyrics. The original idea of POLKADOTS was inspired by the Little Rock Nine who ended segregation in American schools in the late ’50’s. But before you start yawning, and wondering how on earth this relates to kids of today … sadly it does!
What’s it all about? Lily Polkadot (the gorgeously bubbly Gugu Dhlamini) has recently moved to the town of Rockaway and is apprehensive about her first day of school. She’s the only Polkadot in a school of Squares. And immediately she’s targeted by Mean Girl, Penelope Square (Kirsty Marillier, in fabulous, full-scale viciousness), purely because of the way she looks – she’s a ’round peg, in a square hole’ and isn’t wanted here! She’s misunderstood wherever she turns, and whatever she says (despite her determined optimism), and even confronted with a separate water fountain to drink from! All she needs is one friend so that she doesn’t feel alone. Surprisingly this comes in the form of Penelope’s shy brother Sky (wonderfully awkward and endearing Bonginkosi Jay Hlatshwayo), and also the sunny teacher Mrs Square (vivacious and highly accomplished
Andrea Shine – who also doubles up as Mama Square).
This small, but extremely skilled cast has no trouble keeping its audience enthralled, engaged and entertained and in just 55 colourful, vibrant minutes, our four main characters teach us all some fundamental life lessons!
There’s a very good reason why POLKADOTS recently won the Off Broadway Alliance Award for Best Family Show in New York. The entire show teaches us that what makes us different is what makes us awesome! Not one of us is the same, and why do we even want to be? But then why can’t we accept each other as we are – for after all, we’re all the same on the inside?
Kids of all ages will gain something from POLKADOTS, whether it’s just the fun element, the catchy songs that carry great messages, or the more in-depth meaning of the storyline. There’s really something for everyone here.
This is POLKADOTS’ first international production and it’s not surprising that it’s led by an award-winning local team. Making its debut at this year’s REDFEST, followed by a week of school holiday shows at Redhill, it’s produced by Joseph Gerassi for Redhill School, in association with producers Drew Bakker and Rowan Bakker for &CO, together with associate producer Matthew Counihan. Shelley Adriaanzen directs and choreographs, with musical supervisor by Rowan Bakker and production design by Sarah Roberts.
With its strong anti-bullying message, a tour schedule is in the pipeline. So keep a close eye on the POLKADOTS SA Facebook page for updates.
For info on shows this week, and to book, click here.
Don’t miss POLKADOTS. I can’t recommend it enough!
All cast photo credits: Ronel Hugo
ONE DAY ONLY … ONE STAGE … ALL STAR CAST … SA’S TOP PERFORMERS … JONATHAN ROXMOUTH … TIMOTHY MOLOI … BRYAN SCHIMMEL … ILSE KLINK … and many more!
“One of the most important things you can do on this earth is to let people know they are not alone.”
― Shannon L. Alder
The Sakellarides/ Devar family are an integral part of the theatre community. Theatre makers, supporters and the like are familiar with this talented unit, and those who have had the fortune of personally becoming a part of their lives, or even briefly interacting with them, all agree unanimously that this family are the warmest, kindest, most generous bunch of people, in an industry that is often extremely cruel.
Over the past few years, the family were faced with the misfortune of Nik Sakellarides falling very ill and ending up in intensive care on two lengthy, different occasions.
This was a very dark time for Brenda Sakellarides who managed to pull through, and with Nik’s strong recovery finally saw the light of day, despite the emotional and financial strain.
But just when life started normalising, another devastating bit of news came to the fore: their 16 year old son Ziya Devar was diagnosed with aggressive Ulcerative Colitis.
Ulcerative Colitis is an inflammatory bowel disease that causes long-lasting inflammation and ulcers in your digestive tract. It affects the innermost lining of your large intestine (colon) and rectum. It can be debilitating, sometimes leading to life-threatening complications. While it has no known cure, treatment can greatly reduce signs and symptoms of the disease, even bringing about long-term remission.
About two and a half months ago, Nik took to Facebook, asking the Theatre/ Entertainment Community and beyond to please assist Brenda and the family with any donations they could contribute towards the increasingly exhorbitant medical costs for Ziya’s recovery.
This sparked Owen Lonzar’s idea to produce a show with some of the biggest names in the theatre industry, to raise money so that young Ziya and his family can fight this illness without worrying about the financial burden placed on them.
Lonzar explains: “There are genuinely very few good people in the world, who are always willing to help others. Brenda and Nik are always willing to help others. They are very special people, so I thought I need to do this. It’s also great because the community are involved. We don’t always have the money to give in this industry, so at least if these artists can perform, other people can buy tickets. It’s also important to be actively involved. We have a small community and we need to be able to look after each other, and this is one way that we can.”
Caitlin Clerk came on board to assist with administrative detail, and a wonderful night of music, musical theatre, talent and of course, community and giving has been organised to entertain audiences, but more importantly to raise money for Ziya’s recovery.
Silver Linings Songbook takes place on Sunday, 24 June 2018 at the Auto & General Theatre on the Square at 18h30. As this show sold out so quickly, an additional matinee has been added at 15h30!
Tickets cost just R200 each!
Never again and nowhere else will you get the opportunity to see such a fabulous lineup of South Africa’s top theatre talent performing on one stage, for a bargain price like this!
Can’t make it but still want to participate? Call the theatre on (011) 883-8606 and ask for a ‘ghost ticket’ … they’ll know what you’re talking about!
Bookings through computicket.com or call (011) 883-8606. If you can, try and go to to a Computicket kiosk and pay cash – they’ve been tremendously awesome and waivered their fee for the show if you do this!!!
Not only will you be helping others in need, but the line up of performers boasts some of the best talent in the country. This includes Jonathan Roxmouth, Timothy Moloi, Angela Killian, Sylvaine Strike, Ilse Klink, Bryan Schimmel (piano solo), Itu Sings, Kiruna – Lind Devar, Noni Mkhonto, Judy Ditchfield, Dolly Louw, Andrea Shine, Natasha van der Merwe, Caitlin Clerk, Nqobile Sipamla, Tonya Koenderman, Hayley Christian Francis, Luciano Zuppa, Dennis East, Claire Taylor and Toni Morkel.
Special Appearance from Kate Monster (aka Ashleigh Harvey) from Avenue Q, and Malcolm Terrey will be MCing the event.
A huge thank you to Daphne Kuhn for the use of the Auto & General Theatre on the Square, and to all the artists and crew involved in the giving of their time for such an important cause.
Book now for Silver Linings Songbook on Sunday, 24 June 2018 at the Auto & General Theatre on the Square.
Written by Mike Kenny
Directed by Francois Theron
Once again, director Francois Theron succeeds in bringing a production to life in such a way that it’s perfectly accessible to and understood by the youngest of theatre-goers. We are so used to productions that are big, bold and shiny – far too brash and sophisticated for the likes of younger minds who are just getting to grips with what theatre is all about and how they can relate to it. The National Children’s Theatre is the ideal space in which they can do that.
I’ll admit from the start, I’m a fan of anything that relates to Peter Pan, and this didn’t disappoint. Sarah Roberts has created costumes and a set that will delight young audiences, and will inspire them to go home and re-enact both in their own homes! She’s made use of everyday household items that children will be able to find around their homes and that of their friends: an umbrella (the big, magical moon), gardening rakes (crocodile teeth), sleeping bags (mermaid tails – assisted by braces) … they might have to look a bit further for a wheelbarrow (a boat)!
The animated cast are an absolute delight and interact energetically with their highly enthusiastic young audience. Nirvana Nokwe-Mseleku as Wendy can be forgiven for her somewhat errant accent (slightly British … somewhat not-so-much) because she’s completely endearing and utterly lovely, and she sings beautifully. Daniel Kieth Geddes is Wendy’s younger brother John; he’s also a rather raffish Captain Hook, who’s actual quite wonderfully comical. Danny Meaker is the youngest, sleepiest brother Michael. He’s trying to show his older siblings how brave he is by sleeping out in the back garden with them. Meaker also plays Peter Pan, our well-known protagonist who never wants to grow up, leading Wendy to face her own fears about growing older and leaving childhood behind. Phiphi-Gu’mmy Moletsane is a charming and cheeky Tinkerbell who kids will immediately relate to. She’s mischievous and playful, willing to do anything for her hero Peter Pan.
Based on Mike Kenny’s adaptation of James Barrie’s original Peter Pan, this is a gentle and imaginative way of telling this popular and much-loved story to a far younger audience. The songs are catchy and enjoyable. I’m thinking they’re added in for maximum effect and to hold attention for as long as possible. It certainly works. Parts of the show are interactive and will enthral the young children who sit in front on cushions, and are virtually a part of the actual production. If your child is more sensitive, it might be better to keep them further back with you if you think they might feel slightly intimidated sitting near the front.
I highly recommend this if you have young children. (I’d say from age 4 to about age 12.) Productions at the National Children’s Theatre are of excellent quality, and are one of the best ways to introduce younger audiences to the magic of theatre and imagination.
The theatre is situated at 3 Junction Avenue, Parktown, Johannesburg
Underneath a Magical Moon is on until 15 April 2018.
BOOKINGS: Call the theatre on 011 484 1584/5 or firstname.lastname@example.org
The minute that invitation to the annual year-end pantomime hits your Inbox, your heart gives a little thump of joy … and not just because it signifies that the holidays are around the corner!
This is Janice Honeyman’s 30th pantomime, which is an achievement in itself. The fact that she continues to get it right, drawing in audiences, surprising and delighting the crowds every year, is a testament to her sheer talent and skill. She has a gift of knowing the perfect recipe to thrill her audiences, and Pinocchio, her offering this year is certainly no different. There’s just the right balance of innuendo, political lampooning and catchy tunes (both new and old) to hold the attention of all ages throughout the show. This combines with some truly eye-popping, phenomenal sets and an energetic cast who are all clearly fully immersed in the magical world they’re responsible for creating.
I’m positive that part of Janice’s ongoing ability to succeed at exciting her panto audiences year in and year out, is her own inclusive participation in the process. She’s not merely a writer and director who sits back and watches things happen statically as she’s penned it. When I interviewed some of the cast members during the rehearsal process, the common thread they all spoke about was Janice’s method of character development: allowing each actor to make the role their own and not merely something she’d put down on paper.
Returning to the age-old panto tradition of females taking on male lead roles, Pinocchio, the little wooden puppet who yearns to be a ‘real boy’, is played by Kanyi Nokwe who gives a stellar performance. Her endearing wonderment at the world around her/him is delightful, as is her excellent portrayal of a puppet, unable to move as fluidly as her human counterparts.
The much-loved Tobie Cronje returns to the panto stage as the bumbling Geppetto, who’s always longed for a son. He’s pursued by the hilarious Dame Arletti Spaghetti, played with uproarious aplomb by Grant Towers, in bright, brash, full-on technicolour! She happens to conveniently have a son available, the lazy Lampwick played with appropriate ‘too cool for school’ laid back, nonchalance by Ben Kgosimore. For some reason though, he’s not quite what Gepetto’s looking for in an offspring!
Mark Tatham bounces around the stage with boundless (actually, seemingly endless) vim and verve as a rather whimsical Jiminy Cricket, instructed by Bella Bouboulina, The Blues Fairy (you read that right – she’s a ‘Blues’ fairy with Southern flair) to be Pinocchio’s conscience. Ilse Klink, seasoned professional of SA stage and screen gives the role her own sprinkling of sparkling pizazz: she’s classy, funny, playful and just the right amount of bossy when she needs to be!
And panto always needs its villains doesn’t it? This year, we have André Schwartz as Il Fortunato the Fox who, although not quite as evil as his previous panto counterparts, is quite happy to ham it up as a foxy Phantom of the Opera – it’s inspired and the audience adored it! He’s accompanied by the brilliant Chi Mhende as Pussy Galore. Her claws are permanently out, and she’s wicked enough for the both of them!
The lighting and special effects are spectacular, all complemented by a tight, dynamic ensemble, complete with fresh-faced youngsters from Born to Perform (Stageworx School of Performing Arts).
Being panto, one does tend to slightly lose sight of the theme of the original story being told as it usually gets diluted in the inevitable tweaking of the plot. The actual background of Pinocchio is particularly pertinent to this time of year. It’s all about family values, listening to your conscience and doing the right thing despite all the pressure that’s thrown at you from all sides – and in this day and age it does seem that this happens literally from the day you’re born, as happens to Pinocchio, who candidly proclaims “I’m only one day old!” He still needs to muddle through the ups and downs of the challenges he’s faced with, as one does in life, learning who he can and can’t trust along the way, and having a whole bunch of entertaining and hair-raising adventures while doing so. And we, the audience, are lucky enough to join him on the journey.
Pinocchio, The Ultimate Pantomime Adventure is currently on the Mandela Stage of the Joburg Theatre until December 30th 2017.
To purchase tickets, visit www.joburgtheatre.com or call 0861 670 670. Tickets can also be purchased in person at the Joburg Theatre box office or by booking and paying via the Nedbank app and at selected Pick n Pay stores.
It’s preview week for Panto 2017! Janice Honeyman’s 30th Pantomime, Pinocchio officially opens over the weekend but this coming week sees the first audiences filling the Joburg Theatre to see what this year’s festive season pantomime has in store. Mostly these previews will be made up of schoolchildren, some of whom have never even set foot inside a theatre before, so this experience will be brand new for them.
Audiences will be thrilled to see favourites like Tobie Cronje (a firm panto favourite), André Schwartz and Garth Collins (Granite of TV’s Gladiators fame) in the cast. But this is will also be a brand new experience for the 3 Panto stars that I chatted to recently, who I christened my ‘Panto Virgins’. Although they’re each highly skilled industry professionals with years of experience under their belts, they’ve never participated in a Janice Honeyman pantomime before so for all of them, this has all been very new and different.
Ilse Klink is no stranger to South African followers of stage and TV, one of her most notable roles being in Isidingo, for which she received an Avanti award in 2000. She’s appeared in a number of TV series, and stage shows, far too numerous to mention, and she’s a much sought after performer due to her versatility and genuine warmth. In fact, Ilse had been about to accept a role in a different project, when the offer to play Bella Bouboulina, The Blue Fairy in Pinocchio, was extended to her! She explains, “I didn’t hesitate in choosing the panto role because of the sheer history of the Janice Honeyman Pantomime!” She had worked briefly with Janice back in 2006, and ever since then she’s wanted what she describes as ‘the full experience’.
For Grant Towers, this year’s Dame, this is a dream role. In his opinion, despite what many may think about open minds and progressive advances having been made, both within the theatre industry and universally, the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) community is still frowned upon. He laughs, “But every year, people still pay to come and see a man dressed up as the dame, and they all love her and want photo’s with her!” Yes, it’s theatrical irony at its sardonic best. Grant describes the dame this year as an ‘insane, menopausal, Italian woman’ and says that he intends to do that description justice!
And what would Pinocchio be without his alter ego, Jiminy Cricket? Mark Tatham takes on the high energy role of Pinocchio’s conscience, and tells me that he loves the combination of physicality and wisdom that his character manages to encompass. We’re lucky to have Mark with the panto cast as directly from here, he moves on to play Ed the Hyena in the touring company of The Lion King! It’s a 3-year stint where he’ll also understudy Timon and Zazu! An incredible opportunity for this amazingly talented and amiable actor.
So, as we’re chatting, the actors taking advantage of the brief break in their busy rehearsal schedule, one thing becomes distinctly apparent – the magic of the pantomime is safe and sound in the most capable and loving hands of one very unique, special person:
- Janice Honeyman is an extremely highly revered director, not only because of her obvious years of experience which give her gravitas in her field, but as Grant clarifies, “Janice is to be admired for her directness because she gives you a sense of accomplishment in yourself … and she’s not mean!”
- Mark goes on to say, “I love that Janice is so open to any suggestions that the cast offer.”
- Ilse concludes by adding, “You get permission to be a performer with panto, especially with Janice at the helm. Every year you drive past that billboard and you hope, ‘one day, one day’… and then, that call comes and it’s THAT day!”
The excitement that these three performers feel at their upcoming appearance is obvious! They talk about concepts such as vision, belief and putting your dreams out to the universe in order to manifest them into reality, and that’s surely something they’ve all put into practice. Don’t think they’re sitting back after completing their Panto sting. As we’ve already said, Mark’s off to join The Lion King. Grant will be appearing as Brian in Avenue Q from April, and Ilse has not 1, but 2 movies that she’ll be filming, the first on the Orange River from March, and then straight after that another one in Cape Town.
But for now, they can’t wait for that vibrancy that only interaction with a live audience can bring, especially when that audience is made up of such a high percentage of children, who truly allow the enchantment and delight of the onstage wonder to captivate them.
Do yourself a favour: regardless of your age, take a walk away from the ordinary, suspend belief just for a little while and immerse yourself in the fairy-tale world of the Pantomime this festive season!
It’s just a step away … the Blue Fairy, the Dame and Jiminy Cricket await.
Pinocchio opens on The Mandela stage of Joburg Theatre on November 12th and runs until December 30th.
Pinocchio is written and directed by Janice Honeyman, with musical direction by Coenraad Rall and choreography by Nicol Sheraton. Timothy Le Roux is resident director and Dale Scheepers is band leader. The pantomime is produced by Joburg Theatre and Bernard Jay, in association with MNet, Jacaranda FM and Your Family Magazine.
Tickets for Pinocchio are on sale from R185: telephone 0861 670 670, go online at www.joburgtheatre.com, or book in person at the Joburg Theatre box office. Patrons can also book and pay via the Nedbank app or walk-in at selected Pick ‘n Pay stores (a full list is available at www.webtickets.co.za/pnpoutlets.aspx) – or book on-line and then pay at any Pick ‘n Pay store.
ANDRE THE HILARIOUS HYPNOTIST is back in town at The Studio Theatre at Pieter Toerien’s Montecasino Theatre until 19 March, wreaking all sorts of havoc with unsuspecting (although willing) members of the public.
His easy-going, friendly personality and unprepossessing stage presence do not at first inspire you to believe that this man might have incredible powers of persuasion; the sort of influence that could convince someone that they are a cannibal and can speak only in cannibalise or make someone else completely forget their names or believe a visible person is invisible.
However, five minutes later once he has a group of volunteers on stage who instantly nod off into a somnambulant state whenever he says the word “Sleep”, you realise that this man really knows something about the art of hypnosis. And, when you’re convinced that at least one of his volunteers must be a set-up, Andre performs a pretty nifty test on the hapless hypnotees that makes you think otherwise.
ANDRE THE HILARIOUS HYPNOTIST doesn’t try to fool the audience into thinking he’s a special being with magical powers. He explains everything as he goes along and within minutes he has the entire audience in stitches of laughter as he creates his own form of hypnotic humour.
For close on two hours, Andre gives you a hilarious demonstration of just how easy it is to confuse the brain, at the same time his volunteers become the stars of the show without even knowing it.
This show is great fun and suitable for all ages.
ANDRE THE HILARIOUS HYPNOTIST is now showing at the Studio Theatre at Pieter Toerien’s Montecasino Theatre from Wednesdays – Fridays at 8pm, Saturdays at 5pm and 8pm and Sundays at 3pm. The season runs until 19 March. Tickets are just R120 and bookings are at Computicket.
Once again, it’s panto season, which means Christmas and the silly season are upon us … the most wonderful time of the year! And for the 29th time, Janice Honeyman presents us with her year-end pantomime. This year, it’s a brand new offering … Robin Hood and the Babes in the Wood. Partnering once again with producer Bernard Jay, this is a bit of a mash-up of stories, all merged together to create an absolutely delightful couple of hours where audiences can immerse themselves in sheer fantasy and fun!
Izak Davel (currently playing hunky Bradley Haines on our small screens in Isidingo) makes his panto debut as the well-meaning Robin Hood. He hangs out in the forest with his band of Merry Men (they’re ‘butch’!), and doesn’t seem to realise that pretty Maid Marian, played by the beautiful Carmen Pretorius (also Bradley’s love interest, Tiffany in Isidingo) is trying to catch his eye. She’s not too phased though, she’s far from a damsel in distress, until the evil Sheriff of Rottingham, errrm, sorry, Nottingham, decides to claim her as his latest conquest! Gasp! Renowned stage and screen actor, Graham Hopkins throws himself into the role with gusto … and hilarious results.
Meanwhile the Sheriff’s evil sister-in-law, played with true panto elegance and style by LJ Urbani, is plotting to do away with her down-trodden husband’s two kids, Tokkel and Tina (actually Hansel and Gretel, but this is Mzansi you know!). And while Robin Hood and crew are foraging the forest looking for people to rob (only rich people, so they can give to the poor, you understand, and no weapons allowed), they come across Much the Miller’s son, enthusiastically portrayed by Candida Mosoma, who so impresses the butch boys with his ability to defend himself (and his donkey) that they invite him to join their merry little band.
Keeping the storyline together is the marvellous Kate Normington as Silly Sylviana, the Spirit of the Forest. Amusing, clumsy, kind, caring and just a little bit bossy when she needs to be, Sylviana lets us know what’s what, who’s who, and pretty much makes sure that everything in her Forest is running according to plan. If that plan fails, she has a firm Plan B as part of a girl band with Pretorius and Mosoma – they’re a helluva of a team, and boy, can they belt out a tune!
This panto doesn’t let up for a minute, moving along at a cracking pace. It’s vibrant, it’s glitzy, it’s dynamic and it’s 100% on trend politically and musically, with a nod being given to most of the current fads doing the rounds – as one has come to expect. Honeyman and Jay once again prove they’re a formidable team and watching their cast being put through their paces only goes to show that they don’t make their choices lightly. Davel has all that’s required of a panto leading man: his almost effortless delivery, paired with a slightly quirky, comical manner, not to mention the voice and the moves to go with it all ensure he’ll be a hit as Robin. Desmond Dube, Phumi Mncayi and Bongi Mthombeni are all pure gold in their roles, elevating the level of humour here to something of an entirely superior nature.
The ensemble of this production is a troupe of seasoned performers, and it shows. They’re polished and peppy; smart and sassy. The energy flows easily, and one can’t help but get caught up in the rhythm of it all.
Mention must be made of Musical Director, Rowan Bakker – you’ll notice (because of course, you’re going to see the show) that there are a lot more musical numbers in this panto than in previous ones. So it goes without saying that the musical director had a hand in all the extra arrangements, and is a lot busier than he’d usually be! He’s done a sterling job. The band’s contribution to the superb nature of this show is unquestionable.
I also need to comment on the incredible sets and the absolutely magical use of lighting. The sets themselves are spectacular, but Graham McLusky has created pure enchantment in some of the scenes, which transport the audience into a true fairy-tale land. It’s quite captivating.
I highly recommend this year’s Pantomime. It’s first-rate entertainment and escapism. Book your tickets, go along and just lose yourself in it for a little while. That’s what it’s all about. They don’t call it magic for nothing!