BORN TO PERFORM presents SHINE! 2019
Born To Perform founders Gemma and Matthew Marinus recently took some time out from their hectic schedules to chat to me about this year’s exciting, upcoming production, SHINE! MC for the show, popular rising star, Zinah, also joined us.
Born to Perform was born out of the Stageworx school for performing arts. Stageworx is a space where Gemma encourages authenticity at all times. All who attend are taught the importance of respecting themselves, each other and the world around them. She acknowledges though, that today’s kids struggle to communicate directly because of social media. Stageworx uses the arts to guide them in understanding who they are, what they are and where they position themselves in the world as human beings.
Matthew adds that with the kids who study song-writing (these are the ones he predominantly works with), he’s found that there’s a need for them to understand who they are without the ‘outside noise’ of everyone’s opinions.
One of the fundamental principles of Stageworx is to celebrate all people and their successes. There are many doors and many opportunities, and it’s essential for these kids to understand this process and applaud others when a particular opportunity wasn’t theirs.
Gemma firmly believes that it’s their job as teachers and mentors to continually ask how they can handle situations better with young people if you feel you may have handled a difficult situation poorly. Even in conflict, she always tries to give them a learning situation, asking them to “Express how you were feeling …” She feels that if you allow the kids to analyse themselves, they learn how to approach various life situations and by doing so, she’s creating better humans.
I asked Gemma if she’d ever open up another branch of Stageworx? She replies that it’s not on the cards. “Stageworx is a personal experience, which is why there’s only one school.” For her, it’s not about the numbers. It’s about the quality of the experience and the time she gives to the kids. She wouldn’t be able to give her all, like she’s doing now if she had to split herself between more than one school.
She tells me that when she was a teenager, she grabbed every single opportunity to perform. “It takes years of practice to be an overnight success! You need to be ready!” All that experience accumulated, and when the time was right, it all came together. “You need to eat, sleep, breathe the industry and want it enough to do the work!” This is the message that she imparts to every single young person who dreams of a future in any of the performing arts fields.
That passion really goes into Stageworx a full 100% and I couldn’t imagine it being diluted in any way by Gemma opening up somewhere else and trying to replicate it, or relying on someone else to do it for her!
Zinah tells us that she was bullied at school. She always thought that she was a bad person because of this. But she’s come to learn that your own experience can be a learning experience for someone else. She (quite rightly) feels that we’re always so fixated on trying to change people, as opposed to just understanding them. Kids and teens tend to live in their own self-absorbed bubble and aren’t aware that others are going through the same stuff.
Coming out of Women’s Month and a heightened awareness of the horrific increase in crimes against women and children, I had to ask Zinah about her latest music video for her newly released single, ‘Ever Been’. The song is stunning and the video itself is visually slick and stylish, but I was interested to know why Zinah had willingly portrayed herself in such an openly provocative manner. Although she’s clearly absolutely gorgeous, it concerned me that it would send young girls (and men) the wrong message.
Her response is one that all of those who see the video need to hear: Zinah told us that since appearing in last year’s show, she’s had a big shift in how she conducts herself with people. As a product of Stageworx, she had the privilege of seeing that it was run by a strong woman who taught her how to work as a woman in this industry. After years of feeling inhibited and unworthy, she’s now finally comfortable in her own skin and is proud of who she is. She strongly believes that women shouldn’t be objectified, and is ready to own who she is!
Zinah also spoke about being able to work with people she was completely comfortable with and spoke so highly of Matthew and the way in which he guided her every step of the way, ensuring that she was happy with the creative process.
And then she drops a bombshell! She tells us that one of the other reasons she was ready to do a music video like this, ready to own how she looks and put herself out there, showing how truly beautiful she is, was because she was sexually abused when she was seven years old! I think that to say we were all stunned would be an understatement! We were even more shocked to learn that she only told her parents about this three weeks before our meet-up!
Zinah went on to say that it was a huge transition to move from expecting to be disrespected to knowing that you deserve respect because you’re now comfortable in your own skin; knowing that you’ve forgiven that person and have been able to move on. She tells us that it’s healing for herself. She knows she deserves love and deserves NOT to be objectified.
If she can be someone who speaks for positivity and strength on women’s ability to say NO, then she wants to be that person. She quotes Gemma, who often says, “Kindness is key.”
Gemma reminds us that people can be extremely unforgiving when they don’t even know the full story – all they see is a picture of a video.
She says that we’re lucky to live in the world we’re in as women, compared to where we’ve come from with many more women being in high-end corporate positions than there were 10 or 20 years ago. She tells me that her Born To Perform vision -from when they staged their first shown in 2015 – was always to perform on the Teatro stage! And that’s exactly where they’ll be next weekend for just 4 shows from 13 – 15 September. And they’ve had nothing buy support from the ‘powers that be’ at Montecasino.
She goes on to speak in glowing terms about her ‘mentor and voice of reason’, Bryan Schimmel, her producer and creative partner. Although he was overseas with the international tour of ‘Chicago’ for much of the run-up to SHINE! they’ve spoken every single day and he has still been as involved as he would have been, had he been right here! He’s also been Zinah’s mentor since last year.
What can people expect from this year’s production of SHINE!!? A showcase of amazing young talent! 450 spectacular young performers on stage, together with celebrity appearances by The Voice SA Season 2 winner, Craig Lucas and The Voice SA finalist Thembeka Mnguni and a special appearance from The Voice SA Season 3 Finalist, Yahto Kraft.
There will also be moving performances from Buddy Sacks and St Vincents School of the Deaf, and performers from Fourways High School, Mondeor High School, Curro Aurora – Sundowner and New Generation Pantsula Dancers from Alexandra.
SHINE! 2019 is on stage for FOUR SHOWS ONLY at The Teatro at Montecasino:
Friday 13 September at 20h00
Saturday 14 September at 15h00 & 20h00
Sunday 15 September at 15h00.
Tickets range from R180 – R320 and can be booked online at www.montecasino.co.za or through Computicket.
Various Public Group Bookings and Tsogo Sun Rewards Discounts are available through Computicket.
Group School Bookings are available on request by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org .
Upon confirmation, Group School Bookings of 20 seats and more will receive the added benefit of a SHINE! Workshop delivered by Born To Perform, at their school.
** A special performance made accessible for the deaf community will be taking place on Saturday 14th September at the 15h00 performance, with an on-stage signer.
At this performance, audiences have access to the Opticon system for the hearing impaired. This facility is only available in specific seats within The Teatro, so bookings would need to be made directly with the Teatro Box Office on 011 510 7472. **
Watch the advert for SHINE! 2019: https://youtu.be/RhiF_Jb0WQQ
Follow Born to Perform on Social Media (where you can also catch lots of rehearsal clips!):
Instagram : borntoperform.world
Face Book: https://www.facebook.com/Borntoperformgala
YouTube: Born To Perform TV
GETTING TO KNOW SOME OF THE CAST OF ROBIN HOOD AND THE BABES IN THE WOOD
Theatre is many things to many people: smoke and mirrors to some, a means of political and social rhetoric or commentary to others. But there’s no doubt that when it comes to Pantomime, it’s pure magic! There can be no doubt as to the intention of pantomime … it’s there to entertain the audience, whether young or old, and it needs to cater to a wide spectrum of fans. This is the 29th time that Janice Honeyman will be doing just that. She’s the unrivalled master at writing scripts that delight all who see her shows, incorporating just the right balance of slightly risqué fun for the adults, and good-natured humour for the kids. Together with Bernard Jay, this team has a sure-fire approach that ticks all the boxes for the ultimate in excellent entertainment.
And part of that approach is ensuring they have the right people for the job! This year’s pantomime is the all-new Robin Hood and the Babes in the Wood, a mash-up of the old Robin Hood tale (he stole from the rich to give to the poor … I’m sure our brains are all in overdrive as to how this is being applied to current SA news stats!), and the story of Hansel and Gretel coming to visit the evil witch … errrrm, their not-so-nice uncle, the Sheriff of Nottingham. And who better to play the dashing, daring, darling Robin Hood than Izak Davel, currently better known as arrogant Bradley Haines in Isidingo? Every hero needs a sidekick, and in this case there’s a group of merry men led by the jolly Little John – Phumi Mncayi.
I was interested to get to know the people behind the magic a little better, so I recently met with Izak and Phumi to find out who these guys really are, and what special sparkle they have that makes them perfect for their roles. I got a bit more than I bargained for as some extra laughs were thrown in by Desmond Dube (Friar Tuck), who was keen to join the action. I can honestly say I don’t remember the last time I spent such an enjoyable hour in the company of such down-to-earth authentic guys, who genuinely love what they do!
Izak tells me that he’s “just a laatjie who grew up in a dorpie in the Eastern Cape who just wants to enjoy life.” He’s happiest when he’s spending time with his wife, or walking his dogs. I’m openly incredulous, and beg him to tell me how on earth he landed up in the acting industry! Well, he initially wanted to be a rugby player, but due to damaged knees he took up ballet as a means to strengthen them. Realising his dreams of rugby-playing fame and fortune had been thwarted, he was thinking of becoming a physiotherapist or a biokineticist – you know, down to earth stuff! But he then went on to study musical theatre at TUT, and the universe, as they say, obviously had different plans for him!
His first theatre role was in 2004, in a Pieter Toerien production of ‘Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat’. He’s already recorded one studio album, and will be back in-studio in January to begin recording his second, signed under SNP (Snyman Musiek Produksies). He strongly believes that in the industry, at this point in time, you most definitely need to be a triple threat (i.e. you need to be able to sing, dance and act – usually all at once!), in addition to having some other sort of business interest on the back-burner to sustain you financially. He’s level-headed and under no illusions of glitz and glamour!
It’s inevitable that we chat about his role in Isidingo, which he hopes to continue into next year, and his participation in one of our local seasons of Celebrity Survivor where he became (in)famous for wearing nothing but a red speedo most of the time! I ask if it was a publicity stunt and he tells me it wasn’t. It all came about purely because he was being the perfect gentleman. Cindy Nel needed a pair of shorts so he gallantly gave her his! He jokes that his mom always taught him to have manners!
Of course we chat about his participation in ‘Robin Hood’. It’s his first panto role and he’s thoroughly enjoying it, anticipating the interaction that the cast gets from an excited audience, especially the school-kids, many of whom have never seen live theatre before.
Phumi joins us, at which point Desmond chirps loudly from the table next to us that he’s most upset that I’m only chatting with the ‘pretty boys’! I tell him they may be pretty but he’s beautiful! Much laughter ensues before we continue. He’s actually busy with his own separate interview! I promise there’s no favouritism here!
Having been part of the cast of Bernard Jay’s recent production of Saturday Night Fever, already having been cast in Jay’s 2017 production of The Color Purple, and having worked with many of the current cast before, Phumi feels very strongly about the loyalty that exists between directors, producers, and their cast members. “The people make the show,” he says. “The synergy between them is what makes it all come together. Without that, there’s nothing.”
Once again, as with Izak, I’m humbled by the complete lack of affectation this man has by the industry he works in. He’s an outgoing, fun family man who proudly tells me that his wife and small son are his prized possessions and motivators, his entire reason and purpose for being. He sums it up by saying “You can lose yourself in the illusion of what you do. People need to ground you.”
For a final laugh, I ask them both which Superhero they’d be, given the chance. Actually I don’t get the chance to ask Izak because he’s guessed the question before I’m even halfway through asking it and immediately assures me that he would be Wolverine! When asked why, he replies, “because he’s tough, funny, strong and he protects.” Clearly 4 traits he associates himself with!
Phumi, on the other hand thinks for a couple of minutes, and then tells me he’d like to be Ant Man!! After I’ve finished falling over myself laughing, I pull myself together enough to reply that I’ve never heard of him. They’re both amazed! (No, really!) Unsurprisingly (I suppose, after that reaction!), I then got an in-depth tutorial on Ant Man: who he is, what he does. Ant Man views the world from the bottom up, and that’s something Phumi would like to do!
As for what they would consider to be their ‘theme songs’. No surprises when Phumi decides on ‘People who need People’, and Izak takes ‘He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother’.
And finally it’s time to send them back to rehearsals, knowing undoubtedly that this year’s pantomime is going to be one whole bundle of fun if they have anything to do with it! And with all that laughter, it’s going to weave that magical spell as it always does, bringing delight and enjoyment to all who see it.
Make sure you’ve got your tickets booked. Robin Hood and the Babes in the Wood opens this week at the Joburg Theatre and the fun continues until 30 December. Book through the Theatre at www.joburgtheatre.co.za or 0861 670 670, or you can book at Pick n Pay Stores and WebTickets.
A Review of Saturday Night Fever, currently on stage at the South African State Theatre
I’ll start off with a confession – I’ve never seen the film version of Saturday Night Fever!! Shock, horror, yes … you can all pick up your jaws and close your mouths now! I didn’t see John Travolta do the whole strut thing in the iconic 3-piece white suit, I only saw the stills; I didn’t hear the Bee Gees’ soundtrack played in its original backdrop format. Hence, when I heard the adapted radio versions, I had no clue of their actual depth or meaning. But that’s all ancient history, relegated to what had become that somewhat lacklustre Disco file of the late 70’s, when I was %$# years old!
Roll on to September 2016 and Bernard Jay’s production of Saturday Night Fever hits the Opera Theatre of The South African State Theatre … I’m now $%*@ years old, and I’m damn excited about it all! Disco’s back! It’s fun, fab, retro and groovy (ok, I know, nobody uses that word)! Glitter balls, go-go boots, big hair and colour, lots and lots of colour!
The storyline goes roughly something like this (just in case you’re part of the uninformed minority):
It’s June 1977, the hottest summer on record and New York is sizzling. Down in the boroughs racial tension is brewing, jobs are scarce and people are angry. Money’s tight, hope seems like a foolish luxury and the only light on the horizon is the glittering disco ball above the dance floor in the club where Tony Manero and his crew, The Faces, hang out on a Saturday night. Tony is ‘da man’. He struts, he moves, he grooves, and everyone else is in awe, especially Annette. Unfortunately, he would prefer the aloof Stephanie Mangano to be as awestruck, but that’s going to take a bit of work on his part. Throw in a side-plot or two, some angst, some religious guilt and there you have it! Oh, and don’t forget all that unforgettable Bee Gees music – Staying Alive, Night Fever, More Than A Woman, Disco Inferno, What Kind of Fool … and of course, many more.
And it’s all here, everything that can be crammed into a nutshell stage show, and Jay has pulled no punches with putting together a theatrical dream team for this creation. Sarah Roberts’ costumes are spot-on, instantly transporting you to that era of (slightly embarrassing) flares, high waists and wide lapels. Award-winning director Greg Homann proves that he’s clearly able to cast his net a lot wider than solely serious theatre. In this, his musical directing debut, he’s done a sterling job. Musical maestro Rowan Bakker, assisted by Drew Bakker directs his 8-piece band with pacey, up-beat panache through, what for many, is a trip down a music memory lane (by the way … just a quick shout out to Trombone player Dan Selsick … you know, trombone players never get mentioned, so … hi). The energetic, vibrant cast are put through their paces by choreographer Weslee Lauder, who ensures that every step, lift, spin and turn is executed with slick precision.
But oh my word … that set!! Denis Hutchinson has created a living, breathing entity that surges around the stage as if it is its own entirely separate, individual character! It opens, shuts, slides, rises, sinks, splits – I almost wanted to ask it to make me a cup of coffee! It is an innovation of design genius, enhanced by ingenious, strategic lighting.
And to populate this epic masterpiece, one needs a bunch of gorgeous looking talent, which we have in shovel-loads. The cast is a cohesive and comfortable ensemble, ably navigating the ups and downs that their characters endure, as the audience is quickly swept up and into their lives, their struggles and their triumphs. Accolades must go to:
Daniel Buys, playing an understated Tony. There’s every opportunity for him to overplay the role, but he reigns it in, allowing his talent and charm to shine through whether he’s taking to the floor at the 2001 Odyssey nightclub, or singing his poignant solo rendition of ‘Tragedy’.
LJ Nielsen, for her touching portrayal of the sweet but vacuous Annette, who has yet to discover who she really is. Nielsen’s beautiful, rich voice certainly can’t fail to catch the audience’s attention, even though Annette failed to catch Tony’s. And I have to say, I particularly loved her facial expressions. They just added an extra nuance to her entire performance!
Natasha van der Merwe for her perfect depiction of the ‘on the surface’ cool and collected Stephanie Mangano, while below that tough exterior she’s paddling for all she’s worth! Stephanie epitomises every ‘Tony’ trying to improve his life, determined not to be dragged back to where they started from, but struggling between a new life and acknowledgement of their roots. Van der Merwe gets it right on all levels, striking a balance between tentative and determined and finishing strong.
Kiruna-Lind Devar, the sweet-faced and even sweeter voiced Pauline who only wants to do the right thing. Watch this space people; this is a young performer going places. Big places!
Sebe Leotlela as nightclub singer Candy is incredible and deserves more prominence, as does Bongi Mthombeni as Monty, who could also be put to much better use here.
Take the show for what it is. It’s an enjoyable musical; a bit of a serious theme here and there, but lightened up with many well-known sing-a-long tunes, well-executed dance numbers, a bunch of great looking people in colourful clothes, on a drop-dead incredible moving set! It’s not rocket science, don’t try and read too much into it. Just go and have fun … we all need to have a lot more fun and we’re damn lucky that we have a bunch of people out there who are working their butts off to give it to us!
Saturday Night Fever is on at the Opera Theatre at the South African State Theatre in Pretoria until October 9.
If you haven’t already booked at Computicket, go and do that right now! Why are you still reading this? Go … book … NOW!!!