After the rave reviews following the Cape Town critics and audiences alike, the grand-scale, smash hit, all South African production of West Side Story is now on in Jozi at the Mandela Theatre (Joburg Theatre), presented by Eric Abraham and the Fugard Theatre and I am so excited.

Having missed the opening night last week, I look forward to seeing it with the girls this week.

THE 411

West Side Story ended a staggeringly successful, sold-out run at the Artscape Opera House in the Mother City in 2015, and was the Fugard Theatre’s first out-of-house production, five years on from the theatre’s official launch in 2010.

Eric Abraham and the Fugard Theatre, the creators and producers of other outstanding runaway Fugard Theatre hits like The Rocky Horror Show, Kat & the Kings, Orpheus in Africa, Cabaret and District Six Kanala, have created a phenomenal 100% South African production on an unprecedented grand-scale that left audiences mesmerised night after night in its debut season.

West Side Story, Leonard Bernstein, Arthur Laurents and Stephen Sondheim’s musical theatre masterpiece, is based on an original conception of Jerome Robbins and is arguably one of the world’s greatest musicals. The stellar creative team is headed by Matthew Wild (The Rocky Horror Show, Cabaret, Funny Girl) as director, Charl-Johan Lingenfelder (The Rocky Horror Show, Cabaret, Funny Girl) as musical director and conductor, and choreographer Louisa Talbot (The Rocky Horror Show, Cabaret, Funny Girl).

The Fugard Theatre team has selected the finest South African talent for this production that first premiered on Broadway in New York in 1957. The superb cast of 40 is backed by a full Philharmonic Orchestra playing Bernstein’s magnificent score that includes iconic songs such as “Something’s Coming”, “Maria”, “I Feel Pretty” and “Tonight”.

Reprising their roles as Tony, Maria and Bernardo respectively, will be Fleur du Cap Theatre Award winners Jonathan Roxmouth (Topsy Turvy, A Handful of Keys, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat, The Phantom of the Opera) as Tony and Lynelle Kenned (Orpheus in Africa, Showboat, The Sound of Music) as Maria and Christopher Jaftha (The Sleeping Beauty, High School Musical) as Bernardo. Sharing the title role once more with Ms. Kenned will be the London-based actress and opera singer Filipa van Eck (Carmen, L’Aggripina) who will perform the role of Maria twice a week. Bianca Le Grange (Blood Brothers, District Six Kanala, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat) returns to reprise her role of Anita. Craig Urbani (Chicago, Peter Pan, Binnelanders) plays Shrank and Gladhand. Adrian Galley (The Rocky Horror Show, Cabaret), returns as Doc. Brendan Murray (Amadeus, Romeo and Juliet) will perform the role of Krupke alternating with Richard Lothian (An Absolute Turkey, Taming of the Shrew) who will once again be the fight choreographer.

The Jets gang is led once again by Fleur du Cap nominee Stephen Jubber (Annie, Showboat) as Riff, backed by a superb cast that includes Daniel Buys (Cabaret, Saturday Night Fever) and Grant Almirall (Singin’ in the Rain, Jersey Boys) as Action. Mr. Buys will perform the role of Action from 24 January to 18 February 2017 and Mr. Almirall will perform the role from 19 February to 5 March 2017. Sven–Eric Müller (The Rocky Horror Show, Cabaret) is Diesel, Cameron Botha (Singin’ in the Rain, Sweeney Todd) is Snowboy, Keaton Ditchfield (Starlight Express, Pirates of Penzance) is Big Deal, LJ Neilson (Sound of Music, Dirty Dancing) plays Anybody’s, Elzanne Crause (Queen at the Ballet, The Phantom of the Opera) is Minnie, Kristin Wilson (So You Think You Can Dance, Private Presley) is Graziella, Tamryn van Houten (Private Presley) is Velma and Caitlin Clerk (Sister Act, Showboat) plays Pauline.

Christopher Jaftha, now a well-known Top Billing presenter, leads the Sharks as Bernardo, with Zolani Shangase (The Lion King, Orpheus in Africa) as Chino, Carlo McFarlane (Footloose- The Musical, A Cinderella Story: If the Shoe Fits) as Pepe, Duane Williams (Honey 3, Cinderella: If the Shoe Fits) as Indio, Thami Njoko (Swan Lake) as Luis, Tevin Wiener (Honey 3) as Toro, Sabelo Radebe (Peter Pan) as Nibbles, Kirsten Rossiter (Grease, Jersey Boys) as Rosalia, Chloe Perling (The Rocky Horror Show, Cabaret) as Consuela, Sarah-Ann van der Merwe (Reik Na Die Sterre) as Francisca, Natasha Hess (District Six Kanala, Orpheus in Africa) as Estella and A Voice, Ipeleng Merafe (Swan Lake, A Thousand Shepherds) as Teresita. JP Rossouw (Shrek the Musical, Liefling), Sibusiso Mxosana (Spartacus of Africa, Spring and Fall), Gemma Trehearn (Iris Warriors, A Thousand Shepherds) and Nurit Graff (Dirty Dancing, Showboat) complete the talented line up of remarkable performers.

Inspired by Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet, the tale is set in the Upper West Side neighbourhood in New York City in the mid-1950s. The musical explores the rivalry between the Jets and the Sharks, two street gangs of different backgrounds. The members of the Sharks are taunted by the Jets. The young protagonist is Tony, a former member of the Jets and best friend of the gang leader Riff. Tony falls in love with Maria, the sister of Bernardo, the leader of the Sharks. The sophisticated music, extended dance scenes, and the focus on social conflict marked a turning point in American musical theatre.

West Side Story is a must-see that is guaranteed to be a highlight on Johannesburg’s 2017 theatre calendar.

The season will run until 5 March 2017 and tickets are now on sale through 021 461 4554, Computicket, 08619158000 or from the Joburg Theatre directly.

Given the anticipation about this stellar musical and how the Cape Town season sold out, advance booking is highly recommended. The producers recommend an age restriction of 12 years with parental guidance.


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1 Response
  • Bianca Le Grange
    February 6, 2017

    Thank u Mel love u to the moon and back

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