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Saturday, December 13, 2008


Gina dazzles audiences in Playhouse musical extravaganza. (report by Caroline Smart with acknowledgement to William Charlton-Perkins)

artSMart already carries a review on Unforgettable, the Playhouse Company’s musical extravaganza currently running in The Opera at the Playhouse over the festive season.

In covering such a splendid production in my review, I focused on my delight in seeing this grand theatre venue being used to full advantage by a creative team who understood the extent of The Opera’s capacity and knew what could be achieved. The theatre rose to the challenge with pride and, apart from a few technical glitches, is now fully on track showing Durban what a valuable asset it has in this under-utilised theatre space.

Working alongside legendary Sam Marais (what a pleasure it is to see him back on the Durban stage again) with Pumi Zondi and ex Hi-5 boy band member Rene√®, is Gina Shmukler. While based in Gauteng, she is well-known to Durban audiences having first appeared here at the age of six, playing Molly (her stage debut) in a Brickhill-Burke touring production of the musical, Annie. She returned to the KZN stage with The Doowah Girls in the Playhouse Cellar in 1993, and as Sophie de Palma in Terrence McNally’s Master Class for which she won a National Theatre Award as Best Supporting Actress.

She has appeared as Florence Vassy in Chess in Johannesburg, and Mary Magdalene on the World Tour of Paul Warrick Griffin’s production of Jesus Christ Superstar, performing in South Korea and Greece. She toured the USA and Asia in Oscar Winner Sam Mendes’ revival of Cabaret. In New York, she has worked on and off Broadway, and recently played the role of Amina in the award winning independent film, Arranged.

This experience has stood her in good stead, endowing her with world class focus and stage presentation. Known as a charismatic stage performer, Gina says she approaches her work from the standpoint of an actress, first, and then as a musician. This ensures she gives full attention to the overall presentation of her work before an audience. Clearly this approach won her the respect of no less a colleague than acclaimed diva Elaine Paige in her concert in Sun City, when she invited Gina to share the stage with her, singing the duet I Know Him So Well.

Back home she won a best newcomer award for her role as Sinbad in Sinbad’s African Adventures. Her one-woman show Silk Ties was performed throughout South Africa as well as Namibia and in Toronto, earning nominations for Best Script and Best Director.

Unforgettable is directed by Mark Hawkins, designed by Dicky Longhurst and choreographed by Desire Davids. It runs in the Playhouse Opera until December 31 with live backing from the KZNPO and a hot band lead by Melvin Peters. Booking is through Computicket on 083 915 8000, or during office hours on 031 369 9540. – Caroline Smart