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Tuesday, April 12, 2011


(Pic by Philip George Godawa: Pume Zondi and Londiwe Dhlomo)

Two Durban actresses are doing KZN proud in “Dreamgirls” at the Teatro, Montecasino (Report by Caroline Smart)

When respected and highly experienced theatre luminaries involved in a show openly express their sense of pride and achievement ahead of the critics, confident that their production will attract great reviews, you know something exciting is on the horizon.

Such a production is “Dreamgirls” which is being hailed in the performing arts industry as one of the most exciting shows to have been seen in South Africa of late. It is currently running at the splendid Teatro at Montecasino and, on a recent visit to Johannesburg, I was able to take advantage of the attractive Show & Stay Package. This saw me enjoying the comforts of the Southern Sun Montecasino hotel – the newest of the three hotels at the complex – and marvelling at the splendid magic that is “Dreamgirls”.

The show held a special interest for me as two of Durban’s most talented actresses are appearing in it: Londiwe Dhlomo, last seen back home as Maid Marian in Kickstart’s festive season pantomime, “Robin Hood and the Babes in the Wood”, and Pume Zondi who appeared with Black Magic in Motown at Suncoast.

Londiwe and Pume are both winners of Durban Theatre Awards for their roles in KickstArt’s “Little Shop of Horrors” in 2009 with Londiwe winning Best New Performer while Pume won Best Supporting Actress. They often worked in the same shows at the Upper Deck at uShaka Marine World and last appeared together in 2009 in Sing It, Sista. “Dreamgirls” was a welcome opportunity for them to work together again, although the size of the show as well as its physical demands and technical complexity posed a great challenge.

“Working together is really great, especially since we're in an unfamiliar place. Because of the support we give each other, it’s made it easier to deal with the pressures of work and moving to Jo’burg,” says Pume, who starred in uShaka Marine World’s Christmas extravaganza ”Dolphins by Starlight” in December 2010.

Fortunately, they live together and this provides a supportive background in itself. “It makes working together even more enjoyable because we get home and discuss the funny, weird and awkward things that might have happened that day,” adds Londiwe. “We're also able to help each other with anything we might be struggling with.”

They both agree that Johannesburg is a whole different environment with new challenges and that to adapt is to survive. They believe that the move away from Durban has made them more aware of their ambition, that they do want to make it big and it’s okay to feel that way. They hasten to add that it hasn’t changed their personalities but it’s definitely made them more aware of how hard they have to work in order to achieve their goals.

They wryly admit that they haven’t had much of social life since they’ve been in Johannesburg because of their hectic work schedule but they agree that the experience so far has been “positive and fun”.

“The fact that we were in a production of this magnitude when we got here has helped, as we've met a lot of influential people within the industry and made good friends with brilliant artists,” says Londiwe. “I definitely miss home. I miss the humidity, the beach on Sundays and the chilled atmosphere. You need to come to Jo’burg with a plan and remember that you came here to work, because it is so easy to lose yourself in the fun of it all and forget why you actually came.

“I feel very privileged because the competition was tough, and a lot of people who I thought were great singers did not make it through,” adds Londiwe. “It’s also been physically challenging in terms of the ensemble work and the role that I am understudying.”

The morning after I saw the show, Teatro’s General Manager Bryan Hill kindly took me up to the fly tower so that I could see the intricate and fascinating technical workings. Two cast members were sick, so there was a rehearsal for the understudies for the afternoon and evening performances. One of them was Londiwe who understudies Deena, one of the starring roles which is played by Tracey Lee Olivier!

Unfortunately, I couldn’t stay to see Londiwe perform but Bryan Hill reported that she gave a great performance: ”It was lovely to see the excellence of the production carried through to her own interpretation of this larger than life role,” he says.

“I was extremely nervous but I didn’t feel lost at all because the cast was so supportive,” says Londiwe of this momentous moment in her career. “It must have been difficult for them as they were used to working with Tracey Lee’s rhythm and it took a while for me to get used to them. They made me fell that everything I was doing was perfect. Everyone had my back but it was very nerve-wracking because there are so many elements to the show. The afternoon show was the scariest but after that I was calmer and was able to enjoy the evening show.’”

Pume smiles in support: “It was such a proud moment for me to see a fellow Durbanite and friend rise to the occasion and excel at what we both love,” she says.

They both thank their loved ones, colleagues and supporters in Durban for always believing in them and helping them get where they are. “We know it’s a long trip,” they say, “but please, please, come see this show. You will not regret it. It is world class and a spectacle that South African audiences have seldom seen on SA stages. It is filled with humour, drama and love.”

“Dreamgirls” is running at the Teatro at Montecasino in Johannesburg until May 8 with possible extensions until 22 May. So if Johannesburg is your nearest venue, then don't miss it. Thereafter the show moves to Artscape, Cape Town, to open on June 8 for a limited season. Book at Computicket, visit or call 083 915 8000. (See my full review at – Caroline Smart