national Arts Festival Banner

Monday, July 11, 2011


Young and old in capacity matinee audience spellbound by magical production by Rainbow Young Performers 2011 project brilliantly directed by the KickstArt team. (Review by Maurice Kort)

The Dr Seuss stories are well known by parents and children judging by the capacity audience at the matinee performance of Seussical! The Musical. Stephen Flaherty (music) and Lynn Ahrens (lyrics) have scripted the musical from many of the Dr Seuss stories, particularly Horton Hears a Who and Horton Hatches the Egg. His stories had imaginative characters and were specifically not written with a moral in mind, to quote him "kids can see a moral coming a mile off", but these are subtly there and this musical is all about anti-isolation and prejudice, so delightfully expressed in the song "a person's a person no matter how small". The audience is also urged to use its imagination.

Indeed, Horton the Elephant (Blessing Xaba) finds a community of tiny people, the Who, on a spec of dust which he preserves on a clover flower and chats to Mr Mayor (Delwin van Jaarsveld), Mrs Mayor (Nikki Maine) and their son Jojo (Joshua Arnold). However, before the audience is introduced to them, they enter the theatre to a splash of colour on the stage in the beautifully-designed set by Greg King, dominated by a huge hat in the centre of the tiered stage. Of course, the Cat in the Hat (Candace van Pletzen), who flits in and out as the narrator of the story, is soon revealed from under the hat, followed soon thereafter by the unexpected raising of what was revealed to be a curtain and not a backdrop. This exposes the full cast of 26 school-going young performers from high schools throughout KZN to gasps from the delighted audience and spontaneous applause.

Director Steven Stead has certainly put the hard-working youngsters through their paces, bringing out their best in polished performances throughout, not only in the principal roles but also in the further imaginative characters: the trio of Bird Girls (Mandisa Jwara, Pearl Khwezi and Zanda Zakura) and the Wickershaws (Abigail Beard, Akhona Gayiya and Minnie Nthuli). There are also standout performances by Sour Kangaroo (Shekhiwah Donnell), Mayzie la Bird (Amanda Kunene) and Ghengis Khan Schmitz (Maghawe Madonsela) as well as the Ensemble that makes up the rest of the cast. They are all in good voice although Amanda Kunene tended to be too loud at times and it was difficult to make out the words. However, full credit to Charon Williams Ros, the Musical Director, and Daisy Spencer is certainly making her mark as a choreographer of note. The costumes, Peter Court and others, are as colourful, appropriate and imaginative as the set.

The whole creative team (Steven, Greg, Charon and Daisy - all award winners), have assembled a most enjoyable musical which can be enjoyed by all and is of the highest professional quality. There were a large number of children who patently enjoyed the show. They were very noisy and boisterous before the start and during the interval but once the overture started there was hardly a murmur or a movement from them, they were mesmerised, as were the mommies and some daddies/grandfathers. Take full advantage of using this opportunity to keep the children superbly entertained by these well-loved Dr Seuss characters. Those who have seen previous Rainbow Young Performers or KickstArt musicals, whether for adults or children, will know what high standards are achieved and how enjoyable the musicals are.

Showing admirable civic responsibility Rainbow continues to sponsor these Young Performers, in association with PANSA (Performing Arts Network of South Afica), in this their 11th annual project which can be seen at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre until July 17. It indeed lives up to its billing as "a fantastical, magical, musical extravaganza". Booking is through Computicket. – Maurice Kort