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Sunday, July 7, 2024



(Above: Joseph’s Brothers with Mary Poppins (Georgie Kelly). Pic by Val Adamson)


A joyous injection of youthful energy. (Review by Charlotte Fairfax)

Don’t snap open that can of sugary, caffeine-rich energy-drink, a far more potent intake of energy can be found by sitting in the audience of Dream On, A Poppins Tale of Joseph, the 22nd Young Performer’s Project, currently on at the Playhouse Opera.

The kids belting out show tunes on stage probably generates enough energy to fire up the next NASA rocket, or at the very least fix the forever dodgy Eskom grid. In fact, the comfy new Playhouse chairs should be fitted with seatbelts, such is the G-force from the combined vigour from the hundred-plus performers on stage, every last one of them giving it their all.

For a couple of hours, the worries of the big bad world don’t seem to matter so much, as we are reminded that dreamers are powerful; love conquers all; forgiveness is liberating… and there is indescribable joy in watching youngsters performing their hearts out, being earnestly, totally and completely living in the moment. You cannot but get swept up in their enthusiasm.

The premise is a cheeky stretch of the imagination: a young show director needs to stage a musical (at the Playhouse as it happens) but can’t decide which one to do. Enter cheerful cleaner, Brenton from the Bluff, played with good humour and a twinkle in his eye by Rory Booth in fine form – himself an alumnus of the project. Brenton magics up Mary Poppins, played with spot-on attention to detail by Georgie Kelly (another YPP alumnus) channelling her inner Julie Andrews, with many a hearty “spitspot” and perfectly turned-out feet.

Into her outsize carpet bag gets tossed a bunch of ingredients to inspire a musical which, of course, gets then played out with great verve and gusto. The core story is Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, featuring many of the sing-along toe-tapping hits which we all know so well. In this new staging, there are detours allowing for some new musical numbers to be included which cleverly reinforce the familiar story line.

(Above: Dancers with the Pharaoh (Rory Booth) and Joseph (Kyran Taylor). Pic by Val Adamson)

Dream On is basically an extravagant Joseph mash-up which includes songs by the Beetles, Elvis and the Bangles and numbers from musicals Les Mis and Prince of Egypt. A fun inclusion is Walk Like an Egyptian, and Joseph’s brothers singing a heart-felt rendition of Help. A specially-created remix fusion version Look Down from Les Mis segueing into Deliver Us (the opening song of Prince of Egypt) is really quite brilliant. 

Rory Booth’s Brenton has evident fun doing a turn as the Elvis lookalike Pharaoh – with just the right amount of suave attitude, resplendent in his shimmering white plunged neck jumpsuit; high collar and jet-black rockstar wig.

The cast are all extraordinary, and there are some great stand-out performances. I’d like to mention the really great combined voices of Mackenzie Jahnig and Anele Nojiyeza who together did some great harmonies in When you Believe.

Special applause needs to go to Kyran Taylor as Joseph. His stage presence, vocal work, and performance technique has evolved incredibly since we saw him in the title role last year. He has been attending the International School for Performing Arts – and the focused training and practice clearly shows. He comfortably holds his own alongside the seasoned professionals, who graciously never allow their performances to overshadow their youthful fellow cast members. Dream On is the best example of a collaborative production – every last person deserving and earning their moment in the spotlight.

I have no idea how the production team and support crew manage to get the 170 kids which comprise the cast, brothers, and choirs, to be just so so damned good. Every single little person on stage was completely focused the whole time – while performing, but more importantly - and more difficult to achieve, is maintaining their absolutely concentration when they were on stage but not singing. It’s quite extraordinary.

Hats off as always to the production team who have again excelled themselves: production manager and musical director Des Govender; director Daisy Spencer; sound designer Ant Govender; choreographer Simone Mann, and Jaco van Rensburg for his work on the original staging of Joseph, from which many scenes have been gleaned.

I suspect that the much-loved Durban theatre impresario, the late Themi Venturas, who started the YPP concept in Durban, would be proud of his legacy.

The kiddie wranglers backstage (mostly patient and long-suffering Mums) deserve special mention and hearty applause. Keeping that lot disciplined – on some days for two consecutive shows – takes more resilience and patience than I will personally ever have. Well done. I, for one, salute you!

Well done to the sponsors, partners and supporters all of whom make such a valuable investment into the next generation of performing artists. You have chosen your CSI spend well, and it is sincerely appreciated.

           Dream On – a Poppins Tale of Joseph

           Playhouse Opera until July 14

           Tickets through Webtickets


The musical is staged by The Young Performers Project NPC, in association with The Playhouse Company, SAMRO and Go! Durban Academy (eThekwini Municipality). –  Charlotte Fairfax