When scrolling through Facebook and YouTube I often come across amazing young talent in the US, Australia and Europe and I always wonder to myself, when will I see someone from South Africa making waves? Well my thoughts were answered in the form of Stageworx’ Born To Perform Gala evening by Gemma Donnelly and her husband Matthew Marinus.
The idea for the production was born out of Gemma’s frustration around having a school of hard-working young artists who really had no professional performance opportunities to aspire to. So she created one – a slick, superbly put-together, well-rehearsed production for amateurs to perform alongside a few favourite SA industry pros.
The show opened with a flash of gold costume and equally golden, cotton-club style oldies and arrangements including Hit the Road Jack and I Get a Kick. As someone who aspires to create my own production one day I truly marvelled at the way the lighting, costumes, song choices, choreography and staging came together in such a cohesive way – especially considering the age of the performers.
The production then swept through more modern songs, some Disney classics and a variety of musical theatre excerpts from JC Superstar, Hairspray and Jeckle and Hyde.
Interspersed between these were the featured performers whose acts were offered up in truly brilliant and unique style. Some artists performed on their own, others in groups and each number was kept short, which in my opinion, was very smart. Not only could more talent be squeezed in but the audience was given just enough.
Some stand out numbers included ventriloquist Isabella Snyman and her brash pal Rosie who not only offered comedic relief but an unusual duet that showcased Isabella’s vocal range, The Buzz – a group of guys and gals whose mashup of various commercial and musical hits was completely young and fresh and finally, my absolute favourite, Daniel Baron and Friends. This was a wonderful way to combine the amateur with the professional. Daniel’s piano playing served as accompaniment to four young artists who came on stage one-by-one with vocals that brought down the house!
I also loved the inclusion of dancers. While not the best dance schools I’ve come across, the dancers filled the negative space on stage and created ambiance and balance. I also loved their quick, multiple entrances and exits that created action and excitement on stage.
Of course there had to be a local is lekker segment and the adorable Stageworx juniors’s mashup of Pata Pata and In the Jungle was too perfect for words. Who knew the two songs would be as delicious together as peanut butter and jam!
On a last note, what made the overall production so incredibly professional were the film inserts in awards-style fashion between numbers. From the touching story behind Bryan Schimmel’s entry into musical theatre to the showcasing of amazing young artists in performance, these clips set the tone for what is Stageworx’ ultimate goal – a TV series called Born to Perform TV in line with SA’s Got Talent, Idols and other reality TV favourites. I found these inserts, filmed and edited to perfection, added another dimension to the overall production and made me really excited to see what would next be in the spotlight.
Given the work they are doing and the level of sophistication of both the production and filming, I’d say Stageworx is well on it’s way to becoming one of South African theatre’s top schools and trend setters – and I will happily put that on record!