ENCORE! Directors: Duane Alexander and Anton Luitingh. Cast: Students of LAMTA and Guest Artists Bethany Dickson, Loukmaan Adams, Edith Plaatjies and Sven-Eric Muller. Theatre on the Bay.
BEVERLEY BROMMERT reviews
Fresh young talent, professionally showcased and augmented by performances from seasoned artists, is what this ambitious collage of excerpts from South African-staged musicals of the last two decades has to offer. The result justifies the title of the show, as when the finale arrives most of the audience would welcome a reprise or two of some items included in the programme.
LAMTA has cause for congratulation when one bears in mind that the fledgling performers under its mentorship have achieved this level of proficiency in just 11 months, and their training is not merely in one genre: they are tackling the triple challenge of song, dance and acting, and while not yet at the top of their potential, there is ample evidence that they are well on their way to getting there.
It helps when costumes, set and lighting design are of a standard to be expected in a professional production, and here due credit must be paid to the likes of Niall Griffin, Duane Alexander and Faheem Bardien respectively. As for the direction from Luitingh and Alexander, it ensures the correct pace of delivery – neither too fast (resulting in rushed, insecure execution) not too slow (with the attendant tedium). Punctuating student offerings with guest appearances from top professionals in the industry adds lustre to the evening.
Energy and confidence
As the curtain rises on a superbly conceived tableau of LAMTA students preparing to launch into Grease is the Word, energy and confidence are palpable, setting the tone for the rest of the show. Changes are constantly rung between upbeat, percussive numbers and muted, gentler pieces to obviate the boredom of predictable sameness while also demonstrating the versatility of the young artists.
Among many gems, the Jellicle Songs ensemble from Cats stands out for the simplicity but effectiveness of costume and staging, as does an enchanting duet from The Sound of Music by Michael Stray and Morgan Marshall (Sixteen Going on Seventeen). In the latter, the young couple rise impressively to the triple threat as they sing, dance and act their way through the piece. Solos from Ché-jean Jupp (Close Every Door to Me from Joseph & the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat), Emma-Rose Blacher (Tomorrow from Annie) and Lilla Fleischmann (Quiet from Matilda) are delivered with pleasing authority, while the choreographic demands of Gaston from Beauty and the Beast are met with humour and deceptive ease by the LAMTA ensemble featuring Sven-Eric Muller and Stuart Brown.
If this is what emerges from the first year of training at LAMTA, it should be exhilarating to witness the production staged by graduates at the end of the academy’s three-year course.
What: Encore! by LAMTA
Where and when: Theatre on the Bay from 27 November to 7 December 2019
Tickets: Computicket or 066 564 1816 or 021 438 3301