Review – Passion gets standing ovation in Jozi

2013-04-12 18:00

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Joburg welcomed The African Passion with a standing ovation at the end of the gospel opera’s debut, staged at the Joburg Theatre last night.

The show, which has received equally enthusiastic audience feedback in Durban, Port Elizabeth and Cape Town, will run at the Braamfontein-based theatre until Sunday. The two-hour show, with a 20-minute interval, is a singing rendition of the passion of Christ and features local composers Phelelani Mnomiya, Anthony Govender and Young Mbazo.

Mnomiya, a lecturer in choral music studies at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, is recognised as one of South Africa’s preeminent choral music composers while Govender runs the Destiny Music Academy, among other things. Young Mbazo is made up of the children and grandchildren of the world-renowned Ladysmith Black Mambazo.

Young Mbazo shone as they infused popular isicathamiya sounds with gospel and opera – complete with the popular rrrrrrrq!

According to director Themi Venturas, who also wrote the libretto: “The music is a fair reflection of the vast variety of gospel styles that make up the South African genre. There are great choral numbers in an almost classical style, some in a mbaqanga style. There are duets, solos and a group of isicathamiya disciples. This is a true African Passion.”

Pioneering cabaret artist and all-round actress Natalia da Rocha is outstanding as Jesus’ mother, Mary, and her solo with popstar-cum-gospel singer Sharon Dee as Mary Magdelene left the audience in awe.

Bonginkosi Faca Kulu, who spent time in the Broadway production of The Lion King in New York, is the tall, dreadlocked Jesus.

There is a lot of talent in this stage production – both young and veteran.

Pity that the Joburg Theatre sound let them down every so often.

The African Passion, on at the Joburg Theatre, only runs until Sunday, April 14.

» Bookings at: www.joburgtheatre.com or 0861 670 670

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