Locals in David Kramer musical

2015-12-08 06:00
Front from left: Aubrey Poo, Edith Plaaitjies, Lynelle Kenned, Jill Levenberg, Bianca Flanders and Natasha Hess. Jarrad Ricketts, Carlo Daniels, Robin Pieters, Sanda Shandu and Graham Bourne are at the back in this scene from Orpheus in Africa, David

Front from left: Aubrey Poo, Edith Plaaitjies, Lynelle Kenned, Jill Levenberg, Bianca Flanders and Natasha Hess. Jarrad Ricketts, Carlo Daniels, Robin Pieters, Sanda Shandu and Graham Bourne are at the back in this scene from Orpheus in Africa, David

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Two local stars are currently on stage in David Kramer’s newest musical Orpheus in Africa at the Fugard Theatre.

Natasha Hess of Newlands and Rondebosch’s Adrian Galley feature in the production that tells the story of Orpheus McAdoo and the Virginia Jubilee Singers who toured Queen Victoria’s colonies in the last decade of the 19th century, along with the evolution of black American music.

Natasha plays the choir’s newest edition, Maggie Porter, while Adrian is responsible for bringing many different characters to life.

Natasha describes Orpheus in Africa as a story about how one man, a son of a freed slave, set out to find a brighter future for his people.

His singing group toured South Africa, Scotland and Australia.

“Still having to face racism in these countries, as well as a loss of interest in his choir, Orpheus reveals that times have changed and music must develop from the old ways. He starts a new age of ragtime music to draw an audience.”

Adrian adds that the production is about “a man’s quest for identity and he shrugs off the dehumanising legacy of slavery”.

“The musical journey is a metaphor that charts his quest for respectability and acceptance in a world that puts the black man down.”

Along his musical journey, Orpheus finds himself and explores a way to embrace his African and slave roots whilst affirming his aspirations for education and refinement.

Natasha joined the cast of Orpheus in Africa after David saw her perform the song “Somewhere” in West Side Story at Artscape Theatre earlier this year. She says it’s been an honour to work with the South African theatre legend.

“He has such an incredible mind, and he is such an inspiration to me as a young artist.”

Natasha says she’s grateful for the opportunity to perform his work.

Adrian, who holds a Master’s degree with research into the neurobiology of emotion, has three decades of acting experience behind his name, having worked consistently on stage, in front of a camera and behind a microphone.

“To have a sustainable career as an actor, one has constantly to acquire more skills and I am still learning every day.”

His career has seen him tour the world and work with international actors like Forest Whitaker, Elliot Gould and William H. Macy.

Adrian was performing in West Side Story and Cabaret when he was asked to audition for Orpheus in Africa. He says he jumped at the opportunity to work with one of his idols.

“I’m sure I impressed David with my rendition of ‘Ol’ Man River’ in my best bass-baritone, but my major contribution to Orpheus has been in the wings.”

Adrian has spent years honing his skills as a master of dialects, and so he’s been helping with the Scottish, Australian and Virginian accents in this production, while also making cameo appearances as a snobbish hotel manager, an arrogant newspaper critic and lovable Australian stage manager, somehow managing to keep each character distinct without being over the top.

“I spend more time changing costumes than I do on stage,” Adrian jokes, adding: “I do get to contribute a baritone harmony to the mix from off-stage.”

Adrian says he never dreamed he’d one day get the chance to work with David.

“Up close, I have been struck by David’s incredible intellect, his enormous capacity for empathy and his deep humility.”

After Orpheus in Africa, Adrian will start work on an international film about the culture of hip-hop dancing.

Natasha, on the other hand, is looking forward to rejoining the West Side Story cast and is hoping that many more opportunities will come her way.

In the meantime, theatre fans can catch Adrian and Natasha in Orpheus in Africa at the Fugard Theatre until 9 January.

V Tickets for the show are available from the Fugard Theatre box office on 021 461 4554 or via Computicket.

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