Janice Honeyman’s Cinderella pantomime to be first major live musical to open in SA since pandemic
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Johannesburg - A beloved South African theatre tradition is returning to the stage after a forced Covid-19 induced hiatus.
The Cinderella Pantomime, written and directed by the acclaimed Janice Honeyman, will usher in the festive season as local comedic duos Desmond Dube and Ben Voss take on the role of ‘the ugly sisters.’
Meanwhile, Kiruna-Lind Devar will star in the title role, Kyle Grant will be her Prince Charming, and Dolly Louw will take on the role as ‘GogoMama, the Merry-Fairy Godmother.’
After the global health crisis caused the postponement of 2020’s annual festive season pantomime production, this year’s show is set to kick off on the Nelson Mandela Theatre stage at Joburg Theatre from November 5 to Christmas Eve.
The production’s executive producer Bernard Jay is thrilled that their fairytale pantomime will be the first major live musical to open in South Africa after all theatres were forced to close down due to the pandemic.
“I honestly think that there couldn’t be a more perfect show to re-open the doors, and I really do feel that, at our current level of the pandemic, it’s time to re-open South African theatres and entertain the public once again.”
Jay also believes that the annual Janice Honeyman pantomime is the most popular theatre tradition in the country.
“It’s family entertainment, it’s all-South-African, and it’s a laugh-a-minute. What better way to start?”
While the production’s executive producer is counting down the days until the show is staged, he admitted that it had been a challenging journey in order to get to this point.
This comes as last year’s festive season pantomime had to be cancelled as the second wave of the novel coronavirus was raging at the time, despite preparations for the show commencing months in advance.
“Janice Honeyman and I start work on the annual Joburg Theatre pantomime about eighteen months in advance, when we agree upon the next title to be produced, and start looking at our choice of principal artists, so we were already well into this Cinderella by mid-2019.
“Most of the cast has been contracted since early 2020, so it’s been a long wait and much patience practised to get to this stage now.”
But as Covid-19 infection rates continue to decline and the country is currently enjoying level one restrictions, the Cinderella pantomime has been approved to go ahead.
“Of course, it has been an unprecedented challenge, but I’m hugely grateful to Joburg Theatre for retaining the confidence in – and having the determination to present – this 2021 pantomime.”
He added that they were very unsure throughout the year about what the restrictions and particular difficulties might be by rehearsal time.
“It would certainly be difficult to imagine a large-scale show like ours being able to play to a maximum capacity of only 50 people at each performance, but thank goodness, it’s 500 right now.”
Apart from Covid anxiety, the pantomime’s executive producer is proud of the work they have put in for this year’s production.
“This is probably the finest company of actors we have ever brought together for a pantomime,” he admitted to The Saturday Star this week.
“You can also expect spectacle galore, old laughs and new ones, lots and lots of music, singing and dancing as well as a few of Janice’s famed ‘double-entendres’ and political pokes,” he added.
But apart from the comedy and musical offerings, Jay believes that the Cinderella pantomime is a proudly South African world-class production.
“For the first time in 17 years, we are not hiring the sets and costumes from the UK as we contracted the hugely talented South African designer Andrew Timm to give us an overall production design for this year’s Cinderella that takes us very much into 21st century technology, with a bag full of magic tricks and wow moments.”
“I do feel that it will be the most visually spectacular Joburg Theatre pantomime of them all – with many surprises for the kids too.”
Timm is an award-winning creative director of TV shows, large scale music events, music videos and corporate theatre.
Through three decades of experience as a director, designer and writer in the entertainment industry, his career highlights include creative director of staging for the live broadcasts of X Factor South Africa and five years of staging gospel’s acclaimed Joyous Celebration. He currently also directs music videos for the world-famous Ndlovu Youth Choir.
As the pantomime’s production designer, Timm has used his expertise to transform the stage into a high-tech, 21st century riot of innovative and spectacular special effects.
This includes a live performance with projections and 3D graphics on over 500 LED screens, hologram effects, giant props, as well as magic techniques and pyrotechnics.
Theatrics aside, Jay also believes that the generational and worldwide acclaim of Cinderella is a spectacle itself.
“It’s truly ‘a tale as old as time’, and the ever-popular themes of rags-to-riches, fairy princesses, evil stepsisters and love-conquers-all combine to make Cinderella so completely accessible to all age groups.”
Tickets for Cinderella are now on sale from R240 through visiting www.joburgtheatre.com or by calling 0861 670 670. Group, family and senior citizen discounts are available.