Two young female artists have won the inaugural Cabaret And Beyond festival. Multi-instrumentalist, composer and arranger Ntlantla Swana from Gqeberha, pianist and musical theatre performer Leah Mari from Durban are the selected talents that will get mentorship to take their musicals to the professional stage. The festival was organized by The Centre for Creative Arts, at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, in collaboration with the Mandela Bay Theatre Complex.
Twenty-one composers finished a four-month new musical theatre writing initiative culminating in a live showcase staged at the Seabrooke Theatre in Durban. “What a pleasure to see this new writing project come to fruition with such overwhelming success. New musical theatre is a ‘hard sell’ for local audiences who are unfamiliar with this aspect of the genre, but they fell hook, line and sinker”, Ronald Perold who is curator and project manager of the Cabaret and Beyond Festival said.
A panel of distinguished jury members assembled in Durban to select the winning composers of this showcase came to a unanimous decision. The adjudicating panel, consisting of artistic director Xabiso Zweni from Gqeberha, international Opera singer Nozuko Teto from Durban, theatre director Lesedi Jobfrom Johannesburg, ‘Fleur de Cap’ recipient for new writing development Paul Griffiths from Cape Town and musical director and event specialist Evan Roberts from Durban was led in discussion by Perold after attending Showcase Gala Event on 16 October.
The winning composers will each receive financial assistance and dramaturgical support to finish their one-act musicals. These will then receive a professional staging with a Durban based cast and creative team who start rehearsal in February 2022. The productions will premiere at the Mandela Bay Theatre Complex in March and then return to Durban for a short season. A national tour is also being considered.
“We congratulate Ntlantla Swana and Leah Mari as the winners identified to receive grants for further development. As partners with the Nelson Mandela Bay Complex, we believe that we have an ideal product that will grow the capacity of new composers and attract audiences to return to live theatre after 18 months of a national lockdown. We are also confident that the curation and artistic led by Ronald Perold is vital for the future growth of South African musical theatre”, Director of the Centre for Creative Arts Ismail Mahomed said.
Leah Mari is a student at LAMTA in Cape Town. The Durban-born singer, pianist and musical theatre performer is also an emerging composer who recorded her first EP in 2016. Mari performed regularly in Durban’s annual Young Performers musicals as a former member of the KZN Youth Choir and DALRO ACT Scholarship recipient. Recently she played “Little Red” on the infamous Durban Adult Pantomime and appeared in the Barnyard’s “Oh It’s Christmas” show. Mari composed and performed for the inaugural music theatre song cycle Stories 2020.
Ntlantla Swana is a multi-instrumentalist, composer and arranger. She started music in primary school and has passed her ABRSM Grade 8 practical exams for recorded and saxophone as a matriculant. In 2013, she represented South Africa in the International Teen Competition in the USA in the keyboard section and took the runner up position. She has completed her Bachelor of Music at the Nelson Mandela University, where she took Composition as one of her majors obtaining a distinction.