Presented by The Prestige
Reviewed 17 January 2019
Madiba the Musical brings the life and struggles of Nelson Mandela to the stage in an uplifting musical full of facts about the man himself and South Africa.
The Australian production brings the work of French writers Jean-Pierre Hadida and Alicia Sebrien to the local stage with the translation and conversion of the script for an English speaking audience. Directed by Pierre-Yves Duchene and under the musical direction of Michael Tyack, Madiba the Musical creates a new path into the historical conflicts that defined South Africa.
The show covers Mandela’s (Perci Moeketsi) early life from when he met his second wife Winnie (Ruva Ngwenya), through his time as a lawyer and anti-apartheid campaigner. The everyday threats to people of colour during this period are detailed through the stories of Sandy Xulu (Tarisai Vushe) and Sam Onotou (Tim ‘Timomatic’ Omaji) who continue to seek equality while Mandela was imprisoned.
A love story also emerges from Xulu’s brother William Xulu (Barry Conrad) and Helen Van Lenden (Madeline Perrone), the daughter of the high ranking police official Peter Van Lenden (Blake Erickson). The musical is guided by the upbeat narrator (David Denis) who provides a charm to the darker elements of the performance’s themes. Denis stood out in his performance with the small quirks and expressive moments, along with his well-paced spoken word components.
The cast presented a vocally wonderful and visually impressive performance that intertwines a variety of dance styles and cultural references. The acrobatic elements were captivating and added energy to the overall dance numbers. A few of the songs tended to blend together with a focus more on the message contained within the lyrics than the musical diversity.
The smooth set transitions and minimal props provided quick alterations between scenes and cut distinct looks covering multiple decades and locations. The shadows and lighting for the prison scenes added depth to the overall production and a darkness that is required to match the themes found within the show. There was also the smaller elements within the costuming hinting at the changes over time and were an interesting addition that further layered the overall musical.
Madiba the Musical is informative, occasionally skimming over certain moments, but a vibrant musical, showcasing an incredible range of talented cast.
Reviewed by Alex Dunkin
Venue: Adelaide Entertainment Centre
Season: 17-20 January 2019
Duration: 2hour 20mins including interval