By BRUCE DENNILL
Lamplight – A Celebration Of Modern Musical Theatre Songs / Directed by Alyssa Harrison / Peachy, 44 Stanley, Milpark, Johannesburg
A small (blame COVID-19) restaurant gig featuring five different singers, Lamplight was the result of a more detailed plan and vision that is usually the case for such events. A collaboration between the Oakfields College Faculty of Musical Theatre and Dance and VR Theatrical, it was directed by Alyssa Harrison and musically directed by Bryan Schimmel, who accompanied the singers on piano. And the event also played a role in raising funds for the Oakfields College/Anthony Farmer Trust, which makes contributions towards student bursaries for students in need who are attending the college.
As such, there was perhaps more at stake than a usual dinner theatre-type performance, with – for those in the know – the added pressure of the awareness that lockdown has severely limited the opportunities of all involved to perform and fine-tune their technique and performance skills. The performers’ talent is evident, their training is complete, but there experience has been sadly limited.
It didn’t show.
Oakfields College musical theatre graduates Gabriela Dos Santos, Imke van Wyk, Dezlenne Ulster-Weale, Songezo Khumalo, Thandaza Silwane and James McPhail managed to do two things extraordinarily well – one of which was expected of them (this is their job, after all, however difficult the opening stages of their careers have been) and one of which is an intangible but fantastic by-product. First, singing songs from musicals as diverse as Rocky (who knew?) and Hamilton and Memphis and Amelie (again, not on the radar for too many occasional theatre fans), they all performed their chosen pieces brilliantly. Dos Santos and Ulster-Weale combined heartfelt delivery (the former with a voice recalling sultry Eighties star Lesley Rae Dowling) and complementary movement. Khumalo and Silwane were profoundly soulful. And Van Wyk and McPhail switch from drama to completely committed comedy, with the latter’s take on You’ll Be Back from Hamilton arguably the night’s highlight.
Second, and just as importantly in a scenario in which arts lovers are largely starved of their longed-for fixes, the performers (and the accompaniment, and the company of a like-minded audience) generated joy – for the intensity of emotion; for the shrewd writing of the song’s lyrics and their alternately soaring or subtle dynamics; for the laugh-out-loud hilarity of the gags and the expressions with which they were delivered; and for the invitation to openly feel.
Music made the heart grow hopeful.
To contribute to the Oakfields College/Anthony Farmer Trust:
Account name: The Anthony Farmer Oakfields College Trust
Branch code 198765
Account number 9019954155
Account type – Savings