Johannesburg audiences are in for a treat when the world premiere of the new and original musical, Calling Me Home takes place on Thursday,17 August on The Mandela Stage at Joburg Theatre, running until Sunday, 3 September 2017.
Cape Town audiences get their chance next year with negotiations currently taking place to tour the show internationally thereafter.
Calling me Home is a powerful love story of hope, courage, longing and compassion that will resonate with people everywhere. As the audience follows the story of Grace, a young woman, who flees her homeland due to the outbreak of a brutal civil war, it is taken on an exciting journey that stretches from the splendours of the African continent, across the ocean to a great foreign city.
In this new, hugely diverse and colourful community, Grace experiences both joy and great danger. She also falls deeply in love and most importantly, learns the true meaning of ‘home’.
Premiering in Women’s Month, Calling Me Home is a collaboration between two highly creative and powerful women in the South African music and theatre industry.
The book, score and libretto were written by composer and producer Alice Gillham, who is signed with EMI Music Publishing / Sony/ATV and who lives and works in South Africa. She effortlessly fuses the genres of classical music, African hybrid, jazz and traditional folksong to create bewitching and evocative music that brings the story to life, providing her audience with a deeply human and emotional experience.
Joining Gillham in bringing this musical to the stage, is director Magdalene Minnaar. According to Minnaar this production has the potential to have a profound impact on the world.
Says Minnaar; “The content is extremely current and we have incredibly talented people in Africa. You rarely get a chance to be part of a brand new local production of this calibre.”
Calling Me Home depicts the journeys of three women who each find their own personal power.
Grace (Lynelle Kenned) a young African woman flees her war-torn homeland to try to survive in a country of concrete cityscapes, crime and danger.
With her is her new friend Lindiwe (Zolani Mahola), who too has fled her home, but in Lindiwe’s case it is a flight from abuse and pain.
Finally, there is the beautiful but deeply troubled Isabella (Samantha Peo), who finds the strength and courage to conquer almost insurmountable challenges when she overcomes addiction, both chemical and emotional, to take the moral lead in her community. The work is a global story with far-reaching current relevance.
Each cast member of this large ensemble piece will play a vital part in the story.
According to Minnaar, choosing the right artists was critical as they will have the opportunity to bring their characters to life for the very first time. “We have carefully chosen hugely talented singers who bring storytelling energy, creativity and a spirit of adventure to this journey. Their energy is amazing and their talent world-class,” Minnaar stated.
The complete Southern African cast consists of some of the country’s most celebrated stage performers, well-known personalities and some up-and-coming young stars.
Introducing the leads of Calling Me Home
Lynelle Kenned (Grace) a classically trained soprano, is the rising star of musical theatre in South Africa. Earlier this year she blew South African audiences away in the role of Maria in the Fugard’s production of ‘West Side Story’. Growing up with a love of musical theatre, it was inevitable for this young star to make the jump from classical music to theatre.
Samantha Peo (Isabella) needs no introduction to musical theatre audiences. She has starred in numerous productions from Thoroughly Modern Millie to Cabaret to West Side Story to Aspects of Love – and everything in between, making a name for herself as one of South Africa’s most sought after leading ladies. She returns to the musical theatre stage after a 5 year break and is known as someone who is highly selective in the roles she accepts. She is looking forward to the “whole Calling Me Home experience”.
Anthony Downing (Rafael) captured the hearts of South African audiences as Raoul in ‘Phantom of the Opera’ in 2012. He relocated to London, where he became part of the UK touring company of ‘Phantom’ and has been touring it for the past 4 years. He returns to South Africa to woo audiences once again, in Calling Me Home. Says Downing excitedly at first day of rehearsals; “What grabbed my initial interest was the opportunity to work with the phenomenally talented Magdalene Minnaar again, having worked with her on ’Phantom of The Opera’. But even more so, as a creative person myself, to have the chance to be part of the creative process of a show right from inception is such an incredible opportunity, one that I couldn’t pass up. Thespians don’t often get that chance to be part of something brand new so it’s daunting, but I’m excited at the same time. I cannot wait to sink my teeth into the character of Rafael”.
Zolani Mahola (Lindiwe) is the lead singer of popular group Freshlyground. This will be Mahola’s debut in a musical theatre on stage. Mahola relishes the opportunity to bring her two passions of acting and singing together. As with most cast members, the chance to bring to life a brand new and original production strongly resonates with her. “I needed a new challenge – and this is quite a challenge,” Mahola laughs. “I’m excited at the thought of a brand new African musical production. To be part of many voices, part of an ensemble. For me it is incredible to be on stage acting – a discipline which I studied.”
Another rising young star, Michael McMeeking (Ben) – recently starring in ‘Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat’ – will join the group of leads. He says he is looking forward to honing his craft while working with established and experienced professionals and showcasing something original on such a large scale.
Musanete Sakupwanya (Nelson) is a well-known jazz singer from Zimbabwe, currently living in South Africa. He has performed with the Charl du Plessis Trio, Nataniël, Magdalene Minnaar, Corlea Botha and the Capital Symphony Orchestra. Sakupwanya is a vocalist with the Rockabilly Ravens along with fellow Calling Me Home cast member, Samantha Peo. Calling Me Home will be his professional debut in musical theatre.
Supporting the leads will be Carly Graeme, Christiaan Snyman, Tankiso Mamabolo, Pierre van Heerden, Luigia Casaleggio, Clint Lesch, Isabella Jane, Sebastian Zokoza and Saxola Ketshengane.
The ensemble includes Annemarie Steenkamp, Richard Gau, Zion Zuke, Len-Barry Simons, Vasti Knoesen, Given Nkosi, Sarah-Anne van der Merwe, Conroy Scott, Yollandi Nortjie, Manda Ndimande, Thiart Li, Laura-Lee Pitout, Anja van den Berg, Kgomotso Makwela, Dihan Schoeman (Calling A Star winner), Tannah Levick (Calling A Star winner), Michaela Preston (Africa Voices Trust Participant) and Shaun Thomas (Africa Voices Trust Participant).
With a stong emphasis on the music being new and original, composed specifically for the production, Calling Me Home will be releasing a selection of the songs to the public throughout the season.
Calling Me Home runs at Joburg Theatre from Thursday 17 August – Sunday 3 September 2017.
Performances are Tuesdays to Fridays at 20h00; Saturdays at 15h00 and 20h00 and Sundays at 14h00.
Ticket prices range from R180 – R420. And can be booked online at www.joburgtheatre.com or by calling the Box Office on 0861 670 670 or through Webtickets.
For group bookings of 10 or more tickets, contact Joburg Theatre’s ticketing office on (011) 877 6853/4.
The duration of the show is 2 hours 20 minutes excluding interval.
There is an age restriction of 12 due to the sensitive nature of some of the themes included in the show.