As Montecasino’s Teatro enters its eighth year with over 100 productions under its belt, General Manager Bryan Hill says quite a few trends have emerged – not just at the Teatro, but on the international theatre scene as well.
The Teatro, which was constructed by Tsogo Sun at a cost of R100 million in 2007, has maintained an exceptional average attendance rate of 86% since it opened, due mainly, says Hill, to the fact that it has been steadfastly true to its original strategic business decision to be a family entertainment venue with broad-based appeal.
That started with the remarkably successful The Lion King production – the first time a Disney show was staged in South Africa and the first show in the brand new Teatro – which attracted over 550 000 people to the show over its 36-week run, making it the longest-running show in South African theatre history.
By December last year when Liefling was on stage, 3 000 300 people had attended shows at the Teatro. “One of the best things we have achieved over the years is that we have increased the size of the South African theatre-going audience. At many of our shows, we have had first-time theatre visitors – who have often then come back again and again to subsequent shows. With ongoing careful selection of both our short-running and long-running productions, we hope to continue to draw people into the theatre, not just to the Teatro, but as they become comfortable with their theatre experience, to other theatres around the country,” says Hill.
Over the years of Tsogo Sun successfully building the Teatro brand, Hill says that one of the primary trends driving the selection of shows is South African audiences’ need for escapism. “The daily demands of life mean that for many South Africans, escapism is a welcome end to a tough day, or week. But the Teatro shows invariably offer more than that; they strive to be inspiring at the same time, adding something special to visitors’ experiences.”
War Horse, the powerful production that uses puppeteering to tell the story of a young boy called Albert and his beloved horse, who is requisitioned to fight for the British in World War I, was one of those shows. “War Horse made every visitor feel something – it really was a remarkable show and could have played for longer at the Teatro had that been possible,” notes Hill. The show ran for close on six weeks towards the end of 2014 and was what Hill calls a ‘word of mouth success’. “People talked about it endlessly, at work, at dinner parties, just anywhere, and the seats filled up, many of them by people who were not in the habit of going to a theatrical production.”
Nostalgia is also a driver in show choices, not just in South Africa, but the world over. “People love to hark back to the ‘good old days’, to a time when life is possibly perceived as being simpler, or even just because it’s something that’s familiar to them, something that they love. This has been the reason behind the success of many of our shows such as The Sound of Music, Mamma Mia!, various ice shows, Grease, Beauty and the Beast, Cats, and many more.”
Nostalgia is evident internationally in the theatre market, says Hill. Recent revivals of an all new production of Les Misérables in New York and Australia are selling well, as is The Lion King now in the 20th year since it was first staged on Broadway, where it is still running as well as the West End and Australia, still to critical and audience acclaim. On Broadway at the moment, well known favourites such as An American in Paris, Gigi and The King And I are all due to open and hopefully be successful and continue to attract audiences of all ages.
This year’s productions at the Teatro largely reflect this trend, with Mamma Mia having returned in March; a new Lord of the Dance production called Dangerous Games – designed to attract a younger audience while also still appealing to loyal fans –staged in July; St Petersburg Ballet – which proved a winner with Teatro audiences two years ago– returned in May; and many others, soon to be announced.
Singers who took to the stage in two-day weekend shows this year at the Teatro included Joan Armatrading, Jason Mraz, and other similarly popular performers, adding excitement to the programme. “South African audiences respond well to our intimate performance shows that keep the venue bubbling over weekends, and we work hard to find people who are appealing to South African audiences while still being financially viable.”
He maintains that the Teatro and Tsogo Sun marketing team has learned to take many different aspects into account when selecting shows for South Africa – such as ticket prices. South African ticket prices are extremely low compared to international prices. “Average Broadway prices are about R1 800 per ticket. South African audiences cannot and will not pay those prices, which means that without major sponsorship, producers can’t afford to put on brand new shows that are commanding top prices in international venues around the world. We have to wait some years until it is financially viable for those shows to come to South Africa.”
Hill says, “To the best of our ability, we have always strived to ensure that variety, quality and value for money are hallmarks of the Teatro – and we believe that the coming years will be no different.”
Tsogo Sun’s portfolio includes over 90 hotels and 14 casino and entertainment destinations throughout South Africa, Africa, the Seychelles and Abu Dhabi. For further information, visit tsogosun.com.
More About Tsogo Sun
Tsogo Sun is the leading hotels, gaming and Entertainment Company in South Africa, providing a variety of hospitality and exciting entertainment and leisure experiences. Combining an established heritage with a professional and energised approach, the group proudly encompasses 14 casinos and over 90 hotels in South Africa, Africa, and the Seychelles.
The company’s hospitality interests offer a wide distribution of hotels in Africa, providing world-class accommodation across all markets, including elegant, individually branded luxury hotels and well-known trusted market leaders in the premier through budget segments, including Southern Sun Hotels, Garden Court, SunSquare, StayEasy and SUN1 hotels.
The exciting urban and resort casino portfolio includes the most popular entertainment destinations, strategically located throughout South Africa. In the Gauteng province, Tsogo Sun owns the group’s flagship property, Montecasino in Fourways, which features, amongst other attractions, the award-winning Teatro; Gold Reef City Casino and Theme Park in Southern Johannesburg; and Silverstar Casino to the West in Krugersdorp. Additional properties are owned and operated in the Western Cape, Eastern Cape, Free State, Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal, including the jewel on Durban’s Golden Mile, Suncoast Casino, Hotels and Entertainment.
Tsogo Sun’s philosophy of sustainability has seen the group structuring its support of the communities in which it operates into three main pillars of investment. This includes Corporate Social Investment, whereby the group promotes the development of learners through three academies which offer holistic, full-year programmes centred around sport, art and education; Enterprise Development which focuses on skills-based entrepreneurial development through its Tsogo Sun Book a Guesthouse and Supplier Development programme; and Environmental Management, committed to initiatives that reduce the impact the business has on the environment.
Tsogo Sun (“TSH”) is listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange. The key shareholders of Tsogo Sun are Hosken Consolidated Investments Limited (“HCI”), a JSE listed investment holding company.
Tsogo Sun Gaming supports the National Responsible Gambling Programme. Winners know when to stop. Only persons over the age of 18 are permitted to gamble. National Problem Gambling counselling toll-free helpline: 0800 006 008 FREE.