Sarafina! the Broadway musical for Joburg Theatre


Joburg Theatre in partnership with Keeloz Global Entertainment will be re-staging the internationally acclaimed Broadway hit musical Sarafina! which is directed by Nhlanhla Ngema and starring Noxolo Dlamini as Sarafina from 19 July to 11 August 2019 at the Joburg Theatre’s Mandela Stage.

Sarafina! photo by Sanmari Marais
Sarafina! photo by Sanmari Marais

One of South Africa’s most iconic symbols of the struggle for social and political freedom and justice, Sarafina! was conceived by Dr. Mbongeni Ngema who wrote and arranged the music and lyrics with additional songs by Hugh Masekela. As part of the succession plan, Dr Ngema has awarded the rights to produce Sarafina! to his younger brother, Nhlanhla Ngema.

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Nhlanhla Ngema starred as Stimela SaseZola in the original theatre production of Sarafina! as well as the movie version. He has held principal roles in other Ngema productions including Magic at 4am, The Best of Mbongeni Ngema, House of Shaka, Asinamali, amongst others. In 1997, Nhlanhla was amongst the few South Africans who were cast in Disney’s original Broadway production of The Lion King in New York where he was one of the lead singers. He has been an Assistant Director for various productions including Duma Ndlovu’s Bergville Stories, Mbongeni Ngema’s The Lion of the East and the Playhouse Theatre’s 2010 World Cup production Ingqayi -Ingqayi. In 2002 while in the United State he directed Woza Albert! at the La Mamma Theatre in New York. He was most recently the Assistant Director on the productions of Sarafina! that played at the State Theatre and Joburg Theatre in 2017 and 2018 respectively.

“I am honoured to have been given the opportunity to direct this internationally acclaimed Broadway hit musical Sarafina! that I was part of the original cast. I have always aspired to direct a big musical production and it is fantastic that my first big production as a director is Sarafina!. I am grateful to my brother, Mbongeni Ngema, for realising my potential, grooming me and giving me this opportunity,” says Nhlanhla Ngema.

Sarafina! through story, song and dance, follows the activities of a fictional class at Morris Isaacson High School against the backdrop of students in 1976 revolting against Afrikaans being used as a medium of instruction. This proudly South African musical deals with the radicalisation of a young school girl, Sarafina, who becomes embroiled in the riots and is tortured by the South African police. She inspires her classmates with her commitment to the struggle against the apartheid government.

In the musical’s explosive finale the students present a class play about the symbolic Day of Liberation they all dream of — when their hero, Nelson Mandela is released after decades in prison.

“It is befitting that South Africa’s most successful theatrical export return to the Mandela Stage for a second season at Joburg Theatre; to give both veterans and new theatre goers an unforgettable experience of this rich musical legacy. As we have witnessed with past generations, this world-class production is capable of re-igniting the belief within young people to overcome whatever challenges their generation has to contend with,” says Makhaola Ndebele, Artistic Director at Joburg City Theatres.

The powerhouse musical took Broadway by storm in January 1988 during Black History Month culminating in a two-year run on Broadway in Manhattan, New York City; and a 5-year tour of the United States of America. Concurrently the second cast of Sarafina! premiered in 1988, and went on to tour the world for four years, which included the United Kingdom, other several parts of Europe, Australia, Japan, as well as various countries located in west Africa.

Sarafina! was later converted into a Hollywood Feature Film starring Whoopie Goldberg, Leleti Khumalo, Dr Mbongeni Ngema, Dr John Kani, and Dr Mirriam Makeba; with the sound track produced by Dr Mbongeni Ngema and Quincy Jones. This captured the imagination of the world and engraved Sarafina! as a symbol of African triumph and hope across the world.

The play was nominated for five Tony Awards, namely: Best Musical, Best Original Score, Best Choreography, Best Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical and Best Direction of a Musical. It was later nominated for the prestigious Grammy Awards; and also won 11 NAACP Image Awards in Beverley Hills. NAACP is an organisation based in the United States of America and with its full name being the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People.

Tickets are now available from R145 on the Joburg Theatre website or by calling 0861 670 670.

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