This year the PANSA RAINBOW Young Performers project takes place once again at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre. I was at the opening night of CAN YOU FEEL IT on the 2 July and was almost moved to tears by the way the young performers once again rose to the challenge set them by the professional production team. I must say that I am partial to this project being centred around expressions that are South African rather than simply great West End or Broadway book musicals and this production is one of those ‘new’ works. Written conceived and directed by Peter Court and Charon Williams-Ros, both of whom are seasoned professionals in the musical theatre genre and both are especially fond of working with the Young Performers. The show unfolds as a sung through very loose tale about a young boy who goes in search of his father. He ends up part of a circus troupe made up of other homeless kids. The musical is formulate around the music of Michael Jackson and has a distinctly ‘pop’video feel to it. I found the first half of the show a little oblique, with the action happening in ‘tableaux’ format rather than in dramatic sung dialogue and action. While someone sang a song which loosely told the story, the story ‘sort of’ unfolded in the background or foreground. Personally I would have preferred more sung dialogue. The musical worked best when the characters were directly involved in the song.
The performances of the young people were superb with several standing tall. One could see the young performers who had developed from previous shows. Their technique and stage presence was generally more polished. Kudos also to Daisy Spencer and Desire Govender who had the kids singing and dancing like pros.
I have been involved in this project since its inception and have watched as the project has selected, nurtured and inspired young people in the ‘musical theatre’ genre. The project has inspired many of South Africa’s young professionals with many being very active in the industry. Whilst the achievements of these young people is their own, there is no doubt that it was inspired or started by the Young Performers Project.
The project is in its 13th year and began initially with the support of Robertson’s spices, after which it was supported by Unilever SA. During that time it was co-ordinated by Linda van der Veen of Snazzi Events. Five years ago the Performing Arts Network of SA (PANSA) inherited the project at a time when both Unilever and Snazzi Events pulled out of the project. PANSA saw the value and saved the project by bringing RAINBOW Farms (Pty) Ltd on board as a funder. For the last five years RAINBOW has underwritten the project & BASA (Business Arts SA) and the Department of Arts & Culture have co-sponsored the event in the last few years. It is wonderful that these funders have seen the value of the project, the only one of its kind in SA, and one hopes they will continue and expand their involvement going forward.
Only with the support of funders will we be able to put on these big productions with young people, with new works as well. Maybe we will be able to even tour the project around the Province of KZN in the not too distant future. After all, kids from as far as Pietermaritzburg, Port Shepstone, Hammarsdale and even from Eshowe have participated in the past. Wouldnt it be great if the show could tour to their regions someday soon.