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KDVP lights up the stage with beloved Broadway offerings

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Marvelling at the singing talent of the students at King David High School Victory Park (KDVP), enjoying well-known characters like Shrek, and laughing at the jokes of Yente from Fiddler on the Roof sounds like fun. It sure was as we were taken on a journey through the Broadway and Hollywood classics as part of the audience of KDVP’s production, Ticket to Broadway (31 March to 6 April).

Some of the songs and monologues we love from Broadway musicals and favourite movies managed to find their way into this melange of talent on show during the performance, directed by Renos Spanoudes, the school’s head of arts and culture and dramatic arts.

Each one of the 25 songs and 10 monologues was from a different play or movie, chosen by the students, and performed in one of the five themed sections of the show – defiance, love, possibility, hope, and time.

The audience was startled at the ear-splitting sound made every time Miss Trunchbull, the extremely cruel headmistress in Matilda, smacked her old-fashioned teacher’s stick on the stage.

They listened to an emotive monologue from Lady Macbeth, standing on an elevated platform.

Actors stood on desks during the rendition of Hard-Knock Life, and cleaned the same type of desks during a song from the musical, Waitress.

The lighting was hugely effective, even when portraying the importance of making the most of every minute and not spending too much time on electronics. At that point, the lights were turned off, with actors using the flashlights on their cell phones.

What with a cast of 57 and others working backstage and in visual design, it was one of the biggest casts Spanoudes has directed at KDVP. “This was probably the biggest team I have worked with in the past decade,” he says.

For all those on stage, the format allowed them to realise their dream of performing a certain scene.

“If you did a published musical, you could never highlight so many students,” says Spanoudes, an internationally acclaimed actor, playwright, and director. “To celebrate theatre and mark the return to performing, I chose a format which gave more people an opportunity to perform.”

Twenty girls from the school wanted to perform a scene from Hairspray, so Spanoudes found a way in which he could make that dream come true.

“There were other instances where just one or two individuals wanted to perform a certain piece,” he says. “I searched for monologues according to the requests or the dreams that the kids expressed. There was method in my madness in terms of a golden thread. For example, Pappa Can You Hear Me? from Yentl is followed by Oliver, who is an orphan.”

The costumes were made as close to those in the original international performances as possible. For example, when matric student Keren Katzew, the students representative council’s head of arts and culture, sang Mother Knows Best to Rapunzel, the latter donned a similar purple dress to one her character wears in Tangled.

Deputy head girl Leah Meyerowitz wore a green dress and red shawl during her performance of The Winner Takes It All. Meryl Streep donned similar clothes when singing this song in Mamma Mia.

Consummate artist and talented performer, Grade 11 student Mirah Lipman, sang a number of songs during the performance and served as an understudy for many of her fellow students in the show.

Daniel Berman performed in several duets in the production. His father, Peter, is an alumnus of the school and a musician. “In his school years, he was the lead in the school’s major productions,” says Spanoudes of Peter. “It’s lovely to see the tradition and the legacy continuing. Like father, like son.”

Grade 11 student Gregory Landau not only performed numerous songs, but also wrote the storyline which is told between some of the scenes during the play.

The story tells of a Mrs Bandini, who owns a theatre that hasn’t hosted a production since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. She plans to sell the rights to the building in six weeks if the next show fails to recoup the funds she needs to keep the theatre going. Malcolm and Julie try to save the theatre. They bring artists together, and each artist chooses an act they want to perform. Then they stage the show, and call it Ticket to Broadway. “It’s actually what I did in the school, but they turned it into a story as if it was Broadway theatre,” says Spanoudes.

The production honoured the memory of Ronald Cloete, a beloved KDVP science teacher who died earlier this year. Cloete worked with Spanoudes in school productions, being in charge of sound and lighting.

Those involved put their all into the production, with practices after school every day from Monday to Thursday until 19:30. “Towards the end, we did take initiative,” Lipman says. “We would do rehearsals during breaks, before school, and on Sundays.”

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