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Performer rocks the balcony with heartfelt ballads

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PETA KROST MAUNDER

Not only do those living in Sea Point’s flatlands get the benefit of this, but the balcony performances of this 35-year-old talented actress who is undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer have gone far and wide on social media.

For Bitton, entertaining people is “everything to me … it’s my soul purpose”, she says. “When I sing, I’m in my element. It’s my divine expression. To use my gift to bring joy to others is special.”

Bitton was performing the lead alternate role in the international tour of the musical Evita in China when she was diagnosed with breast cancer and returned home in December 2019. Two operations later, in substantial pain, undergoing chemotherapy and under total lockdown, Bitton still felt the need to perform.

Her first Sea Point show was on 10 April, two weeks into lockdown, when she ventured onto her balcony to great applause through the suburb with her microphone, “rocking her new chemo look”, and the voice of an angel.

“I have a sound amplifying setup at home for singing and DJ-ing so I put my speaker outside and launched into song, singing “Don’t cry for me Quarantina” she told the SA Jewish Report. “My neighbour had to come and press play, but don’t worry, we kept our social distance! I spread the word on social media, Facebook and Instagram that day.”

Initially, 500 of her Facebook friends watched her livestream, and many of them and the fans on Bitton’s Facebook music page shared it with their friends. Social media and word of mouth showed their muscle. “I really didn’t think it was going to reach so many people. I was blown away at the response,” says Bitton.

The reaction was astonishing. Those in flats in the vicinity were out on their balconies in their droves, clapping and cheering for more. Bitton was also so excited about the incredible social media response that she decided to do it again the following night, a Saturday.

“For my second concert, my neighbour, DJ Wulfsohn, had some proper gear in his garage and volunteered to set up a bigger rig and some lights for me on the balcony,” she says. “It was a misty night, and the sound and lights travelled down from above High Level Road, many blocks over to the left and right, and all the way down to Beach Road. It was magical!

“The response from my Sea Point neighbours was amazing, and even more people came out to watch, clapping, cheering, and singing along to the up-tempo songs.

The social media response was “even more overwhelming, with both videos going viral”, she says. “I’m truly humbled by the kind words, amazing messages, love, and support I have received from people. It has given me so much strength during this time, and going through this breast cancer journey with its challenges, tough treatments, and uncertainty, I feel so blessed to still be here, still strong, and able to bring some joy to my community during lockdown.”

Bitton says she was inspired to sing on the balcony because in Evita, Eva Peron sang from the balcony of the Casa Rosada in the show. “I miss playing the role so much, and haven’t sung for a while and decided, while I had this window between chemo sessions and was feeling good, I wanted to sing.”

Also inspired by the artists performing on their balconies in Italy, she chose the time just before the 20:00 nightly expression of gratitude for frontline service providers in Cape Town.

Bitton lives on her own, but her mom looks after her for a few days after her chemotherapy when she is particularly weak and sick. Her mother and sibling shop for her as, as being immunocompromised, she may not leave her flat except to go to the hospital for treatments.

She misses being with her family and friends, especially the physical contact. “I just want to hug the ones I love,” she says. “When this chemo and corona is done, I’m going to have a big hugging party.

“When I started my breast-cancer journey, I was petrified about losing my breasts and even more so my hair, but I realised it’s a small price to pay compared to losing my life,” she says.

“I always felt like I had to look perfect, I used to obsess about my weight, and I was highly self-critical. Since I’ve gone through this ordeal, I’ve been stripped of my vanity and ego, and I’ve surrendered to it. I’ve lost my two best physical assets, my breasts and my hair, and the truth is, I’ve never felt more liberated and happy because I’ve truly learnt the meaning of loving myself unconditionally.

“I’ve kept a journal throughout my cancer treatments, and have shared my rollercoaster of emotions openly and honestly in a public blog. No mask!” she says.

“That being said, never in my life did I think I would be singing from my balcony with a bald head and not wearing a wig, baring all! But here I am, real, raw, and not wearing any masks. I love singing so much. The performances came from my heart and soul to spread love, hope, and gratitude to our healthcare workers.”

Bitton did a further three balcony concerts on 24, 25, and 30 April. They won’t be her last.

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