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Hilarious musical to rock Bulawayo


Theatre enthusiasts in Bulawayo are in for a treat as Masiyephambili Junior School, in partnership with Alliance Française of Bulawayo, will next week present a musical adaptation of a famous South African musical, Ipi Ntombi.

One of Zimbabwe’s top jazz artistes, Dudu Manhenga and her band Colour Blu, will feature in the musical which will run from October 21 to 23 at the Bulawayo Theatre.

The school’s music teacher, only identified as Gina, who is also the production manager, said preparations for the show are on course.

“Everything is well on course for the show next week.

Rehearsals are going on well,” said Gina.

More than 300 children aged between 8 and 14 years will take part in the musical.

Gina, a white Zimbabwean, said her love for African traditional music stretches back to her days as a teenager in Rhodesia.

“I grew up in Bulawayo and my first exposure to music was African traditional music and the music never got out of my system.

I then moved to New York and became a musician,” said Gina.

“I was in Sydney five years ago when the musical came to the Star Theatre.

I remember crying and I made a promise to myself that I would go back to Africa and do the same musical with African children.

I must say I have kept my promise,” she said.

Ipi Ntombi (Where is the girl?) is a joyous, homegrown dance and music celebration of black South African culture.

Originally created by the mother/daughter team of Bertha Egnos and Gail Laiker, the musical opened in Johannesburg, South Africa, in 1974 and then played to standing ovations all over the world for the next six years.

It has played in the famous West End at Her Majesty’s Theatre and on Broadway at the Harkness Theatre.

The story begins in a small South African village during a cultural tribal dance filled with colourful costumes.

It is a love story between a village girl and a young man leaving to work in the mines.

As the young man travels, the tribal ceremony morphs with cultural changes.

The ceremony changes to breakdancing, then to South African rock & roll, then to gospel.

The young man becomes torn between his village roots and the temptations of city life.

This performance is a personification of the conflicts between the old and modern worlds.

It concludes with the symbolic marriage of the couple to join the two worlds together in cultural harmony.

Gina has adapted the musical for a local setting.

The girl and the boy in the musical come from Matopo village.

The young man later moves to Johannesburg to look for employment.

There are four scenes in the musical, including the village scene where it all starts.

It then moves to the wedding scene and then to a Johannesburg scene, symbolising the transition from tradition to modernity.

The musical ends with a village scene.

The involvement of Manhenga in the musical was out of pure luck.

“I was travelling from Harare to Bulawayo by bus and I was sitting next to this lady who was reading some Christian material.

I got interested as I am also a Christian.

So we started talking and it turned out she was a musician.

I then explained to her that I was doing a musical with schoolchildren and she got interested and then offered her services to us for free,” said Gina.

Gina said: “Dudu and her group will be singing during the musical.

I wanted live music and I am glad I got one of the best in the industry.

I also want to thank Alliance Française for helping us with the musical.”

She added that the involvement of Manhenga and Colour Blu, would afford the children a chance in a lifetime to share the stage with a celebrity.

The musical will also infuse some Christian songs that the children sing at school and also some Irish folk music that have been adapted to suit Ndebele culture.

In the run-up to the show, there will be a Granny’s Night on Tuesday where those who are over 70 years will be allowed to attend one of the rehearsals for free.

On Wednesday afternoon, schoolchildren will be allowed to come watch the musical for a special fee of $2.

Gina said the proceeds of the musical would go towards the construction of a school hall.

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