By Ogova Ondego
Published March 26, 2012
A musical theatre show that highlights the cultures and traditions of Kenya through song, dance, costume and set design shall be staged across Europe over a three month period starting from September 2012.
Dubbed Out of Africa: The Magic of Kenya and sponsored by the Kenya Tourist Board with a view to promoting Kenya as the African tourist destination of choice, the group is set to present at least 70 shows in Belgium, The Netherlands, Luxembourg and Denmark.
The 90-minute musical show is produced by Peter Ultee Productions B.V. of Amsterdam, The Netherlands in partnership with Meerkat Productions of Nairobi, Kenya, according to a media release issued in Nairobi on March 14, 2012.
“This products main objective is to market Kenya in Europe as the preferred tourist destination,” the media release says. “The show shall be staged 6 nights a week, with an average of 500 people every night in the audience. This translates to an outreach of not less than 40,000 Europeans throughout the three-month tour.”
Touring Europe from September 25, 2012 to December 7, 2012, the official premiere is set for September 28, 2012 in Zoetermeer, near The Hague in The Netherlands.
Working with Peter Ultee, a producer known for his African musical Theatre shows–Township Boy, Under African skies, Stamping, Soweto Spiritual Singers, African Mamas, Daughters of Africa, Sing Mama Africa–that have been in the European market for the last 25 years are Gloria Orwoba (executive producer), Leoni Jansen (artistic stage director), Oscar Siegela (artistic stage assistant), and Portia Lebohang (dance choreographer), among others.
Meanwhile, preparation for the tour commenced on March 23, 2012 with auditions for singers and dancers at the Kenya National Theatre in Nairobi.Band auditions took place at the same venue on March 26 with training and short list auditions set for March 26-31, 2012 at the same venue.
While rehearsals are scheduled for July 23-September 1, 2012 at Braeburn Theatres in Nairobi’s Lavington neighbourhood, the group is expected to fly out to Europe on September 16, 2012.
But just who are the creative people behind this production?
Producer Peter Ultee is said to be a veteran who has been producing African musical theatre shows for 25 years. He has produced African shows for export from countries such as Senegal, Mali, Guinea, South Africa and Kenya. With his vast experience in the international theatre, Ultee is known for his tours of shows across Europe and has been embraced by the entertainment industry as one of the few producers who produce good quality African shows, and deliver the best that there is in the industry.
Executive producer Gloria Orwoba previously worked for the Nairobi-based Sarakasi Trust before joining Peter Ultee Productions B.V as the Africa Representative. With a background education in Architecture and her experience in international theatre, Gloria brings with her an eclectic approach to managing this theatre production.
Artistic stage director Leoni Jansens skills in the arts, culture and entertainment industry have seen her recognised by various organisations as a master class tutor in various conservatories, Rock academies, and also on television. Jansen has sang on stage with the notable African singers like Busi Mghlongo, Youssou Ndour, Angelique Kidjo, Sinbongile Khumalo, Toumani Diabate, and Muhammud Ahmed. She is recognised for artistically producing the Daughters of Africa musical theatre.
Choreographer Portia Lebohang received her formal dance training skills in Moving Into Dance Mophatong (MIDM) in South Africa. Her first choreography, Let there be peace in 1994), earned her the Most Promising Female Award at the FNB Vita Dance Umbrella. In 1999 her choreography on part-time students presented at the same festival got a Pick of the Stepping Stone award.
Lebohang is known for her creations in various dance pieces such as Mums Man- my father, Blues for Mama, Sea line woman, Lady lady, and Staircase one way up. She is also the choreographer of shows that have toured internationally such as: Sing Africa Dance by Mbongeni Ngema and Jonas Gwangwa. She currently manages the Lebohang Dance Project (LDP), a foundation that she established to focus on issues relating to women, family life and the society in general.
Set designer Andrew Botha, a leading South African stage designer and director, marks 30 years of designing for various aspects of the entertainment industry. In his home country and increasingly abroad, Bothas work is renowned for its dazzling innovative edge, and the sense of fresh originality which is the signature of any project he engages in.
Specialising in large scale design, Botha’s work in the fields of Opera, Ballet, Musicals, Plays, Television Specials and Events continues to draw praise from the public and the mass media, both locally and internationally. Some of Andrews achievements include: two Miss World beauty pageants and the International Indian Film Awards. For Paris based Rios Productions he designed five consecutive shows at Hotel Lotte Busan which led to ten years of further commissions in the Asia Pacific region. Storm, a stage action adventure for Conrad Jupiters in Australia, was acclaimed for its ground-breaking stage effects and technical innovation. Being no stranger to Resorts World, his “wow factor” designs for Fantastica, Mysteria, Fly and Dreamz at Genting’s Pavilion Malaysia strongly established him as a major production asset in the region. In the light of the uniquely creative level on which he continues to operate, it is small wonder Andrew Bothas career has escalated far beyond the boundaries of his homeland, to take the international entertainment arena by storm.
Elizabeth Ouda has worked as a stage hand (Sound of Music, 1997) and then as co-choreographer (Nkosi Sikeleli: Sarafina, 1998). After completing a BA in Politics and International Relations Elizabeth joined the field of professional musical theatre in 2003 at the Kenya National Theatre in Lwanda, Man of Stone, a musical written by singer Eric Wainaina, as Assistant Choreography Director. The musical, was performed under the patronage of Sterling Quality Entertainment Company Limited. Ouda went on to participate in four other musicals with Sterling Quality Entertainment Company Limited; Assistant Artistic Director of the premier showing of Malaika (Kenya National Theatre, 2005), Choreography Director of Aida (Braeburn Theatre, 2006), Director and part of the team that wrote The Sunbirds (Braeburn Theatre, 2006); Director and
script editor of First Dawn (Alliance Franchais, 2007); and Director and part of the writing team for the stage cabaret, Sterling at Ten (Braeburn Theatre 2007).
In 2008 Elizabeth ventured into television working as a production assistant and second assistant director on various productions: Makutano Junction, Junction Juniors, The Weekly Show, and Higher Learning.
Ouda has also worked on the soon to be released feature film, Nairobi Half Life.
Densu Moseti, Production assistant, is a graduate of the Mohamed Amin Foundation TV & Film School and is currently a music production student at the Berklee School of Music. He has worked on the production end of two yet to be released feature films–Nairobi Half Life (2010) and Something Necessary (2011). Together with friends, he runs Matter of Fact Productions, an up-and-coming production house with a key focus on Africans telling their own stories.