Old fashioned romance of ‘Show Boat’ coming to Artscape stage

Old fashioned romance of ‘Show Boat’ coming to Artscape stage

Cape Town Opera’s production of the ever-popular Kern/Hammerstein II musical ‘Show Boat’ opens at the Opera House at Artscape for four performances only from May 16 to 18, prior to the production’s tour to the United Kingdom from July 2 to August 2.
CTO’s production of ‘Show Boat’ has enjoyed several triumphant seasons since its South African premiere in 2005.

PETER TROMP chatted to MAGDALENE MINNAAR, who sings the role of Southern Belle Magnolia Hawkes in the production.

When did you discover your love of opera?
I’ve been a singer and performer most of my life, partly because my parents exposed me to theatre and classical music from an early age. I remember seeing ‘Lucia di Lammermoor’ with them when I was in grade 2, and thinking, “I want to sing that!” I played a couple of instruments growing up, in many orchestras and ensembles. I think this fundamentally made me grow as a musician from quite an early age, and prepped me for a career as a singer.

Which achievements in your career are you most proud of?
I’m very proud of pretty much everything I do – I tend to believe that if I don’t love what I’m busy with, I shouldn’t be doing it. I’m not scared of taking risks so I’ve also done some very diverse things – playing around in different genres and so on. Singing Christine in ‘Phantom of the Opera’ was obviously a huge step up in my career, as well as being a soloist in productions like Sean Bovim’s ‘Queen at the Ballet’, Deon Opperman’s ‘Die Skepping’ and Nicola Hanekom’s ‘Land van Skedels’. It’s hard to choose one above the rest. I really love acting and singing and while I’m doing a show I always think, “This is the best.”

Tell us about ‘Show Boat’. What can audiences look forward to with the show?
Oh, it’s a marvelous old fashioned romance with a huge amount of comedy and tragedy. It really is such a multi-faceted story – and it certainly rings true in South Africa, where we understand the complexity of race-discrimination. It’s also a really strong plight for women – a lot of women get hurt in the story, and for some it ends really sadly. The story is both real and very, very entertaining.

It’s only in musicals and operas that we get to see truly large casts these days on stage, but at 48 members ‘Show Boat’s’ cast is truly voluminous. What is it like being a part of a cast of characters that large?
This is the most incredibly talented cast. It’s really an honour being a part of such a huge pool of talent on stage. Everyone brings their characters to life with such gusto and colour. Even the understudies are fantastic.

Tell us about your character and how you have gone about preparing for the role.
Magnolia Hawkes is a real Southern Belle – unscarred by the sun, world and men – mostly so by her over-protective mother. Her situation is a juxtaposition though – she grows up on this “show” boat where acting, actors and all the frivolity and drama is part of her reality, and in the end all she really wants to do is to act.
In preparing for the role, I had to do some serious work on the southern accent – it’s not an easy one to perfect. It’s also an old-fashioned story, with certain airs and graces of the period that you have to observe. And then there is the part of “acting an actress”, which can be really interesting.

Janice Honeyman is primarily known as a theatre director. What’s it like working with her on a musical/opera production?
So far it’s really been amazing working with her. She really knows the work inside out, and known exactly where she wants it to go, but she gives us a lot of freedom and space to explore the characters. She is always open to suggestions and takes a lot of time to ensure that we are “comfortable” in our roles. She is extremely musical and sensitive – in spoken lines the words come alive, and in the songs the music comes alive, yet always staying true to the lyrics. It sounds easy but it’s really hard work!

Opera seems to have undergone a resurgence of sorts in popularity. What would you attribute that to?
I think the fact that companies like Cape Town Opera making a huge effort to get school children and younger audiences interested in opera is a big factor. Also, the glamour of “going to the opera” as an alternative to going to the movies or just sitting at home watching series is really becoming more and more attractive to people. The level of talent also seems to be improving over the years, which of course makes shows better and better for the audience.

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