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Leah Mari and Ntlantla Swana ready to showcase their new musicals

Leah Mari. Picture: Supplied

Leah Mari. Picture: Supplied

Published Nov 7, 2021

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A multi-instrumentalist, composer and arranger Ntlantla Swana and singer, pianist and musical theatre performer Leah Mari, have been named this year’s winners of the ’Cabaret And Beyond’ (CAB) writing competition.

The winners will each receive financial assistance and dramaturgical support to finish their one-act musicals.

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These musicals will then receive a professional staging with a Durban based cast and creative team who start rehearsals in February.

The shows will premiere at the Mandela Bay Theatre Complex, Gqeberha and then return to Durban for a short season. A national tour is also in the pipeline.

“What a pleasure to see this new writing project come to fruition with such overwhelming success. New musical theatre is a 'hard sell’ for local audiences who are unfamiliar with this aspect of the genre, but they fell hook, line and sinker,” says Roland Perold, curator and project manager of the Cabaret and Beyond Festival.

Twenty-one composers dazzled auditions with their authentic new works at CAB festival that concluded on October 16, Seabrooke Theatre in Durban.

“We congratulate Ntlantla Swana and Leah Mari as the winners identified to receive grants for further development.

“As partners with the Nelson Mandela Bay Theatre complex, we believe that we have an ideal product that will grow the capacity of new composers and attract audiences to return to live theatre after 18 months of a national lockdown.

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“We are also confident that the curation and artistic direction led by Roland Perold is vital for the future growth of South African musical theatre”, says Ismail Mahomed. director of the Centre for Creative Arts.

Commenting on her big win, Leah Mari says she’s ready to embrace the experience to the fullest.

“I still can't believe that this is a reality. I think when it comes to new musical theatre in South Africa, the support isn't as great as when the classics are put on. Really, Dr Mahomed is changing theatre in South Africa by supporting new creators. I’m so humbled and ready to learn from this experience,” Mari says.

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She says: “Winning the CAB festival is very much my debut in the composing world.

“I’ve been performing for as long as I can remember and I’m currently a musical theatre student at the incredible Lamta (Luitingh Alexander Musical Theatre Academy) in Cape Town.

“But the CAB festival has given me an opportunity to focus on my original work.

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“As the youngest participant in the CAB festival and now, one of the winners, it stands in support of the idea that the youth are so much more powerful than we think. Age plays no role in creativity and the magic of theatre. I see this as an opportunity to present a youthful perspective to our industry.

“I’m so looking forward to developing my work thanks to the CAB festival. This is an invaluable opportunity and I am filled with gratitude!”

As for Swana, winning this award means “new and endless possibilities” to showcase her work.

“It means I'll be able to reach new audiences with my work. It also means that I'm doing something right. As artists, our work can be very personal, and the focus is not on the awards. But winning this award means other people relate to my story, my work and journey,” Swana says.

“There were too many amazing composers in our group, so for the judges to see me fit to win, I feel very honoured.

“I literally screamed in Roland’s ear when he told me the news over the phone. I couldn’t believe it. I pride myself on the work that I do. So I was glad that other people (judges) also saw it worthy of winning. It was a beautiful moment for me, really.”

For more info about the projects and the new winner please visit Cab Festival.

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