Three theatre premieres set for weekend

‘Tinga Tinga Tales’ set to run through September at KNT ahead of show in New York.

King Lion (Eddy Kimani) announces Festival of Colors during Tinga Tinga Tales opening tonight. PHOTO | MARGARETTA WA GACHERU 

IN SUMMARY

  • ‘Tinga Tinga Tales’ set to run through September at KNT ahead of show in New York.

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There’s lots of theatre to choose from this weekend. And if you manage your time well, you can get to all three shows, which I suspect will be well worth the effort.

There’s Heartstrings’ Now or Never at Alliance Francaise which runs through Sunday. Then, Prevail Arts Productions, under Wanjiku Mwawuganga’s adept direction, will stage Cords and Discords at Braeburn Theatre on Sunday afternoon.

There will only be that one chance to see what could be Martin Kigondu’s best productions thus far. It’s a two-hander starring Veronica Wacuke and Valentine Zikki, both gifted actresses who we have not seen on stage for some time.

Then at Kenya National Theatre, Tinga Tinga Tales the Musical premieres tonight and will run through the whole of September before the cast heads to New York City where they will perform and be the star attraction at the New Victory Theatre.

Today is also the last day to get the special discount on tickets for the show, although Capital FM is giving away a freebie every day. And schools also get special rates.

I can’t help underscoring the value of seeing the artistic genius, originality and marvelous magic of Tinga Tinga Tales the Musical. It’s true that Nairobians have been fortunate in the past two years to have seen a whole range of popular musicals which were highly polished, thanks to groups like Aperture Africa and Nairobi Performing Arts Studio. But as professional as they have been, the scripts and even the music have been brought in from abroad, either from London’s West End or Broadway. Sarafina originated in South Africa, of course, but its big break came when the show made it to Broadway.

But in the case of Tinga Tinga Tales, all the music has been composed by Kenya’s own Eric Wainaina. What’s more all of it is performed live, with Wainaina’s own band fully integrated into the production.

The story is based on African folktales and everyone from the choreographer and set designer to the cast and crew are Kenyans.

The costuming, which is dazzling, has been fashioned by the Kenyanised-Scot Ann McCreath of KikoRomeo. It’s also ingenious, given the characters are all jungle creatures, each of which requires some sort of appendage to make you understand that for instance, Elsaphan Njora is a Tortoise, Eddy Kimani is the King Lion, Atemi Oyungu is a Hippo, Ray Kibet in the Elephant, Kendi Nkonge as Queen Bee and Nyokabi Macharia is the Giraffe.

And for those who may have seen the original Tinga Tinga Tales the Musical when it was first staged at The Elephant almost two year ago, please be assured you will see a qualitatively different production than the first time round.

The original Tinga Tinga Tales was also magical, also ingenious and musically sublime. But there are significant difference between then and now. Just being at the National Theatre is a big bonus although the producers worked hard to ensure that all the technical features of the show, from the sound to the lighting worked perfectly, especially as there’s quite a bit of playful interaction between the cast and the audience.

The original cast was outstanding but the one you will see from tonight through next month will be practically brand new. And the voices! Starting with Wainaina’s, one has to agree that the quality of singing this season is often spine-tingling. You must go see and hear for yourself.

And the fact that Wainaina has added five special songs, which are mainly sung in ensembles is also special. The other thing that won’t be in short supply are the rainbow colours that play a key role in the story.

The animals are actually preparing for their annual Festival of Colours and according to King Lion, every animal must give a performance during the fete. As it turns out, everyone who has his or her turn performs to a different genre of music.

There are marvelous surprises in the process of preparations, particularly with the Giraffe (Nyokabi Macharia), the Chameleon (Alvan Gatitu) and even with the Monkey (Wainaina). This production is pure entertainment, the sort that will enchant the child in everyone, be he/she five, 15 or 50.

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