Following are my experiences of a musical play currently seen at State Theatre, Pretoria. It's about the life and career of Brenda Fassie, a South African vocalist who was arguably the most popular artist in the history of the country.

First viewing

The first night was the best experience I've so far had in my stage play experience. It was electrifying and the audience agreed with me, with a few goose-bumps here and there. It's amazing how larger-than-life one person can be made. It brought me much appreciation of South African art, that there's such a rich culture to export.

So what are some the elements that made me so excited, the first time around:

  • lead performance: I gained new-found respect for Lesego Motsepe, who is famous for her long career in Isidingo, a soapie generally regarded as South Africa's best; the director even mentioned that someone stated that she wasn't LIKE Brenda, but rather, she WAS Brenda; the result of the voice training she went through was amazing, because she really sounded like her character
  • music: the compositions were remixed, and the live band bringing it alive rocked; I wish it would get recorded because some of it were improvements on the originals
  • dancers: though the dancing merely okay, their energy was tops, especially the guys, and the quality of the choreography also helped
  • costume design: what the dancers had to wear was mostly impressive, and often offered an accurate display of dressing styles through a bit of South Africa's past
  • backing vocalists: wonderful, notably the fat guy, who had a tiny moment to act, which was hilarious
  • extra emotion: well, Bongani Fassie, Brenda's son, pitched on stage unscheduled, and even joined the lead performer to sing "Too Late for Mama"
  • miscellaneous: a bunch of scenes and moments are too many to mention

The fact that this was opening night may have helped a lot, as well as close to sold-out venue. Now, the shitty thing about stage is that such moments can't be replicated, and even though it may have been recorded, it's just not the same.

Second viewing

The revisit was something else. The attendance was really bad this time around (a Thursday after Friday's opening night):

  • lead performance: she was probably tired and/or discouraged by the small and unresponsive crowd; she mostly didn't even try to sound like Brenda
  • music: there's wasn't a degradation, so kudos!
  • dancing: less energy, and that there were fallen beads on stage probably didn't help
  • costume design: same shit, so nothing to say here
  • backing vocalists: wonderful, but the fat guy was just reciting his words this time
  • extra emotion: well, the Bongani Fassie thing can't be replicated
  • miscellaneous: no surprises, nothing new worth mentioning

Third viewing

I went to see this for the third time, this time on a Saturday, so the audience was much bigger than last time, and the show was far better, making me a little bit obsessed.

  • lead performance: she did better than last time, but maybe not as good as the first night
  • music: I recall enjoying the previous moments better, maybe because I got used to it
  • dancing: the energy seemed as high as the first time around, and I enjoyed it more (I really the super-cool guys at the jazz club)
  • costume design: same shit, so nothing to say here
  • backing vocalists: the nice fat guy was replaced by a less interesting one
  • extra emotion: I kept getting (unbearable) attention from one dancer, since I was on the front row seats; I guess she wanted to steal the show, and I didn't allow her (she was unrelenting) so I shifted my attention away
  • miscellaneous: the kids called up on stage were much more fun than on previous occasions