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With the staging of the musical Hot Mikado, the Faculty of Dance and Musical Theatre of Pretoria’s Oakfields College announced their presence with an artistic wallop which oozes high hopes for the future. Paul Boekkooi attended a performance and found out more about their mission regarding this specialised wing in tertiary education.
It can’t be denied: musicals are the most popular form of theatrical entertainment and worldwide it’s a growing industry.
Nearly two years ago the Oakfields College Faculty of Dance and Musical Theatre was established after a significant number of specialised lecturers left the Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) to start a new venture – not only combining specialised talent-based training, but also preparing students for the challenges facing them in the real world after graduating.
Although based on The Mikado by Gilbert and Sullivan, Hot Mikado was adapted by David H Bell and Rob Bowman into a Forties’ show where swing, jazz and a feast of toe-tapping dancing is combined with updated levels of sharp wit and social comment, remaining as relevant today as it originally was.
Elizma Badenhorst, the show’s brilliant director and costume designer, has an acute eye for, and the kind of flexibility to establish a contemporary feel in a show which might otherwise be predictable or even mouldy. Instead it is totally up to date, with one important exception: it adheres to the tuneful, lavishly staged formulas and quick-witted interpersonal communication of the past, but this time even better crafted and substantial, and, added to it, a cutting edge that will fully entertain 21st-century audiences.
Rowan Bakker, the musical director who had some of our very best musos at his disposal, did some amazing things with many (if not yet all) of the characters which were predominantly natural vocal artists. Jaco van Rensburg’s solid and at times very original choreography ensured the dancing had an overall distinctive style as well as charm. It was well received.
Jackie Rens, head of this faculty at Oakfields, confirmed that a great number of previous TUT lecturers joined this new venture. Many of them were renowned specialists in their field, most of them over many decades. In an interview with her it became clear that creativity, specialisation in a wide field in dance and musical theatre, as well as dedication, is what inspires the Oakfields teaching staff collectively.
“It’s an industry-aimed course where, above the skills the students must achieve, they must also know the ins and outs of the market place. It’s a tough three-year course combining various disciplines like acting, singing, dancing, choreography and directing. The drop-out percentage, especially in the first year, is high,” says Rens.
Their approach is not academically driven, but rather focuses on the highest possible level of artistic achievements international musical theatre demands.
• Student numbers are limited. Those who feel a calling will have to do auditions. Those for next year’s intake are held on Saturday at 10am. For further details e-mail jackier@oaksfields college.co.za or phone 012 361 0416.