Lilla Fleischmann lived up to expectations as Annie. Picture: C Kotze

South African theatre came under the spotlight at the weekend, with the announcement of the Naledi Theatre Award nominations for 2017.

This showed that South African theatre remains a healthy, growing industry and, despite the tough economic climate, audiences flocked to see a variety of productions staged in Gauteng in 2016.

At a function held at the Market Theatre, nominees were announced in 27 categories, ranging from musical theatre to straight drama and from children’s theatre to cutting-edge, breakthrough performances.

New playwrights and productions were honoured and classics such as Singing in the Rain and Annie were revisited with great success.

A young Cape Town actress, 12-year-old Lilla Fleischmann, became the youngest Naledi nominee for her role in Annie.

She told Tonight: “I am so appreciative to be nominated for such a prestigious award and am thankful to everyone who helped me get where I am today.

“Being Annie was the most incredible experience. I learnt so many new things and met so many special people.

“I really identified with Annie’s personality – optimistic and determined.”

Productions that received a number of nominations included: iLembe (eight), Scorched (seven), Suddenly the Storm (six), DOP (six), Six Characters in Search of an Author (five) and I See You (five).

Earl Gregory as Joseph in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, which received nine Naledi Theatre Award Nominations.

Shrek: The Musical received no fewer than 10 nominations, while Annie and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat each received nine nominations.

The Afrikaans musical, Altyd in My Drome, received seven nominations and Singin’ in the Rain, six.

Renowned playwrights such as Paul Slabolepszy, Mike van Graan, Small Ndaba, Phyllis Klotz and Sylvaine Strike are well featured, while fresh names such as Matsemela Manaka (Egoli), Thabiso T Rammala (TAU), Mongiwekhaya Mthombeni

(I See You), Wajdi Mouawad (Scorched) and Joanna Evans (The Year Of the Bicycle) received nods of recognition.

The young, breakthrough talent nominees are Aubrey Mogali (Narrative Dreams), Dean-John Smith and Edwin van der Walt (both in A Cock and Bull Story) Ezbie Sebatsa Moilwa (The Dying Screams of the Moon) and Phillru van Achterbergh (Porselein).

In the running for the Best Performance in a Play: Female category honours are Busisiwe Busi Zofuka (Ubu and the Truth Commission), Busisiwe Nyyundu (iLembe), Sandra Prinsloo (Oskar en die Pienk Tannie) and Ilse Klink (Scorched), while the men who were nominated include theatre stalwarts Andrew Buckland (Tobacco and the Harmful Effects Thereof) and Desmond Dube (I See You).

Now in its thirteenth year, the Naledi Theatre Awards reflect the vibrant and diverse nature of the South African theatrical landscape that exists today.

With 187 nominees out of over 100 productions seen by the panel of 25 judges, as well as Life Time Achievement Awards, the World Impact Award, Lesedi Spirit of Courage Award and National TV coverage, they are the premiere awards for theatre excellence in South Africa.