Andile Gumbi has every right to be proud of his role in King Kong: The Musical, which has been receiving five-star reviews.

Andile Gumbi’s most prominent roles conjure images of the jungle. First Simba and now King Kong. 

But if the sold-out run and glowing reviews of King Kong: The Musical are anything to go by, Gumbi has every right to beat his chest about the production making its way to the concrete jungle this month.

From September 12, King Kong: The Musical will be at the Joburg Theatre.

“You have no idea how good that feels,” Gumbi says as he reflects on the success of the production so far. “When we first embarked on this project with director Jonathan Munby, he told us all about what he had to go through to get the rights to King Kong.”

“We had a workshop-type of process where instead of him, as a director, telling us ‘Do this, go here, go there’, it was more of a sit-down process where we scrutinise and analyse the script. And we had our own input as cast members.”

“To have everybody see the show the way it is, be proud and give us five-star reviews is a huge compliment to the actors, producers, director and everyone involved. We’re extremely happy.”

King Kong: The Musical will be making its way back to Cape Town after a run at the Mandela Theatre inside the Joburg Theatre this month. Gumbi stars as Ezekiel Dlamini, a boxer of considerable talent who renames himself King Kong.

A new production of ‘King Kong the Musical. Picture: Daniel Rutland Manners

Dlamini falls in love, but being the hothead that he is, murders his girlfriend in a fit of rage. Remorseful for his actions, he begs the judge to give him the death penalty but he is sentenced to life in prison instead. Shortly after he begins his sentence, Dlamini is found dead in jail.

King Kong: The Musical is the story of the triumphant rise and turbulent fall of an incredible boxer. The musical has a few moving numbers and Gumbi finds it easy to name his favourite.

“The song that I enjoy singing the most is the last song which is called The Death Song,” he says.

“It’s when King Kong is pleading with the judge to kill him, to give him the death penalty. The judge doesn’t want to kill him, he gives him a life sentence. It’s my favourite to sing because the other songs are quite jolly and this particular song has a lot of deep emotions connected to it; I have to tap into a lot of emotions. It’s very challenging.”

Theatre in general is a challenge Gumbi feels privileged to rise to.

It’s evident in King Kong: The Musical and in The Lion King.

King Kong cast. Picture: Daniel Rutland Manners

“The troubles that follow Simba are vastly different from those that follow King Kong. There is a tragedy that happens in Simba’s life and he runs away, thinking he’s running away from his problems. But he has to return to reclaim what is rightfully his.

“Whereas King Kong sets himself up for his downfall. He thinks he’s the greatest and has this bravado and larger-than-life confidence and cockiness. His decisions go sideways. He falls head over heels in love so much so that he is obsessed. So it’s been great to play such different characters.”

Fans of Gumbi were gutted when he exited popular TV show, Isibaya, but he believes he will be back on the small screen soon.

“I’d love to go back to TV. I had so much fun. TV and theatre are so different. I was having so much fun with Isibaya, I could have stayed for a very long time. The reason I left was because I found King Kong the perfect project for me. Theatre is my first love. But I do plan to go back to TV at the right time.”

King Kong: The Musical will be at the Mandela Theatre inside the Joburg Theatre from September 12 to October 8.

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