ACTION-PACKED: A scene from Tsotsi The Musical, which is about a hardened township criminal whose life changes.Picture: Jesse Kramer
ACTION-PACKED: A scene from Tsotsi The Musical, which is about a hardened township criminal whose life changes.Picture: Jesse Kramer
ACTION-PACKED: A scene from Tsotsi The Musical, which is about a hardened township criminal whose life changes.Picture: Jesse Kramer
ACTION-PACKED: A scene from Tsotsi The Musical, which is about a hardened township criminal whose life changes.Picture: Jesse Kramer
There are stories that are simply timeless. Athol Fugard’s Tsotsi is one of them. And now the book has been adapted for the theatre in what will be the premiere of this show.

Titled Tsotsi The Musical, the production takes on a very different approach to the 2005 Oscar-winning Gavin Hood film that starred Presley Chweneyagae and Terry Pheto.

The musical tells the story of Tsotsi, a hardened township criminal whose life changes forever after a bungled mugging leaves him caring for a stranger’s baby. With music composed by singer-songwriter Zwai Bala, book and lyrics by Mkhululi Mabija, this gritty, contemporary musical adaptation is directed by award winners Neil Coppen and Khayelihle Dominique Gumede.

Set design is by Michael Mitchell and Neil Coppen, while choreography for the production is by Standard Bank Young Artist for 2017 Thandazile “Sonia” Radebe. Kobus Rossouw takes care of the lighting and costumes are by Noluthando Lobese.

It promises to be a flair-filled affair, with a cast made up of hip-hop artist Mxolisi “Zuluboy” Majozi who stars as the musical’s main character, with a supporting cast that includes Bianca le Grange, Msizi Njapha, Busisiwe Ngejane, Katlego Letsholonyana, Thembisile Ntaka, Thembalethu Zwele, Kgomotso 'MoMo' Matsunyane, Royston Stoffels, Lindani Nkosi, Ayanda Nhlangothi and Nhlanhla Mahlangu.

Speaking to the Cape Times, Afrosoul vocalist Thembisile Ntaka was in high spirits - a clear indicator to just how well the preparation for the production must be going. Ntaka also revealed that while many may not be aware of this, she’s done extensive theatre work abroad.

“I am really excited because every time I do theatre, it’s shows overseas. This is my first show in the country. I’m particularly excited because I believe it’s about time that local audiences get the chance to see me as more than just a soulful vocalist,” she said.

She did a Miriam Makeba tribute, a show called African Mamas. It’s been running for about nine years. Ntaka explained that this open audition would be her first foray into the world of theatre.

But her love for the stage she can trace back to when she was growing up in KwaZulu-Natal. She credits her older sister with introducing her to the theatre many years ago.

“I’ve always wanted to be in theatre. It’s my older sister that first introduced me to it. We would go to the Playhouse (in Durban) and the production showing at the time was uMabatha. After that first time seeing the show, all I wanted to know was ‘What do I have to do to be a part of this?’”

While her professional career may have started with her winning a reality singing competition many, many moons ago, it seems the vocal powerhouse’s life journey has brought her where she’s always wanted to be, to the theatre.

In Tsotsi, she plays the role of Adedola, a multifaceted woman who’s out for revenge. The role, Ntaka said, has challenged her in many ways, but she’s certain that it will bring her growth.

“She is very dramatic, calculating and has extreme mood changes and personality changes. She’s poised, she is a woman but she also displays a certain amount of softness to the people that she cares about-and those that have always been loyal to her,” Ntaka said describing Adedola.

She explains that her inspiration for this character came from observing actresses like Linda Sebezo.

“The biggest challenge with playing this role has been playing schizo. I have to switch between moods very quickly. But the support that I have received has been so amazing. Working with Dom and Neil (directors) is great. They are patient and allow me the space to contribute to the growth of my character and how I portray her.

"Playing this role has showed me that I am ready to push myself professionally. Some day I want to branch into television acting and presenting and this theatre stint is teaching me so much about myself and I am so grateful for that.

“Ringo Madlingozi was my mentor for a very long time. He taught me things about the music industry that I am now able to understand better and use them now in theatre.

“It’s not just standing on stage and saying whatever your lines are, it's having to learn how to use your tone of voice, understanding the meaning of what you’re saying, and that’s going to push me to become a better artist even after the show."

Being a singer first, Ntaka explained that working with Zwai Bala is like coming full circle for her.

“Zwai has been my dad from the beginning. He was the judge that came to my home for the very first time when I was 21 years old. And now to be working with him in a theatre production has me now trying to represent, so that he doesn’t end up saying: ‘Hawu Thembisile you still sound the same!’ And I really believe the music he’s created here will blow people away,” she said.

Tsotsi The Musical is different from the film and promises to be a story that tackles the social ills that we face today, like poverty, migration, violence and the path to redemption - with fitting music and dazzling choreography to match.

* Tsotsi The Musical is presented by the Cape Town Opera and will be at the Artscape Theatre from February 8 to February 17. Tickets are available from Computicket.