Latoya Newman

THE 14TH annual production of the Young Performers Project (YPP), Footloose, which runs from today until July 13 at the UKZN Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre.

Presented by the Performing Arts Network of South Africa (Pansa) in KwaZulu-Natal; the KZN Department of Arts and Culture KZN, and RCL Foods, Footloose will be directed by Themi Venturas.

Footloose tells the story of a rebellious city teenager, Ren (played by Rendani Mufamadi), who moves to a small town where rock music and dancing have been banned by the conservative Reverend Shaw Moore (Bradley Marshall) and the town council. Ren leads the young people of the town, including Moore’s rebellious daughter Ariel (Carla Johnson), in a protest against the town’s banning of the annual dance.

Tonight caught up with Venturas to find out more about this, his ninth YPP production. Footloose also sees him re-united with Daisy Spencer (choreographer) and Des Govender (vocal coach) with whom he worked on the previous YPPs, Hairspray and Legally Blonde.

The YPP ensures that pupils get a taste of working in the professional musical theatre arena with professional theatre practitioners.

“We held auditions for two weekends in April, one in the Midlands and one in Durban. Out of a total of 300 kids, we ended up choosing 40. The competition this year was very strong,” he explained.

Venturas said Footloose was selected for this year’s showcase because it is a youthful story. “Whenever I’ve done the Young Performers Project over the years I’ve tried to either create a piece or use a piece that actually has great parts for young people, and a situation where not too many of them are playing adults. So that when we play it, it doesn’t feel as if it’s a high school show, it feels like this is the way the show is supposed to be.

“The story really is about young people standing up for rights, so essentially it’s also about freedom and it’s about the kind of everyday conflicts between the older and younger generations. I think the kids relate a lot to what is in the show, so (it’s a) perfect vehicle for getting them involved,” he said.

Commenting on the team of creatives for this year, Venturas added: “Daisy, myself and Des form quite a strong team and we work well together so I didn’t have any hesitation about inviting them to join me on this particular production. I also brought in Luke Holder who is a very capable musician and musical director. He happens to be a teacher at Westville Boys High. He is handling the band… This year for the first time we’ve got a mix of a couple of professionals and kids in the band.

“Michael Broderick is designing the lights and he’s one of the best designers in the region. Black Coffee Productions are building the set and setting up the technical side of things. So it’s a very strong Durban-based professional team that is giving the kids a first-class professional experience that will either help them to decide whether this game is something for them or not.”

Every year the YPP includes some professionals in the show. “The reason for that is to provide great role models for the kids to play next to, it also helps them up their game because now they have to compete with the guys who are in the game for real. This year our emerging professionals are Bradley Marshall, who last appeared as a Young Performer himself in The Whiz, and Rendandi Mufamadi, who last appeared in Legally Blonde. We’ve brought him on to play the lead role of Ren. He is going to be utterly fantastic in the future,” elated Venturas.

He added that Pansa is grateful to the Department of Arts and Culture which has agreed to support the project for the next three years.

“Gracious thanks too to sponsors RCL Foods (Rainbow Chicken); Business and Arts South Africa; Black Coffee for wonderful technical support and the UKZN Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre.”

The show will run at the UKZN Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre from July 1 to 13. Booking through Computicket. See Boardwalk on Page 8 for details on preview and block-booking specials.