Despite his years in the industry, juggling TV, film and theatre, Craig Urbani remains one of the most humble actors you will encounter.
His passion for acting is unmistakable, especially when he unpacks his latest role.
I recently caught up with Urbani to chat about “The Sound of Music”, which comes to The Teatro at Montecasino after a successful festive season run at the Artscape Opera in Cape Town.
Urbani said the experience of the show’s run in the Mother City was amazing.
He explained: “It was the right show for that time of year and the right version of the show. We got out for pictures and stuff, which I quite enjoyed doing. I had so many people walking up to me saying: ‘We were laughing, crying and feeling everything.’
“It was just such a beautiful show. The story was so clear and so beautifully told. I think we are doing a good version of the show and it landed well.”
He added: “The expectations coming here, it’s not the busiest time of the year to be putting a show on, but yesterday, we got news of an extension, which can only mean that tickets are selling well, which is great.”
Interestingly, this isn’t Urbani’s first time slipping into the skin of Von Trapp.
“You know, I did the same show several years ago in KwaZulu-Natal. It was the same period, over December. Facebook has been throwing up memories; there was me with different children, in different outfits, doing the very same thing.
“But for some reason and maybe this can be accredited to our director, Steven Stead, he managed to get the piece’s beauty and bring out the love story and the children and everything that makes it beautiful and tangible.
“This is what is elevating this version. The sort of ominous feel and this tension in the production that has been lacking in the previous version as they went for the schmaltz.”
This is the first time Urbani is working with Stead and it does seem like a wonderful fit if the reception of the show so far is anything to go by.
“I’ve always known of him but we’ve never worked together before. I met him a few times and I’ve seen his work. He created a safe and creative rehearsal room.
“Everybody had a clear definition of what was expected. It was also very well cast and, as a result, a very light and creative process. Everyone is getting on beautifully.
“I think that comes from the top down, from the director. And everyone was privileged to have performed to full houses.”
Aside from singing Stead’s praises, Urbani couldn’t stop raving about his fellow actors, too.
He said: “I will call this one a hit in terms of the personalities being assembled. The same can be said for what they brought to the characters.
“We have the most beautiful Marias, there are two of them, one is an alternate, Leah Mari, who is doing a fantastic job. Then we have Brittany Smith (Maria), who is a rising star in Cape Town, doing this superb job.
“This woman’s voice is out of this world, which is essential for this part. You know Julie Andrews set the bar high.
“Nadia Beukes, I don’t know why this woman doesn't do more theatre, she is busy being a social media fundi and a mom and a wife. But she is a dream. She kind of floats around the stage as the baroness.”
He continued: “They managed to find William Berger, who has really made something of his character, Max. But this time, you will love him.
“He has a line in the show that says: ‘You can’t hate me, I’m too lovable.’ And he is absolutely right.
“And then, with any run, anywhere in the world that is staging ‘The Sound of Music’ should have Janelle Visagie playing Mother Abbess. She is the anchor.
“She has already won an award for this role. This is her third time in the role. She just keeps getting better and better, not that it was possible.
“ She is quite extraordinary and when she sings ‘Climb Ev’ry Mountain’, you cry.”
Still on “Binnelanders”, Urbani added: “They have worked around my schedules. It has always been a treat.”
As for his upcoming projects, he hinted that a movie he auditioned for pre-Covid is back on the cards but it was too early to talk about it.
At the moment, he’s enjoying the privilege of being able to do theatre and TV.
“I have a tremendous love for both genres and they fulfil me in different ways.”
Where: The Teatro, Montecasino.
When: January 27 to February 25 at 7.30pm.
Cost: Ticket prices vary between R200 to R550. Book through Webtickets.
“Nandi the Musical”
This international production, celebrating the life of Princess Nandi of Elangeni, is a must-see at Soweto Theatre from January 25 to 28.
The musical, centred on the principles of gender equality with responsibility, tells the inspiring story of Princess Nandi’s unwavering commitment, courage and decisive leadership.
It follows the incredible journey of Princess Nandi during her “exile”, and her steadfast devotion to raising her son, Shaka, with love, discipline and obedience.
The portrayal of finding a suitable mentor in iNkosi Dingiswayo adds depth to the narrative, showcasing the challenges and triumphs faced by Princess Nandi.
The musical features a talented cast of 28 professional performers, predominantly females, accompanied by a six-piece band.
Ntokozo Ngcobo, acclaimed for her role as the Queen in “Ifalakhe”, takes on the lead role as Nandi, while the revered Dr Gcina Mhlophe provides the voice-over narration for Old Nandi.
Zawadi Yamungu (Nkosingiphile Mpanza), Velile Makhoba and Nontokozo Mkhize also feature in the production.
The musical is written and directed by award-winning and internationally acclaimed artistic director, Edmund Mhlongo, who is also the founder of K-CAP and Ekhaya Multi Arts Centre.
Where: Gibson Kente Theatre at Soweto Theatre.
When: January 25 to 28 at 6pm. The Sunday show is at 3pm.
Cost: Tickets cost R150 and can be purchased from Webtickets.