It's not about colour, says first black woman to play Janet Weiss in The Rocky Horror Show
To award winning actress Didintle Khunou, being the first black woman cast as Janet Weiss in the rock 'n' roll musical The Rocky Horror Show is not about her skin colour.
Best known for her portrayal of Celie in the multi-award-winning musical The Color Purple at the Joburg Theatre, Khunou told The Star that she felt honoured and that to her it was not about race.
“I don’t really like to make it about the race thing because I think the creators of the show in London liked what they saw and they thought I was the best person to do the job, but yes, it is an honour,” she said.
The famous musical, being performed at The Teatro at Montecasino until March 1, tells the story of Brad and his fiancée Janet, two squeaky clean college students who meet Dr Frank-N-Furter by chance when their car breaks down outside his house.
Since it opened at the Royal Court Theatre Upstairs in London in 1973, Richard O’Brien’s The Rocky Horror Show has become one of the world’s favourite rock ‘* ’ roll musicals, having been performed in more than 30 countries and translated into at least 20 languages.
Khunou was approached by one of the creative directors of the production, who had heard about her stellar reviews in The Color Purple.
Khunou and the rest of the cast, which includes Craig Urbani as Dr Frank-N-Furter and Anthony Downing as Brad, rehearsed in Cape Town for a month before the show had its run there in December.
“I played around with different pitches of my voice and it also meant that I had to get accustomed to dancing, using my body for the stage musical theatre-style and singing in a different register,” she said.
She explained her character begins the story of a wide-eyed student who had the American Dream and meets Dr Frank-N-Furter and realises that her capacity for greatness is far beyond what she was told she could achieve.
She added that the show was also a love letter to the LGBTQ+ community, one she was proudly part of, and how people can use their sexual identities as a form of self-discovery and to inspire others to be like the mantra of the show, which is Don’t dream it. Be it.