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A sprinkling of Disney magic is in the Joburg air at the moment, after the international creative team touched down over the weekend to oversee rehearsals for the local stage production of Beauty and the Beast. The all-South African cast started rehearsing in Linbro Park yesterday, in preparation for the grand opening of this captivating family musical at Montecasino’s Teatro in October. It moves to Artscape in Cape Town in January 2009, before embarking on an overseas tour.

Ann Hould-Ward received a Tony Award for the awe-inspiring costumes she designed for the original Broadway production of Beauty and the Beast, and local audiences will be privileged to witness first-hand the delightfully creative and innovative outfits that have been specially flown in from abroad for use on the SA production. Imagine the challenge of making enchanted household objects such as a wardrobe, a teapot and a clock look recognisable while not inhibiting the movements of the actors that play these characters – and you may have some idea of the ingenuity and skill that went into designing their costumes. In dreaming up these amazing ensembles to transport children and adults into a fantasy world, Hould-Ward was aided by an extremely demanding and discerning potential audience member – her 11-year-old daughter, Leah.

Now that the international creative team has arrived, the South African production is set to start shaping up and assuming the sparkle that has become the hallmark of this Broadway musical, which has already charmed more than 35 million people in 13 countries around the world. Having both taken the world by storm in Cats some years ago, Anton Luitingh and Talia Kodesh are now reuniting to play the lead roles. Having both taken the world by storm in Cats some years ago, Anton Luitingh and Talia Kodesh are 


 Luitingh, one of the country’s most talented and versatile young actors, has been cast in the covetedLuitingh, one of the country’s most talented and versatile young actors, has been cast in the coveted role of the Beast in this hit Broadway musical, produced in South Africa by Toerien and Hazel Feldman.

The stage adaptation of this enchanting family musical, based on the Oscar-winning Disney animated film, opens at the Teatro at Montecasino in October 2008, and moves to the Artscape Opera in Cape Town in January 2009.

Belle, the young woman held captive by the Beast and the only one with the power to free him from an evil spell will be played by Kodesh. This radiant, dynamic young actress has made an indelible mark on the South African musical theatre scene since graduating from Pretoria Technikon’s acclaimed musical theatre course in 2001. After impressing in Toerien’s international touring production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats, Kodesh brought the house down night after night as Ozzie Osborne in Hazel Feldman’s We Will Rock You, and subsequently played the female lead, Scaramouche, in the international touring production of the same musical. She went on to play the tragic Mimi Marquez in Feldman’s South African production of Rent in 2007, and also appeared in Chicago – The Musical this year.

Coincidentally, Luitingh was also involved in Feldman’s Rent and Chicago – as resident director and understudy in both cases – suggesting that the two Beauty and the Beast stars already share a rapport that will no doubt add an extra dimension to their performances. Luitingh has, however, been quietly dazzling the country for a while – ever since graduating cum laude with a BA Honours in Drama from the University of Stellenbosch 10 years ago. It’s safe to predict that audiences will be blown away by his portrayal of the Beast.

After starring as Brad Majors in The Rocky Horror Show and Kenickie in Grease, a standout performance followed as the narrating silver tabby Munkustrap in Cats, earning him two Vita nominations. This role saw Luitingh spread his feline paws to no fewer than 12 countries in Africa, Europe, Asia and the Middle East – and he was even invited to join the Australian company of Cats for a stint.

Other noteworthy performances in recent years include his turns as the rock ’n roll-crazed Pharaoh in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat and as Pontius Pilate in Jesus Christ Superstar, both for Toerien.

Kodesh and Luitingh have both expressed their excitement at clinching these dream roles in Beauty and the Beast and have – fittingly, considering that it’s a family musical – dedicated their performances to their respective families, in honour of their unstinting love and support.

The magic begins on 2 October at the Montecasino Teatro, with the media night on 12 October. Beauty and the Beast will feature an all-South African cast and promises audiences a top-flight entertainment outing, complete with delightful characters and songs from the Disney movie. South African resident director Alan Swerdlow will be joined by international director Julie Dunnley - Wendt and her team of crack creatives, as they forge this fairytale that’s as old as time, but as enchanting and fresh as ever.

Beauty and the Beast promises audiences a glorious theatrical outing that will dazzle the senses and fire up the imagination. Book for this unforgettable musical encounter at Computicket. Beauty and the Beast is sponsored by Investec in association with British Airways, Jacaranda 94.2, M-Net and Southern Sun.


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