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From the Footlights

Following sold-out performances of his smash hit show STAGE by STAGE in Durban, Cape Town and Johannesburg earlier this year and in a first for the Teatro at Montecasino and Jonathan Roxmouth, the multi-award winning star of local theatre will perform three concerts entitled FROM THE FOOTLIGHTS, featuring a variety of hits from internationally acclaimed Broadway and West End musicals. Creative Feel’s Tamaryn Greer spoke to Roxmouth.
Jonathan Roxmouth began his professional musical theatre career in 2006 playing Vince Fontaine in Grease, and continued to play a number of leading roles in many of the biggest musical theatre productions staged in this country. Roles such as Gaston in Beauty And The Beast, Judas Iscariot in Jesus Christ Superstar and Joe Gillis in Sunset Boulevard established Roxmouth as one of South Africa’s up-and-coming stars, but it was his powerful performance as the Phantom in The Phantom of The Opera that made critics and the public alike take special note of Roxmouth’s enormous talents. Aside from musical theatre, Roxmouth has also performed in the hugely popular musical revues A Handful Of Keys, Topsy-Turvy, Nöel And Gertie and Hats Off! Recent shows by Roxmouth include Call Me Lee and country-wide sold-out performances of his one-man show STAGE by STAGE.
‘From the Footlights is a title that I came up with during a run of my one-man musicals cabaret STAGE by STAGE. There is a moment when I sit right downstage front and centre of the stage and sing a number. From there, I can see into everyone’s eyes and the connection is quite something,’ comments Roxmouth on the title of his upcoming production. ‘This show came about whilst I was recording the album [From the Footlights] in January. Bryan Hill of the Teatro at Montecasino sat in on one of the sessions and was convinced that the material should be performed live for a broader audience. Those spur of the moment sentiments usually don’t result in anything concrete but this time round, it all fell into place and the show is on! Since this will be the first Broadway Concert of its kind at the theatre, I wanted it to be something unique and so I have called upon five of my friends and colleagues – whose work I admire – to join me in various ways. At the podium is Maestro Bryan Schimmel. Although we have never had the opportunity to work together, I have seen most of the shows he has conducted or arranged and it is his passion for what we do that I felt this project needed. Nádine was Mary Magdalene with me in Jesus Christ Superstar and I wanted to hear her sing “I Don’t Know How to Love Him” again. Ditto for Lindiwe Bungane from Dreamgirls fame who will repeat her show-stopping “(And I’m Telling You) I’m Not Going”. Tracey-lee Oliver of Knights of Music will be joining me for the famous love duet from Miss Saigon and then… my favourite Big Bopper Harry Sideropoulos and I will be doing a good ol’ hat and cane number to round off the evening. Literally something for everyone over and above the album itself.’
‘So far [the album] has been received and supported beautifully,’ adds Roxmouth. ‘I always have it on sale wherever I perform but also have it on my website for delivery and digital download. So far the farthest destination for delivery has been Melbourne, Australia!’
‘I wanted this to be totally different to anything available in the musical theatre compilation catalogue. This meant fresh approaches to traditional and non-traditional material. I love that the theatre is live. It gives the material a different excitement compared to other genres. I wanted to try capture the thrill of seeing or hearing someone doing it right in front of you without all the gratuitous process and attuning that contemporary music is requiring these days. This meant that the choices had to have some sort of story to tell or groove to ride.’
Roxmouth’s successful ten-year career has been peppered with some of the best mentors in the business. ‘Ian von Memerty changed my life when I met him. He saw past my chubby, pimply exterior and lit a fire under me that exists to this very day. He has a way of highlighting the goal in a very specific way and I still use certain keys that he gave me when I start a new project. Another pillar in my career is Pieter Toerien – an unparalleled madman of the theatre. He taught me how to treat the theatre in general from business to backstage without losing your mind.’
With such a stream of successful roles to his name, does he have a favourite? ‘Come on…the Phantom, of course!’ And a favourite on-stage moment? ‘My first curtain call for Gaston in Beauty and the Beast. I looked out into the audience and my gran, Didi, had leapt to her feet without assistance.’
Roxmouth is also set to star in Sweeney Todd in October/November, ‘Stephen Sondheim is undoubtedly the greatest living composer for the theatre and Sweeney Todd is his opus. To be able to go from Footlights to Sweeney Todd is a stretch that is as terrifying as it is invigorating. I find that, whether it is a Phantom or a Topsy-Turvy, the thrill of the first audience is identical.’
From the Footlights is at the Teatro at Montecasino on Friday 18 September and Saturday 19 September 2015, both commencing at 20:00, and Sunday 20 September at 14:00. Ticket sales open at Computicket.

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