To describe this unique tradition, it’s best to use Janice Honeyman’s own words: ‘A pantomime is always loosely based on a fairy- or folktale, sweetened with some love and romance, leavened with as many silly jokes as I can think of, and peppered with a whole string, or sting, of quotes from celebrities, world leaders, local politicians, newspapers, magazines, TV soapies and reality shows. Add a good, big dollop of naughtiness, a well-blended mix of your favourite hot hits and jingly-jangly-hum-ti-tum-tum tunes, a dash of dancing, a splash of bright icing for the sets and costumes, sprinkle it all with a dusting of mayhem and magic – and there, I hope, is your annual yummpty-scrumpty Christmas treat!’ Expect lots of Donald Trump this year as Pinocchio’s nose extends even further with all the ‘fake news and alternative facts’! Producers Joburg Theatre and Bernard Jay are pleased to announce the stars of Pinocchio, the Pantomime Adventure. Just to say the name Tobie Cronjé (Geppetto Spoletto) is almost enough to start people laughing. Probably South Africa’s best-known comedy actor, he has for nearly five decades been entertaining audiences with his performances in theatre and operettas, film and television and even as a director of various dramas. But, more than anything, Cronjé’s name has become almost synonymous with pantomime in South Africa, playing the lead in dozens of these festive season productions throughout much of his career. Cronjé received great acclaim for originating the role of the woodcarver Geppetto in the premiere production of Janice Honeyman’s Pinocchio in 2009.
South African born André Schwartz (Il Fortunato, the Fox) is one of this country’s leading and best-loved entertainers. A multi-faceted and talented performer who is equally at ease in front of a camera, in a recording studio or on stage, Schwartz has entertained South African audiences since the age of 14. Schwartz has released 15 albums, many of which received gold status. His leading roles in musical theatre include Abanazar in Janice Honeyman’s pantomime Aladdin (2006), Captain Von Trapp in The Sound of Music and the title role in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera. Making her Joburg Theatre pantomime debut is Chi Mhende (Pussy Galore, the Cat), an acclaimed performance and voice artist. Mhende has worked extensively in the theatre, having performed in Shakespearean roles in Cape Town and in 2014 was awarded Best Actress at the Durban International Film Festival for her leading role in the feature film Love the One You Love. In July 2015, Mhende accepted the role of Wandile Radebe on SABC’s Generations: The Legacy, a role that came with much controversy and chatter, questioning the producers’ casting of a female performer in a male role.
This year’s pantomime at Joburg Theatre sees a return to the age-old tradition of a female ‘principal boy’, when performer Kanyi Nokwe plays the role of Pinocchio. Kanyi is a member of the Nokwe family – now headed by her aunt Tu Nokwe – one of South Africa’s most famous musical families and sometimes called the Jacksons of Africa. Nokwe was born in Uitenhage in the Eastern Cape, completed her Matric at the National School of The Arts, has a BTech Degree in Musical Theatre from Tshwane University of Technology, obtained a diploma in Worship Ministry from Rhema Training Centre in 2011 and portrayed the role of a young Dorothy Masuku in the Market Theatre’s production of Divas of Kofifi. The pantomime is produced by Joburg Theatre and Bernard Jay, in association with MNet, Jacaranda FM and Your Family Magazine. With a record-breaking 30 000 seats already sold, tickets for Pinocchio from R185 are on sale: telephone 0861 670 670, go online at www.joburgtheatre.com, or book in person at the Joburg Theatre box office. Patrons can also book and pay via the Nedbank app or walk-in at selected Pick ‘n Pay stores (a full list is available at www.webtickets.co.za/pnpoutlets.aspx)– or book online and then pay at any Pick ‘n Pay store.Pinocchio – did we start a trend?