Right now, Jonathan Roxmouth is the darling of South Africa’s musical theatre scene. With a voice to rival any Broadway star, hands that can hammer out a tune as mean as Liberace, and of course, those boy-next-door looks, Roxmouth has breathed life into a number of stage hits, including as Judas in Jesus Christ Superstar, and the title role in The Phantom of the Opera, enshrining his status as part of theatre royalty.
South Africans are currently engaged in an obsessive relationship with stage musicals, particularly the commercial, blockbuster kind. Andrew Lloyd Webber, Rogers and Hammerstein… There’s something indescribably “feel-good” about a musical. The ridiculous bursts of song, unrealistic love plots, comedy, tears – the musical is the ultimate in theatre escapism. “We live in a country where escaping for two hours is pretty much the only way to get through a year, and the way this year has been going, I think people want to be entertained and not have to think all the way through, and follow a story… People have memories of these shows and these songs, so, to go to something like The Phantom of the Opera, or Cats, or Les Mis, people get two or three hours, and then go back to their everyday lives, after being ‘recharged’”
So it’s no wonder that a show that pays tribute to a bunch of favourites result in multiple standing ovations. In From the Footlights, Roxmouth performs 17 hit songs from musicals including Chicago, Les Misérables, Miss Saigon, Phantom, The Rocky Horror Show, and Gypsy, and many that are less well known to South African audiences: Catch Me if You Can, Jekyll & Hyde, and Young Frankenstein. Featuring an 18-piece band (“so much better than a backtrack”, Roxmouth gushes) and guest performances by Nadiné, Harry Sideropoulus, Tracey-Lee Oliver, and Lindiwe Bungane, it’s a night of musical magic.
The show was put together while Roxmouth was recording his album of the same name. Doing live performances of the album wasn’t something he’d thought of when he decided to record some of his favourite tunes, which, he jokes, he thought could be sold to some of the tannies in the foyer after his shows.
In From the Footlights, Roxmouth is full of charm, wit, and emotion, as he shares not only his favourite tunes, but a bit of himself. Without the mask, the fancy costumes, or the need to stay in character, he’s more open, and vulnerable, though it wasn’t necessarily intentional. “A lot of the stuff that we’ve chosen… is sort of biographical for me in a way and it’s good to share that without having to worry about staying in character or accents, instead of just entertainment, with heart,” he explains.
This is a show that is a joy to anyone who loves Broadway and The West End, and wants an evening of pure musical delight.
From the Footlights is on at Monte Casino’s Teatro for three performances only: on 18 & 19 September at 8pm and 20 September at 2pm.
Tickets are available through Computicket.