Review Of Drama Queen : The Lebo Mathosa Tribute
I had the pleasure of attending the star-studded opening of the Lebo Mathosa musical; “Drama Queen”. A lot of local celebrities pulled through in support of Sello Maake Ka Ncube’s project. I even caught a moment where Thembi, Theo and Junior exchanged greetings in the foyer during the interval, it was very heart-wrenching seeing all the members of Boom Shaka together but with one integral piece of the puzzle missing.
Why Lord oh Why? This still doesn’t make sense.
Going into the show I didn’t know what to expect therefore entered with an open mind. If you were expecting a play with a storyline and characterization depicting Lebo Mathosa’s life, let me save you the disappointment now and let you know that this was not a play, but more of a Lebo Mathosa Tribute concert with songs linked by narration in between.
The show opens up with six aspiring singers on stage who are struggling in their careers and then they decide to channel the spirit of Lebo Mathosa in order to get inspiration. So to rest the question of who plays Lebo Mathosa? All six of the actresses play Lebo Mathosa.
Yes ladies and gentleman that is what a huge void Lebo Mathosa has left. They couldn’t find one actress to bring Lebo Mathosa back to life on stage, they had to use SIX performers.
Five of the actresses who include Khanyi Mbau and Idols alumni Sindi Nene get the chance to perform Lebo’s songs throughout the show, while the sixth actress Rami Chuene narrates the story in Lebo’s voice.
This is one of the hardest things I have to write, as I have the outmost love and respect for Ausi Rami as a person and as an actress. But the consensus throughout the audience was that she was the show’s weakest link.
She was supposed to represent the soul of the show, I believe the concept Sello Maake Ka Ncube was going for as a director was for the narrator to be the soul of Lebo Mathosa and the performers to be the embodiment of Lebo Mathosa but Ausi Rami seemed a bit unprepared, she kept fluffing her lines all throughout the show.
Let me just put it this way, every time she fluffed a line my friend whom I was sitting next to kept nudging me on my elbow, by the end of the show I was blue and bruised, and my friend insists I send my medical bill to Rami.
Another thing was that the context of the narrative itself, lacked a little bit of depth. It felt like Sello just took excerpts from Lebo interviews and pieced them together to narrate the show. Yes he told Lebo’s story through her own words, but he didn’t really tap into Lebo’s soul.
Now lets get to the performances; the show opens up with a jaw dropping performance of Lebo’s hit; “Bhenga” performed by Khanyi Mbau herself. Khanyi nailed it, killed it and was everything you would want, except for the real Lebo herself taking the stage.
In terms of dance and movement Miss Mbau got it so right, if you blinked for a second you’d swear it was the real Mathosa on stage.
What I loved about this show was that Sello didn’t just stick to Lebo’s popular songs but he dug deep into Lebo’s discography and had them perform songs which are not so recognizable to non- Lebo fans.
This is the one aspect of that I believe captured Lebo’s spirit.
She was really passionate about her artistry and her versatility, but the general audience often tended to just listen to her commercial/ club/ dance songs and overlook her dabbling in other genres, and in this show you get to hear Lebo as she wanted to be heard. Her club/dance songs, her R&B and Hip Hop songs, her jazzy songs, her Latin influenced songs and her Traditional songs; Lebo as she wanted to be heard!
Overall the show is enjoyable, but it seems a little bit un-organized and un-polished. One would have sworn that we were watching a dress rehearsal instead of an opening.
This is the part where I feel Lebo was looking down and shaking her head disapprovingly.
Lebo Mathosa took pride in her performances, everything was together and in sync from the weaves of her dancers to the last fabric of their costumes. She was very detailed and a perfectionist, I just believe that if you are going to honor such a performer, you must do justice to their integrity and standard of performance.
I’m not sure who Sello spoke to whilst doing his research, but it definitely does not feel like he was liaising with people who lived and worked directly with Lebo. There was just authenticism lacking in some of the moments.
The three elements that save this show are Khanyi Mbau, Sindi Nene and the spirit of Lebo herself. Being in an audience and hearing a live band playing Lebo Mathosa again just makes you feel like she’s in the room and might step on the stage any moment. You can’t help but sing, dance and enjoy the ambience for the nostalgia.
Sindi’s vocals and Khanyi’s movements and stage presence are really a must see! I would like that lady who wrote that open-letter to Khanyi to come and watch this show, just to see how much talent Ms. Mbau really has.
I have mixed feelings on whether or not to recommend this show to anyone. It has some Good moments and then it has some really cringe-worthy moments. One of my highlights was how they depicted Lebo’s death in the show that was really beautifully done but I will not go into details about that scene, I can’t give everything away, go and see the show yourself.
By Zamani Khethelo
** Show is on at the State Theatre, tickets available on Computicket.