Fiela revival a reunion for young principalsBob Eveleigh
Bob Eveleigh: For Megan van Wyk and Jason Humm, the current Gilbert and Sullivan Society revival of Ian von Memerty's musical, Fiela's Child, is a reunion.
Both were first seen in a major Port Elizabeth presentation in January 2009 as members of the cast of that year's Showtime book musical, Passport to Teleland.
While not playing leading roles or actually teaming on-stage, as is usually the case with these annual productions, they did each get opportunities to act in sketch comedy, sing solo and in ensemble and dance in theatrical terms.
Megan, schooled in Pretoria and, for a short time, Humansdorp, where she and her elder sister, Margot, were resident when both were cast in Showtime 2009 and exhibited typical early "trouper" dedication in travelling down to PE for many Showtime rehearsals, has gone on to study at Stageworld Theatre School, where she is currently in her third year, specialising in musical theatre.
Now a PE resident , she has her eyes fully set on a full-time career in South African show business and is steadily building a set of credits that will stand her in equal good stead in that regard as her drama and musical studies.
Already she has been seen in such children’s theatre presentations as Fairyland Express and Peter Pan and the Pirates at the 2011 Splash Festival before, late last year, before really breaking through when cast by Robin Williams as the older Nina in the first G&S staging - and the South African amateur society premiere - of Fiela's Child, a role she is now repeating in the even better revival.
Megan and a fellow student are also showing theatrical entrepreneurial enterprise having started their own production company, The Entertainers, specialising in children’s theatre and interactive children’s parties.
Her flair for connecting with the young has also shown itself over both Fiela's Child production periods, for this is clear to see, to quote Ian von Memerty, in the "amazing" "sisterly" link she and Kasvia von Memerty, who plays her character at a younger age, have forged with each other.
Straight after Fiela's Child closes, Megan will immediately transfer her full energies to her principal straight role of the tragic title heroine's alter ego in Marlene Thomasse-Pieterse's updating of the Euripides classic, Medea, as Medea 2012, which runs in the PE Opera House from August 8 to 11, presented by Stageworld.
Turning to her current on-stage partner, like Megan, Jason Humm showed an interest in singing and music from an early age going on to become a proficient instrumentalist, playing saxophone, guitar and piano.
It helped that his later education was at Alexander Road High School, one of PE's most theatrically- and musically-conscious schools.
While still at school, and with a broken leg in a heavy cast, he auditioned for M-Net's reality series, High School Musical: Spotlight on South Africa, getting though several rounds and winning high praise from the judges, who included producer Pieter Toerien.
While not making the national show's line-up, and still wearing the cast, he tried out for Showtime 2009 and easily made it into the ensemble on the strength of his strong singing voice - his dance ability could hardly be tested, handicapped as he was!!
Following Passport to Teleland, he furthered his stage movement experience in the chorus of the Pemads musical, Thoroughly Modern Millie, in the process learning a further skill - tap-dancing - under the expert tutelage of choreographer Ellen Bunting.
Thereafter he went straight into one of the leads in the 2010 Showtime musical, PE Can Do It!, impressing mightily while portraying the macho, self-opinionated, gift-to-women spaceship pilot, Buzz Rogers.
Early in 2011, his High School Musical experience turned full circle when he headlined the G&S presentation of the Disney hit in the PE Opera House, as the teen heart-throb male lead, basketballer Troy.
Meanwhile, while most of this was going on, he was studying for a Mechanical Engineering degree at NMMU, but then eschewed further musical theatre outings to concentrate on his studies.
Until, that is, he received the call to replace Werner Viljoen, who originated the role of the older Benjamin/ Lukas last year before re-locating to Cape Town professionally, in this important part in the Fiela's Child repeat season.
With a slightly higher, tenor register in his singing voice than Viljoen and his known acting ability (he has really impressed Ian von Memerty), he has brought his own approach to the role and he and Megan van Wyk have easily created a special chemistry, especially in the vital later stages of the show.
Having reviewed them, I can reiterate that the scene where they find their bantering, supposed past brother/ sister relationship taking a new, dramatic turn, is beautifully played and, in any circumstances, represents first-rate theatre.
But showgoers who may not yet have seen the brilliant G&S presentation, have only five more opportunities to experience this sequence and much more of the magic wrought by Robin Williams, her cast and technical team under David Limbert, as Fiela's Child ends its second run on Saturday evening.
Fiela's Child, starring Donna Africa as Fiela, book, music, and lyrics by Ian von Memerty, directed by Robin Williams, musical direction by Neil Leachman, lighting design by David Limbert, presented by the PE Gilbert & Sullivan Society, at the Savoy Theatre, Adcockvale, tonight, tomorrow, Friday and Saturday evenings at 7.30pm with matinee Saturday at 2.30pm. Book at Computicket.
Savoy Theatre, Adcockvale Port Elizabeth Eastern Cape South Africa