Ezekiel "King Kong: Dlamini
Ezekiel "King Kong: Dlamini

Eric Abraham presents a Fugard Theatre production of the legendary South African musical King Kong!

Miriam Makeba, who played the role of Joyce.
19 year-old Hugh Masekela at a King Kong recording session, playing the trumpet presented to him by Louis Armstrong.

Eric Abraham produces and presents this Fugard Theatre production, which ran from 25 July to 2 September 2017 at the Fugard Theatre in Cape Town, then at the Mandela Theatre in Johannesburg from 12 September to 8 October 2017 and returned to the Fugard Theatre in Cape Town from 12 December 2017 to 4 March 2018.

King Kong – The Musical tells the story of heavyweight fifties boxing champion Ezekiel Dlamini whose self-appointed ring name was "King Kong" to the wildly exhilarating music of Todd Matshikiza.
The 1959 production of South Africa's first black musical was set in Sophiatown in Johannesburg in the late-fifties. King Kong toured South Africa, and was seen by 200,000 South Africans, playing to record-breaking and multi-racial audiences - as apartheid was being implemented -before transferring in February 1961 to London’s West End for a 200-performance run. King Kong launched the international careers of Miriam Makeba and Hugh Masekela among many others.


“We are thrilled that this long awaited production of this iconic and first South African musical of King Kong, is a Fugard Theatre production which will showcase the very best of South African talent,” says Daniel Galloway the Executive Director of the Fugard Theatre. “The original production united audiences of all colours, launched careers and put South African talent firmly on the international map. We are excited to be re-creating the world of the "Back of the Moon" shebeen with an all South African cast and superb creative team. While remaining true to the original production our Fugard Theatre King Kong will refresh the musical for the 21st Century".

King Kong is directed by Jonathan Munby who directed the Fugard Theatre's production of A Human Being Died That Night with Noma Dumezweni (the only double Olivier award-winning Southern African actor) amongst many other international productions. Following King Kong Munby directs Sir Ian McKellen in Shakespeare's King Lear for the Chichester Festival in the UK.

The revised book (with additional lyrics) is by Academy award nominated screenwriter and playwright William Nicholson (Shadowlands, Gladiator, Les Miserables, Sarafina, Long Walk to Freedom). South African choreographer star and recent French Legion D’Honneur recipient Gregory Maqoma will choreograph King Kong to the irresistible original music of the late great South African composer Todd Matshikiza.

The Fugard Theatre’s production sees musical direction by Charl-Johan Lingenfelder (West Side Story, Funny Girl, Cabaret) and Sipumzo Lucwaba with arrangements and additional music by Charl-Johan Lingenfelder.

Set design is by Paul Wills (A Human Being Died that Night, Royal Shakespeare Company's Hamlet, David Mamet's American Buffalo); Costume design by Birrie le Roux (West Side Story, Orpheus in Africa, District Six – Kanala); Lighting Design by Tim Mitchell (A Human Being Died That Night; Royal Shakespeare Company's King Lear with Antony Sher – Associate artist RSC/Chichester Festival Theatre) and Sound Design by Mark Malherbe (West Side Story, Funny Girl). The associate director is Mdu Kweyama.

Cast in the title role of King Kong is South African star - actor, singer and dancer Andile Gumbi. Gumbi made his Broadway debut as Simba in Disney’s The Lion King and has starred in productions of this musical in London, Sydney, Melbourne, Shanghai and South Africa. Gumbi, who was voted by The Sowetan as one of Mzansi's Sexiest Top 12 celebs in 2015, is the character Zweli in the Mzansi Magic soap opera isiBaya, which was voted most popular TV soap at the 2017 SAFTA Awards.

The Fugard Theatre's King Kong cast includes: Sanda Shandu as Lucky (Orpheus in Africa); Tshamano Sebe as Jack (Athol Fugard's Painted Rocks at Revolver Creek; Master Harold and the Boys; Noem my Skollie); Ntambo Rapatla as Miriam (Menopause the Musical); Sne Dladla as Pop (District Six – Kanala; Orpheus in Africa; Painted Rocks at Revolver Creek) and Sabelo Radebe as Caswell (West Side Story; Peter Pan) .

Also performing with the ensemble are Joel Zuma (Sophiatown; Kwela Bafana - The Musical); Athenkozi Mfamela (In The City of Paradise; Bash or Be Bashed); Shalom Zamisa (Voices of Hope; Sarafina); Sibusiso Mxosana (West Side Story; Funny Girl; A Spartacus of Africa); Aphiwe Menziwa (Passage; Inexba Lomphillisi); Namisa Mdlalose (Rent); Siphiwe Nkabinde (Exit/Exist; Music in the Air); Lungelwa Mdekazi (African Angels; Phantom of the Opera); Barileng Malibye (Sophiatown; Making Mandela; Dogma; Emotional Creature); Edith Plaatjies (District Six – Kanala; Orpheus in Africa; Blood Brothers); Rushney Ferguson (District Six – Kanala) and Given Mkhize (Sacredspace; In The End is My Beginning).

A live 9-piece band, under the direction of Sipumzo Lucwaba, will accompany the action at every performance.

Born in Vryheid in the then Orange Free State, Ezekiel Dlamini himself became and unwitting symbol for freedom and the wasted power of his people under apartheid. After a meteoric boxing rise Dlamini's life degenerated into drunkenness and gang violence. In 1957Dlamini was to be a classic Greek tragic figure when, in a fit of jealousy, he killed his girlfriend and at his trial asked for the death sentence to serve as a warning to others. Instead, the white judge, refusing to take instruction from a black defendant, sentenced Dlamini to twelve years hard labour. Three months later King Kong was found drowned in a dam on a prison farm. At 36 years old King Kong had taken his destiny into his own hands and, inadvertently, become a legend.

The original production featured music by Todd Matshikiza, lyrics and original book by Pat Williams and book by Harry Bloom. Songs such as Back of the Moon, King Kong and Sad Times, Bad Times, have become popular South African favourites and are firmly entrenched in this country’s musical history. Sales of the original recording achieved unprecedented numbers, with reviews such as “This for my money is the record of the year” (Rand Daily Mail) and ‘Five stars!” (Drum). The cast recording was the first release of an all black production in South Africa and unusual in that the libretti was included with the LP, which normally only happens with opera recordings.Arthur Goldreich designed the sets for the original production with original musical direction by Stanley Glasser.

Some of the extensive rave reviews the original production for King Kong in 1959:
"...  a big event in theatrical history." Time Magazine (March 03, 1961)
"...  King Kong triumphs by its bursting, smoking glowing life". Daily Express
" … the greatest thrill in 20 years of South African theatre-going"The Star
“ … Magnificent…spectacular… a resounding success” Rand Daily Mail
“ … the theatrical sensation of the (Union of) South Africa” The New York Times
“ … the audience was mixed…and for a short time at least, they held the laws of apartheid was suspended with their applause” The Central African Examiner
“ … tears of exultation as I feel that a new era in Non-White entertainment has been born with the production of King Kong.. I became breathless with the splendor of the production…´ Golden City Post
“ … there is inspiration here that must mean the beginning of a colourful vigorous theatre in South Africa” Sunday Tribune
“ … excellent… I must applaud Todd Matshikiza” Cape Argus


The UK's Portobello Books publishes King Kong lyricist and original book writer Pat Williams' personal memoir of the original musical – Our Knot of Time and Music – to coincide with the Fugard's production. "An extraordinary memoir of the first ever South African musical, which has since acquired mythical proportions. Essential reading for anyone who loves our country - and, of course, its music” Athol Fugard. The book will be available at the Fugard during the run of the show.

King Kong will return to the Fugard Theatre from 12 December 2017, Tuesdays to Saturdays at 8pm with a 4pm matinee performance on Saturdays and a 4pm matinee performance on Sundays. The Fugard Theatre is situated in the heart of District Six, on the corner of Harrington and Caledon Streets, Cape Town. Tickets range from R130 to R280.


Bookings can be made online at Webtickets at www.webtickets.co.za or at any Pick N Pay or Shoprite Checkers outlet. Bookings can also be made at the Fugard Theatre box office on 021 461 4554. There is a generous 15% discount available for the Friends of the Fugard members.