By Anote Ajeluorou
IN a country where stage performances suffer a huge lag on account of lack of sponsorship and purpose-built theatres (without necessary acoustics) and acute audience apathy, this week marks a perfect magical getaway audiences to enjoy the holidays and immense themselves in the spectacle the stage represents. Two fantastic Broadway-style Musical Theatres – Wakaa! The Musical and Kakadu the Musical - will share two stages at MUSON Centre, Onikan, Lagos. While the Bolanle Austin-Peters’ Wakaa! The Musical will start showing today at Shell Hall, Uche Nwokedi’s Kakadu started thrilling theatre fans since yesterday at Agip Recital Hall, and both will run till January 1st and 3rd respectively.
The two musicals promise to be the greatest performance shows that will bring 2015 to a glorious end and also usher in a promising year for live theatre in Lagos, a city that has witnessed a resurgence of theatre activities through the doggedness of a few diehard practitioners like Mr. Wole Oguntokun (Renegade Theatre), Mr. Kenneth Uphopho (PAWS), Mr. Ikenna Okpala (Wazobia Theatre House), Mr. Joshua Alabi (Kininso Concepts Production) and Mr. Bimbo Olorunmola (B/Rated Production) in the Lagos theatre circuit. Austin-Peters (BAP) and Nwokedi (The Playhouse Initiative) have also stepped in to raise the bar with their musicals that fuse history and contemporary themes to produce amazing artistic results that always leave audiences asking for more.
After Saro the Musical that rocked Lagos in the last year two years, Austin-Peters is adding Wakaa! The Musical to further spice up the theatric space and give Nigerians what some usually travel abroad to see. According to the boss of upscale Terra Kulture, “Nigerians love music; Nigerians love to dance. Somehow, music appeals more to Nigerians although musicals are three times more expensive than ordinary drama. Saro changed the game and it can only get better. It’s like we’re creating a mini-revolution; it’s unbelievable. What we’re doing here is building capacity. In 10 years from now, it will be great. What if we have a proper theatre? Things will be far better. The game has changed. We believe that Nigerian theatre can be a major tourist attraction, job- and wealth-creation driver and tool for socio-economic development”.
Wakaa! The Musical is a play about the trials, successes and experiences of six young graduates with varied backgrounds. A wager among them after graduation has a twist when the realities of life and the folly of their choices hit them. Eventually, they unite, coming full circle. The story reveals the struggles and challenges young people face in present-day Nigeria and abroad. Wakaa! The Musical takes you on an emotional roller-coaster and is a strong satire on Nigerian politics.
On the other hand, Kakadu charts the music and socio-political map of 1960s’ Nigeria before the bubble burst and the resultant bloody civil war and its bitter aftermath from which the country is yet to fully recover.
According to Nwokwdi, “Kakadu has its own energy; there’s a certain temperament all its own about it. We’ve also made a lot of changes to it, especially in the musical rendition. There are some drastic changes although it is the same story. Of course, you don’t want to change a successful story. Although the same theme, the cast is 80 per cent new. Kanayo Omo is director while Benneth Ogbeiwei is musical director”.
Visual artist, Polly Alakija, who is painting the scenes of Kakadu said, “This production is no mere indulgence in the glamour and optimism of the 1960s. Sitting in on the rehearsals was so much more than this. What I witnessed was producer, director and cast re-living and learning about the political situation in Nigeria in the 1960s and how optimism turned into destruction and the pain and suffering that ensued. So my imagery could not be a mere visual representation of a cast in character. The line between being in character and living the pain has become blurred for this cast. I am not sure myself if I am representing cast or character, but the emotions are real, be it pain, outrage or joy”.
Clearly, the two musicals on offer are must-see and audiences have been promised unbelievable stage spectacle and magic.