Backstage and on stage is a hive of activity. There is less than a week left before the opening of the Jack and the Beanstalk pantomime. At the Joburg Theatre, the epic stages are being erected while the cast goes through the warming exercises. There is excitement and nervousness in the air. Amidst all the chaos, The Daily Vox team sat down with Lelo Ramasimong, the female lead in the show.
Jack and the Beanstalk will be returning to the Joburg Theatre stage after seven years. Directed by Janice Honeyman and produced by Bernard Jay, the show will tell the much-loved fairytale through a pantomime performance. The show boasts a star cast with comedian Casper de Vries taking on the role of the villain in the show. The principal role in the show of Jack will be played by actor Zolani Shangas. All of the cast have prolific careers in musical theatre.
However, returning to the Mandela stage at the theatre will be Ramasimong. Earlier this year she graced the stage in the role of Shug Avery in The Color Purple. She will be reprising that role during next year’s run of The Color Purple musical which has gripped audiences. In this year’s pantomime, Ramasimong takes on the role of good fairy which she says she is very excited about it.
What’s more exciting for Ramasimong is that this is her first-ever pantomime performance.
“It’s gonna be fun to be part of a production that’s silly. There’s so much laughing, even while rehearsing. I’m very excited to do this,” she said. After working on the more intense The Color Purple, it’s clear why the pantomime is a welcome change.
The good fairy in the pantomime is a “sexy spunky Southern girl from the south,” says Ramasimong about her character. She says the fairy is also a commentator in the show while also trying to help Jack become the hero he’s meant to be.
Pulling off different accents could be challenging for even the most seasoned performers. However, luckily for Ramasimong she had the experience of playing Shug Avery who also has a Southern American accent. In the first run of The Color Purple, she played one of the church ladies who served as the commentators for the show. However, in the 2019 run of the show, she took on the role of Shug Avery.
Ramasimong says it was slightly difficult to make the transition from playing the church ladies to Shug Avery, especially as Shug has much more intense character development.
However, on a positive note, she says it helped develop her acting abilities. “It was a great learning experience for me. I haven’t always been very confident in my acting abilities. So it’s really helped me to give me that confidence,” she said.
Ramasimong is excited for audiences to come and see the performance of Jack and the Beanstalk. After all it’s the audience that’s one of her favourite parts of performing, especially seeing their reactions to the performance. However, she clarifies performing isn’t done for the standing ovations, even if they are welcomed.
“We do it because we love it,” she said, adding that it’s nice when the audience becomes a part of the story and journey.
As for her favourite role, in spite of playing many roles, the role of Shug Avery remains a favourite. Ramasimong says she loves playing the role because of how comfortable Shug Avery is in her own skin.
“As women in the world that we live in, social media is telling us that we have to be a certain way in order to be beautiful or to feel sexy and confident. It was just so nice to just be it without having anybody telling me that I am. That’s what she is. She is sexy, she is confident. She loves herself […] Her role in the Color Purple really gives women the freedom to just be who they are,” she said.
Turning back the pantomime, Ramasimong says everyone should definitely come to watch it as “you will never have more fun in your life.” She says the show is for people of all ages whether you’re five years or 50 years.
“It’s such a big laugh. You’ll be in stitches from the beginning to the end of the show. Everybody will know almost all of the songs and you will have such a big laugh,” she said.
And if you think the theatre is not for you, then Ramasimong thinks that coming to watch the pantomime will definitely convert you.
“Maybe they think going to the theater is boring and you’re going to watch some long-winded play. But if you start coming to the theatre started, come to Jack and the Beanstalk. You’ll realise the theatre world is so broad and it’s so much fun.”
If you’re still not convinced, Ramasimong said: “It’s such a great way to de-stress and forget about what issues are happening around you. Just enjoy something in a moment in time and go back home feeling lighter and excited about life again.”
Jack and the Beanstalk will on at the Mandela Stage at the Joburg Theatre from November 2nd until December 22nd. Tickets are available through the Joburg Theatre website.