Interview: Uncovering the story of the Beatles, LAMTA’s nationally acclaimed dance production, The Beatles Covered/Uncovered: Friendship, fraternal love, fun, fans, feud
|Where: Theatre on The Bay, Camps Bay, Cape Town|
When: February 1-11, 2023 (various times)
Tickets: R250. For student groups of ten or more, tickets are R150
Bookings: Webtickets or contact Ingrid via e-mail email@example.com or mobile 083 273 8284
For production credits see: https://thecaperobyn.co.za/preview-lamtas-come-together-the-beatles-covered-uncovered-exuberant-energetic-and-entertaining-dance-production/
I saw LAMTA’s dance production, The Beatles Covered /Uncovered, in June 2022 at Theatre on the Bay in Cape Town. I was bowled over by the artistry of the young dancers, the inspired choreography by leading South African choreographers and the production which goes beyond dance showcase. I have remarked on numerous occasions that it is like watching: Beatles- the musical. With carefully selected AV footage, there is a documentary vibe to this compelling production which conjures up multiple aspects of the Beatles- private and the public. Producer, Pieter Toerien was so impressed that he toured the production to Johannesburg to his Teatro Montecasino. The show sold out in Joburg, as it had done in Cape Town. This exceptional production is back in Cape Town from February 1-11. Anton Luitingh and Duane Alexander of LAMTA, reflect on the genesis of the production, the journey of uncovering the Beatles through covers- framed around the armature of the fs: “Friendship, fraternal love, the band’s formation and feud.” Read on for more:
The genesis of The Beatles Covered/Uncovered
What sparked this show? Was it your combined love of the Beatles Songbook- although you are both too young – way beyond your time. What was it that pinged in terms of creating a Beatles show and the particularly narrative arc – framed around covers by famous and not so famous people?
Duane Alexander: Even though the Beatles were a bit before our time, their popularity and influence on modern music is undeniable. Their music has spanned generations and so their wide-spread popularity was something that appealed to us. They also have an incredible catalogue of hits and we had used two covers of Beatles songs in two previous shows and thought-‘what if we created a show using covers of their incredible songs as a springboard?’ We also love the play on covered/uncovered in that if we were using covers of their songs, we could also use the production as a platform to ‘uncover’ some lesser known facts about the Fab Four which we hoped would raise the production from just being ‘another dance show’.
Conceptualising and building the show
How did you go about researching and finding the covers and then selecting the choreographers to conceptualise each number? Each number has its own conceptual thrust – mood, vibe and concept.
Anton Luitingh: Initially many of the choreographers were concerned about being able to choreograph to the music of the Beatles, because it meant that ultimately they would have to choreograph to the Skiffle and 1950s rock ’n roll sound of the band. However, our concept was one which we believed to be strong and which would be able to present the choreographers with a variety of genres within which to choreograph – the concept: to uncover the story of the Beatles using covers! Therefore we could tell the story of the Beatles through the interpretation of their music by other famous and not so famous musicians who would perform the music that everybody loves and knows – but in their own genre – so you have Bobby McFerrin doing Blackbird, Michael Bublé doing Can’t Buy Me Love, Diana Krall doing In My Life etc. We listened to a LOT of Beatles music and covers to find the ones we loved most and allowed the choreographers an opportunity to do the same. Each Beatles song has its own story so most of the choreographers were led by this but we gave them full permission to explore their own interpretations.
Duane Alexander: We spent a long time getting the mix and the balance right. We have a number of wonderful dancers and many of them were very busy in the production so to create a seamless flow of dance and the ‘documentary style’ footage also took a few attempts to get right. It was a lot of trial and error but we are very happy with the structure of the show; it takes the audience on a rather seamless journey and traces the story of the Beatles without become too didactic
All the Fs: friendship, fraternal love, the band’s formation, behind the scenes fun, the fans and their feud
I have described the show as Beatles- The Musical. And indeed each song, is like a mini musical, with a narrative/story – visual and song. I can imagine the work and care that went into the weaving of songs – covers – and uncovering the covers and then finding the essence of lyrics and story. Can you give insights into putting the show together?
Anton Luitingh: Acting is at the core of everything we do at LAMTA. It does not make a difference to us which genre you are performing in, if you are not telling a story, what is the point? So for us it was very much a case of deciding what aspects of the Beatles lives we wanted to talk about, which themes we wanted to highlight and which of their songs lent themselves most to storytelling, and yes story-telling through the genre of dance. There is no linear story in this production but rather it is a concept show that at any given point tell us something about this phenomenal band. Some of the themes we investigate are their friendship, fraternal love, the band’s formation, the behind the scenes fun, the fans and their feud – all the Fs! We make use of AV in the show which also gives the show a documentary feel about it.
The first run of Come Together was June 15-25, 2022 at Theatre on the Bay and then it toured to Joburg November, 9 to 13, at Teatro Montecasino. The show sold out in both runs? I look at this show and think – wow- can’t this go further – can’t it be developed into a musical? The Beatles Songbook was and is a potent soundtrack for youth and resonates with so many themes which are close to the hearts’ of millennials, so just asking if this could go further?
Anton Luitingh: LAMTA produces three productions a year: A dance show, acting production and musical /revue at the end of the year. The reaction to our 2022 dance show – which was sold out in Cape Town – was so incredible that Pieter Toerien, who also loved the show, suggested we take it to his Montecasino Theatre in Johannesburg. It was quite a task getting our entire student body -who are all involved in the show) to Joburg but we did it and performed to sold out houses there too. Joburg lapped it up.
Duane Alexander: This show has become so near and dear to our hearts and I’m sure that everyone working on it would love to see it go on for a while. We do however have to let our graduates fly – many of them have already secured work for the next few months and so it would be unfair to keep them committed to Come Together, when they could/should be out there in the industry doing the wonderful things that we know they are capable of. We wouldn’t be able to dedicate more time to this production as we have our regular classes to get on with and of course we also owe it to our current students to provide them with a new show that hopefully gives them the exposure and experience of doing a LAMTA show.
LAMTA– in 2023
LAMTA kept the flag flying for musical theatre during the pandemic – kept on working, training and the incredible that the hard work is paying off. Graduates are being snapped up and are bone cast in major musicals. Six LAMTA students have been cast in The Buddy Holly Story and many others have been cast in big musical productions, as the industry revives- in SA and abroad. What is next for LAMTA?
Anton Luitingh: LAMTA was birthed in 2018, but we opened with our first intake in 2019. We had one year of normality (to find our feet) as a new business, and then the Pandemic hit us. We are extremely proud in the way in which Duane, myself and our incredible faculty pretty much transferred the entire course to an online course overnight – our LAMTONIANS as we call our students, did not miss a single class due to the Pandemic – yes they might have been doing ballet in their bathrooms and our lecturers have never worked so hard to keep the feedback going continuously, but we did it and we even found aspects of training online that was useful to the training of our triple threat talents.
Duane Alexander: We are so proud of our graduates. We have LAMTA Alumni making waves in every part of the industry and in every corner of the world. Noluthando Dlamini is a featured singer on board the Azamara which is cruising around the Caribbean at the moment. Che-jéan Jupp is in rehearsals for Calling Us Home, Stuart Brown, Tannah Levick and Allen Chambers are touring the world with the International tour of We Will Rock You. Stuart is playing Galileo to incredible reviews around the world. Kelsey Buchalter was one the panel of speakers for the recent TEDX Youth event. Miguel de Sampaio, Ashley Scott and Gemma French have been selected for the ICC – Women’s Cricket Entertainment Squad and Simone Neethling is currently shooting a movie and her recurring role in Arendsvlei… and Keandri van Wyk has not stopped working on festivals, and productions in the stage management department.
Anton Luitingh: As for 2023, well, we are starting our year with a bang with COME TOGETHER season 3! Haha and then of course we have our three major productions for the year coming up – our next dance show which opens in June, then acting piece and musical to follow. It is still a secret as to what they are at the moment. Apropos a professional company, well that would be a mammoth endeavour at this point, but what I can say is that LAMTA will be producing a few projects with some of our graduates in a the near future, so in a sense we are definitely looking to provide opportunities for our graduates and at the same time to show everybody the quality of work that comes out of training at LAMTA.
Duane Alexander: The 2023 intake is a VERY exciting group. Registration for 2024 is already open with the first round of auditions taking place in April. Keep eyes on our socials for more info. The ‘LAMTA Reputation’ is slowly but surely doing what we had hoped it would do; assuring the industry that LAMTA students are well-trained, versatile, passionate performers and beautiful people as well- absolutely someone you want to consider for the job.
✳ Image supplied.