Review: Contested bodies with personal, political and celestial orbiting in Star+Crossed – intriguing new musical- presented by Abrahamse & Meyer Productions and VR Theatrical

Star+Crossed- presented by Abrahamse & Meyer Productions and VR Theatrical

Première season: December 8-31, 2022 in the Artscape Arena, Cape Town
Starring: Isabella Jane and Earl Gregory
Book and  lyrics: Marcel Meyer
Direction and set design: Fred Abrahamse
Music: Wessel Odendaal

Lighting design: Faheem Bardien
AV Design: Kirsti Cumming
Costume design: Marcel Meyer 

Tickets: R200 – R250
Booking: Computicket or Artscape Dial-a-Seat 021 421 7695
Direct booking link:
Duration: 90 minutes with no interval    

Bravo to South African theatre companies, Abrahamse & Meyer Productions and VR Theatrical for creating an intriguing new musical, Star+Crossed, which transverses intense conflicts between personal, political and celestial. The musical adroitly navigates how we process our origin stories; personal and collective memories, myths and histories. Contested bodies in time – real – here and in other realms – spiritual, celestial, historical (written and oral)- are excavated in this musical- set against the backdrop of South Africa – from when the Union of SA was formed (1910) until 1994, the democratic elections. This musical is a two-hander with glorious voices and performances by award winning Earl Gregory and Isabella Jane. Marcel Meyer’s book is epic in its gaze, piercing through interlocking narratives. The songs are lyrical and elegiac, filled with yearning to transcend limitations of the physical and all that goes with it. The score by Wessel Odendaal, dovetails beautifully, with Meyer’s story – transporting us into alternative spheres –with the possibility of no limits. The musical deals with a lot. For instance, art, music, imagination and dreaming is mooted as essential, as we deal with challenges in life. Star+Crossed is a cerebral musical, a history musical, packed with ideas, with the orbiting of vivid images and metaphors.  There is a lot to absorb. I feel that I need to see it again as there is a lot to take in. This review contains some plot/narrative spoilers.

At its core, Star+Crossed is a love story; the union of two people, Bess and Billy. Despite the strictures of Apartheid, their stars ultimately align but this involves choices on both sides. In the musical, we see them, after they have died, reliving their story – stories. They are trying to calibrate and make sense of what happened and find healing in reliving what they went through by being accountable for what occurred. The narrative is framed as a dreamy ‘once upon a time’ but within their story, there is tremendous heartbreak, exile and separation. In telling their story they can align their bodies – physical and spiritual – in one united circle of light. Star+Crossed is a love story and a history musical – framed by pivotal moments in South African history. Within the political history, there are cosmic sightings of Hailey’s Comet, UFOs and intergalactic lore.

Star+Crossed was inspired by the true life story of a South African woman, Elizabeth Klarer who claimed that she was abducted by an alien, went to his planet, had his baby, returned to SA (without the baby) to spread the light of kindness and goodness. In writing the book for this musical, Meyer has taken aspects from the Klarer story and has created a fictional couple Billy and Bess [their names inspired by musicals -see interview] They become friends – connecting across cultures and situations. Ultimately, their union is consummated and but they are star crossed lovers because of their milieu in Apartheid South Africa and this is poignantly conveyed through the songs and lyrics- the yearning for a ‘happily ever after’. I won’t plot spoil father. Go and see how their once upon a time pans out. A major take-home is that we all need to examine our stories and take ownership of our culpability and roles that we have played. The past shapes and impacts on the present and with so much fake news, who knows what is the truth but an examined life is what makes us human.

Star+Crossed’s armature and conceptual arc has been tenderly and deeply considered with multiple nuances and invites the viewer to become deeply immersed in the landscape of Billy and Bess. The run in the Artscape Arena, is its premiere season. I would love to see live music accompaniment (budget issues – I know). In my opinion, the audio visual projections overwhelm the protagonists. Despite their illusions and delusions and belief systems, they are pragmatic and grounded individuals with a keen intellect and insight into their stories. The projection of spacey imagery and halos of UFO lights, distracted my eye from the luminous presence of Billy (Earl Gregory) and Bess (Isabella Jane). Star+Crossed is an innovative and original new musical and I hope that, with extra funding on board, it will be taken further.

Glowing: Isabella Jane and Earl Gregory are incandescent as Bess and Billy in Star+Crossed – the new South African musical. Première season: December 8-31, 2022 in the Artscape Arena, Cape Town. Pic: Danie Coetzee.

✳ Images by Danie Coetzee – supplied. Related coverage on TheCapeRobyn: