Tribute: Alvon Collison 1941-2021- South African musical theatre icon and legend in his own time

The Entertainer: Alvon Collison: musical theatre legend, died late, Friday January 22, 2021 in Cape Town. He was 79.  

The legendary Alvon Collison was a sensation as Pharaoh in Joseph and The Technicolor Dreamcoat, which premiered in 1974, in Johannesburg. It was the dream team of Alvon Collison, Richard Loring and Bruce Millar. Fans screamed. Alvon told me that he replaced Richard as the narrator in another run.

Born in 1941, Woodstock, Cape Town, his family moved to Zimbabwe (then Rhodesia). It is a big story and you can hear about some aspects of remarkable journey in the video interview that I conducted with him at the end of August 2019, prior to his spring show in Milnerton at the Dutch Reformed Church. The interview is archived on TheCapeRobyn Facebook page. Unable to upload the video onto my website but I will keep trying.

Alvon had no formal musical training but after being spotted by the late Joan Brickhill, he was on track for a career in musical theatre. Extravaganzas followed; cabaret, Joseph and community concerts. Alvon Collison leaves a rich legacy. Many talk about the glitz and glam of his Joseph days but in recent years, his commitment was to staging community concerts – celebrating life (spring shows), love (Valentines shows), mothers (Mother’s Day shows) and goodwill (festive season shows). Many of his community shows were free, with a voluntary donation. When tickets were sold, tea, coffee and koesiesters were included. The koesiesters were made by Koelsoem- the mother of Faried Swartz- Alvon’s devoted partner.

Alvon had a wonderful sense of humour. In 2012, he sent me this by e-mail- a submission for my Freebies column (giveaways) that I ran in The Cape Times: “Hi Robyn – please find our Press Release for our Free, free, free Nativity Show which we will be doing at the Cape Town City Hall on the 19th and 20th of December 2012. We would appreciate any help that you can give us.  You can give ALL the tickets away in your Freebie column, ha ha haaaa. Kind regards, Alvon.”

Alvon Collison was incomparable and he was a trooper. For many years, he faced health issues with fortitude. He endured through surgeries and weekly dialysis sessions. In 2019, he invited me to come to his house in Milnerton for a chat but with his dialysis treatments and health set-backs (intensive care –multiple times), it did not happen. Then in August 2019, he said that he was feeling well and I should nip over to Milnerton for a quick interview. His annual spring show was on that weekend – September 1, 2019 -and Alvon was keen to publicise this community event. So I did. It was very much about seizing the moment. It was important for me to have Alvon’s voice in the frame. I think that the interview took place on the Thursday August 29. The dates are scribbled out and over in my diary as we had to re-schedule as he was not well. I uploaded the interview on August 30, 2020 – after battling to get it to load.

I was alerted to Alvon’s passing, today, January 23, 2021, when I received Facebook notifications that the video interview was being viewed. Then, I saw the news. Throughout the day, tributes have been pouring in with photos and memories with the great man. In this video interview, he speaks for himself. Bravo to Mr Entertainer. Rest in peace.

August 2019, at Alvon Collison, at home in Milnerton
© TheCapeRobyn/Robyn Cohen.
Faried Swartz- devoted partner of Alvon Collison, at their home in Milnerton, August 2019. © TheCapeRobyn/Robyn Cohen
August 2019, at Alvon Collison and Faried Swartz’s home in Milnerton.
© TheCapeRobyn/Robyn Cohen.
Stairway to Alvon Collison’s studio at his home in Milnerton, August 2019.© TheCapeRobyn/Robyn Cohen.