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Madiba the Musical brings the story of Nelson Mandela to life

Madiba the Musical has landed on Melbourne stages, paying tribute to icon activist Nelson Mandela.

The show brings together the life of Mandela, taking audiences on a journey that explores not only the experiences of his life from lawyer, to prisoner, to president, that shape his incredible story, but also illuminates the struggles, racial conflicts and divisions of his time.

“It is a story worthy of telling, reminding ourselves of the prejudice actions by a secret government that happened during apartheid rule,” Madiba the Musical Neil Croker, says.

“It is something not to slip back into, especially with the current global political environment with things creeping to the extreme right.

“The musical shows the ways in which Mandela sought forgiveness and reconciliation rather than retribution after an oppressive regime,” Croker continues.

The captivating music and dance within the show was one of the major reasons Croker became involved in the production, bringing together various styles and genres, ranging from traditional African music to contemporary rap.

“Mandela spoke of the strength he got from music – it was a big part of his life. We have constructed a fabulous musical story, within the story of Mandela.”  

The creation of a new South Africa with a democratically elected government is at the heart of the celebratory, triumphant and uplifting mood of the show, emanated through song, dance, colour and vibrancy.

“It celebrates the achievements of Mandela as well as the small victories other people had within that journey,” Croker explains.

Predominantly consisting of Australian actors with a range of experience, Madiba the Musical has been made specificall for local audiences. “It is worth noting Australia as an important player in stopping the apartheid regime in South Africa,” Croker says.

“Once he was free, Australia was one of the first countries Mandela visited to thank Bob Hawke and the ACTU (Australian Council of Trade Unions) for the support and influence they had on the Commonwealth, who put bans in place to support regime change in South Africa.”

“It is a universal story that so many people can identify with. I have had many people all from different backgrounds, from Jewish people, Indigenous Australians and people from other parts of Africa associate with similar experiences.”

Finding the right person to play Mandela was no easy task, with an extensive casting process taking place over 18 months.

Yet once found, lead actor Perci Moeketsi was the perfect fit for the role of Mandela. “Perci shone through as someone who identified with the character and who could grow. We needed someone who could act, sing and dance – finding that triple threat is a difficult process.”

The finalised cast were quick to gel together, immersing themselves in the enjoyment of portraying Mandela’s story from the get-go.

Originally shown in France, the Australian and New Zealand tours of Madiba the Musical are the production’s first English translations.

“Straight translation doesn’t always fall into place. Dennis Watkins, our Australian director worked on the  English translation. It had to flow in a smooth and logical manner.”

Above all, the most important thing audiences can take away for Croker is enjoyment from the performance and a night out at the theatre. “It is a story with great history, with a journey to be followed. It is serious at some points, but despite the battles, at the end of the day it is a joyous occasion.”

Ultimately, the musical culminates in a victorious celebrations of the first democratic vote in South Africa, as a remarkable icon becomes President.

“We finish with a song called ‘Freedom’. It’s a song that you sing in your car for the next three weeks and wonder why you can’t get it out of your head. It’s a lovely way to leave a musical.”

Madiba the Musical can be seen at the Comedy Theatre from now until October 28, when it will kick off the rest of its Australian and New Zealand tour.