In attendance were carefully selected notable names in Nigeria theatrical circuit, the art academic world, patrons of the Creative industries, potential sponsors, as well as senior Arts and Culture journalists from nearly all the leading media houses.
Those who witnessed the official unveiling of the big theatre dream included Lagos State Commissioner for Tourism, Mr Disun Holloway; renowned actress, Mrs Taiwo Ajai-Lycett , fondly called matriarch of the Nigerian stage; renowned dramatist, director and culture journalist, Ben Tomoloju; former Artistic Director of National Troupe of Nigeria, and current Dean of Humanities at the Redeemer University, Professor Ahmed Yerima; lawyer, art patron, Mrs Myma Belo-Osagie; popular actress, and now managing Director of the Malete Film Village, Mrs. Joke Silva; and renowned TV personality and CEO of EbonyTV, Mo Abudu. There was also the Consul General of the French Embassy, Francoise Sastourne. Others included Dr Tunde Awosanmi, a teacher of directing from University of Ibadan; Mr Deji Toye a lawyer, playwright and poet; and Mr Ola Fajemisin, manager programme at the Nigeria Television Authority.
The club of celebrities was led by the afro-pop musical icon, Innocent Idibia aka TuFace; and included, the actress Kate Henshaw; and On-Air personalities, Steve Onu aka Yaw of WazobiaFM, Chris Ihidero of TopFM, and Wana Udobong of Inspiration FM, among others.
Among potential sponsors were representatives from telecom, oil , and other multinational companies, and financial institutions. Other institutions include Lagos State Government; Africa Magic; Ebonylife Tv; Flytime Tv and Oleander.
The intention of the preview, according to the producer of the show, Mrs. Bolanle Austen-Peters, was to showcase the progress so far recorded since rehearsals commenced on August 9.
The premiere of the show slated for October 25 through the 27th at the new banquet hall of the Lagos Oriental Hotel at 3 Lekki Road, Lagos, was still six (6) weeks away but the producer, and her team of directors, said they felt confident enough to exhibit the progress so far – to “assure Nigerians that we were serious when we said we are going to give them the biggest and most impressive theatrical offering in recent times.”
Expectations were of course high among the 50-odd guests who witnessed the preview, especially as the hall had been primed ready with the stage bearing the ambience of a full-scale performance. The backdrop had a golden design of the name of the show, and there was a miniature set ready to host the preview.
As guests settled into the hall a short documentary on the making of the Broadway-style show played on two giant screens. The documentary revealed how the dream was born; nurtured and how it has gradually moved towards realisation with the four weeks of rehearsals. The process of auditioning, which drew participation of a huge number of mostly youths, and the subsequent workshops that produced the final script and as well the cast, was also shown in the documentary. These snapshots of experiences elucidated on the seriousness of the project and the quality of the vision albeit the genuine-ness of the intentions of the producer and her team.
The creator and producer of the musical, Mrs. Austen-Peters, also founder, Managing Director of the famous art centre, Terra Kulture, leading the guests into the vision that birthed SARO The Musical said over seven-years engagement with theatrical production and promotion through the Theatre@Terra scheme, had imbued her organisation, Terra Kulture, with the capacity and boldness to envision a grand theatrical package of the magnitude of the musical.
"We are not afraid to embark on a project of this scale because we have been through it all in the past seven years. We have encountered lot of challenges in running the Theatre@ Terra but we have also mastered how to surmount the challenges; so we understand the way to handle a project of this magnitude”, she said to wide applause from the audience.
She continued: "through our engagement with the Theatre, we have been able to create over 500 jobs for both young and old. We believe that it is only in the art that our country has comparative advantage and; though there is no funding from government or private individuals, many people like musical stars TuFace, D’Banj and others have triumphed against all odds”. She also made reference to the success already recorded by the local film industry otherwise called Nollywood, which through private sector investment and willpower, has been described as the third largest film industry in the world.
A vividly determined and elated Austen-Peters, enthused that Theatre@Terra, and now SARO The Musical are driven by similar enterprising spirit and sheer determination that have led to the international breakthroughs of Nigeria’s music and movie industry. She noted, “Nigerians are some of the smartest people in the world but because there is no funding in the country to help people realise intelligent ideas, we have not been able to actualise our artistic projects and harness our full potentials in the creative economy. But it is the private sector that can give us the opportunity to achieve these dreams; and help us tackle unemployment among our youths.”
Explaining the journey , Austen-Peters said, the auditioning of SARO… witnessed a large turn-out of about 200 young people of various local and international backgrounds looking for a platform to showcase their talents; and this is something we can do for youths, as a way of securing our future”.