Barely two weeks to the premiere of the musical, ‘Saro,’ the producers of this Broadway- style musical comedy, against all norms and practices, have thrown open the gate of the rehearsal hall to the public for yet another preview. If the first attempt at doing this was daring, the second time, held at the theater of Terra Kulture, in Lagos was adventurous. Journalists (print and electronics), with the full compliments of apparatus, celebrities, art personalities and bloggers were present.
Saro, using music interspersed with spoken dialogue, chanting and acting coupled with props and costume, to tell a story of four audacious boys in search of good fortunes in a the land of Lagos. The music content of this Broadway style theatrical production generated a lot of excitement at the premiere. A combo orchestra made up of Brass (trumpets, trombone, Alto and Tenor saxophone) keyboard, String (guitar) and an array of percussions (Konga, Drum set, Upright drums, Gudugudu, Shakers and several others.) dominated the play. Orchestration for instruments and the general musicianship of the cast are usual challenges in musicals.
While good acting and interpretation of roles may be prime consideration in casting for drama, this must be balanced with the musicality of the various acts. These are the challenges the Music Director of this epic production, Ayo Ajayi, overcame with great show of mastery of the arts of singing and playing. These and more are what the audience are billed to experience on the 25th of this month, when the curtain is raised at the aristocratic stage of the Oriental Hotel, Victoria Island, Lagos. Good singing, good harmony, enthralling choreography. An orchestra of both traditional and western instruments anchored on a tempo firmly sustained by ‘gudugudu’ a three tone offspring of the Bata ensemble of the Yoruba of the south western part of Nigeria.
In a clear deviation from the practice of adopting traditional tunes in native operetta, Saro will be treating the audience to a number of hits from Nigerian artistes. Excerpts from selected pieces of popular artistes are arranged and performed by the orchestra. “This musical will trace the run through the musical ages in Nigeria. While there are new compositions, many works of Nigerian artistes will be adapted in the illustrations,” Austin –Peters explained.
Telling the story of typical immigrants to Lagos in music, dance and acting, Saro is poised to be the first huge scale musical done in Nigeria, having equal chances on the international stage. By the time it is eventually staged, the 100 man cast and over 40 crew members must have rehearsed for a total of 105 days in an atmosphere of conviviality.
This was revealing in the confidence they radiate on stage. The dialogue between the instruments, dancers and singers was exemplary. Each cast was sure of their note, right on chords and homely at every cadence. According to Bolanle Austin-Peters, the Amazon behind this gargantuan artistic venture, while interfacing with the press at the occasion, the art community in Nigeria deserves a chance “and we can make Nigeria proud. We are hoping this will revolutionize the way people see theater in Nigeria and possibly in the entire globe.”
To make this play a contemporary one, the orchestra, according to Austin-Peters, will be employing works of such great artistes like , D’ Banj, Lagbaja, Tiwa Savage , I.K Dairo and the likes in the musical.
The crew of this venture is resolute in proving a point and carving a niche for Nigeria art community in the international foyer. One of such prolific men behind the scene is Ayo Ajayi, the youthful director of music of this thriller. Having romanced choir and church music for a while, Ayo ventured into theater music with Saro the musical. He displayed a perfect understanding of the script, the tempo, the required timber and provided cultural balance as he chose music correctly depicting the scenes. Ayo is an organist, pianist, composer, and band. He holds an Associate Diploma in Music from the Musical Society of Nigeria. He has featured with such prolific singing groups like, Professor Laz Ekwueme as an accompanist. Ayo, who is currently the Assistant Director of Music/ Organist at the Christ Apostolic Church, Yaba Lagos, is also a Piano Lecturer in the MUSON Diploma School. All these experiences come to play in this newest challenge of his.
If the crew of this musical/ play is able to surmount the challenge of achieving appropriate equalization of sound and suitable acoustic at the premiere, Saro the musical will live for long in the memories of the audience. Already, the producers have been hit with prevailing lack of suitable theater in the country to accommodate the magnitude of cast and crew for this show. This development may compel them to enforce a scale down as they move the show around the country. Even where there are theaters with big bellies, the required acoustic for quality sound production may be missing.
While the whole world awaits the eventual debut of this much talked about musical, the cast and crew continue fine tuning their acts and singing, the sponsors continue to anticipate a good investments and the larger community will continue to hold the producers to their words of producing a musical in the tradition of Broadway. A play that the producers said was conceived after a Broadway musical based on the life and times of the Nigerian-born Afro beat legend, Fela Anikulapo Kuti. Hear Austin-Peters: “That at some point, we’ll be able to invade the world just like others have invaded us with all sorts.”
The unassuming lady may not be new to challenges anyway. Eight years ago, she conceived the idea of having a mono theater center. An art center that is all encompassing and self sufficient, she established Terra Kulture and instantly became a colossus. Even though she is not schooled in Arts, Austin Peters has risen to becoming a stakeholder in the community of arts and artistes. She holds a Master’s degree in International Law from the School of Economics and Political science and a law degree from the University of Lagos.
Other directors of this musical comedy are Executive Artistic Director, Gbenga Yusuf, the Director, Kennet Uphopho, the Photo Director, Babs Joseph and Production Manager and the Crew of Zmirage, led by Teju Kareem.
Culled from MyDailyNewswatch