More theatre lovers watch rehearsals of Nigeria’s first Broadway musical play, Saro, AKEEM LASISI reports.
Nigeria’s first Broadway play, Saro the Musical, has inched close to the stage as the cast and crew are now busy putting final touches to it. The work, written and produced by Bolanle Austen-Peters, will be premiered at the Oriental Hotel, Victoria Lagos from October 25 to 27. It will be taken to a few cities in the country before proceeding on an international tour.
So tall is the producer’s ambition that she is not leaving any stone unturned in terms of talents rallied for the show and, quite importantly, the amount being committed to the production. With four directors handling different segments of the musical drama, and with a cast of 97 actors and actresses and a 38-man crew, Austen-Peters must, indeed, be ready to pay a certain price.
But she is rising above the fear that the funding of a huge project like Saro, which tells the story or stories of Lagos in action, dance, words and more, invokes. While conceding that she has so far spent millions of Naira, she is enjoying the partnership with some stakeholders, including ZMirage handling the technical end of it.
“Alhaji Teju Kareem – Zmirage’s chairman – has decided to write off half of his fees and get paid at the end of the production/show,” she notes as she highlights some of the gestures. Noting that her husband has been instrumental to the funding of the mega production, she is also convinced that a good number of government and corporate organisations, some of which have seen the sneak previews, will eventually come on board.
Yet, the greatest potential of Saro the musical show seems to lie in the volume and variety of the audience that it is likely to attract now and in the years ahead. Apart from the fact that the typical Lagos stories often sell – since the stories are shared by many – the fusion of music, drama and poetry make it a complete experience. The energy displayed by many of the actors, mostly youthful, is also phenomenal. On the part of the directors – their response to observations made by some experts who have visited them shows that they are not talent-drunk as they allow the suggestions to influence the development of the play.
Among other practitioners, Taiwo Ajai-Lycett, Ahmed Yerima, Ben Tomoloju and Mo Abudu had watched the first preview about a month ago and offered suggestions. Last week, there was another preview by another select audience, among whom was Nollywood star, Dakore Egbure-Akande. The scenes presented showed that Saro accommodates both the good and bad sides of Lagos. Indeed, some members of the audience were surprised to see that the show even accommodates dances from other parts of the country.
Says Austen-Peters, “We want people to know that we are also conscious of standards in Nigeria. We hope this will revolutionaise the way people see theatre in Nigeria.
“So, Saro it is just an easy way of representing who Lagosians are and also talking about the free spirit that these people brought with them. And being a music lover, I see music as a form of freedom. I express myself through music; I love to dance and I love to listen to music. In the writing of the story, I had to create emotions; that is why you have the love story, the success, the failure and just all that depicts the everyday scene you find in Lagos, hence the beach, the police, the motor parks, all those things that make Lagos what it is are all the facets we are going to feature in this play.”