This modern-day musical, brought to you by Mzansi Magic, recently premiered at The Joburg Theatre, the same venue where the film was partly shot. It was a swanky affair with the cast in attendance and Champagne flowing – clearly the creators figured they had a winner on their hands. In some aspects, this film is a momentous achievement. It’s a pity the cheesiness of the songs and dialogue let it down.
The plot follows Khanyisile Khumalo (Gugu Zulu), a young woman from rural KwaZulu-Natal who dreams of being a headliner on the stages of Joburg. Khanyi’s father, played by Mike Mvelase, tries to discourage her, convinced that the big city is a wild and dangerous place. Then, out of the blue, they sing a song about it together. As a disclaimer, I must say that I’m probably the worst person to be reviewing a musical, as I’m really not a fan of the genre. The song was corny and it seemed they were lip-syncing, and poorly so. And I’m not certain Mvelase, who stars in Generations, can play the guitar.
Despite her father’s concerns, Khanyi heads to Joburg to audition and finds the going tough. She almost spends a night on the street and misses a crucial audition. Luckily, Khanyi Mbau’s character, Vivian, a seasoned actress and stage veteran, discovers Khanyi’s singing talents by chance. Her voice is stellar and in the bathroom scene it’s clear that she’s doing the singing. Confusingly though, in other scenes, she lip-syncs, which makes one unsure of how good her voice actually is.
Rounding out the cast are Khabonina Qubeka, who plays established actress Gugu Dhlamini, and industry legend Aubrey Poo as Mak Bogatso, a playwright/Lebo M character just returned from America. Hilariously, his character has an American accent that breaks when he gets angry and the vernac naturally pours out.
I must commend She Is King for being expertly shot and showcasing Joburg in a masterful way. The rehearsal scenes were filmed at the Joburg Council Chambers and are fresh, stunning and cleanly directed. The production is of international quality and the film features awesome cameos by the likes of Moonchild Sanelly, DJ Shimza and the legendary Jerry Phele, something we aren’t really used to seeing in a South African film. The only cameo I didn’t like was from the underwhelming rapper Ifani. Mbau needs to think seriously about being a presenter because she really delivers as an actress. The cheese of musicals isn’t my thing, but She Is King is sure to be popular in cinemas and when it hits TV screens.
(Photos: Supplied/City Press)