The new David Kramer musical, Langarm, currently onstage at the Fugard Theatre has taken Cape Town by storm. A huge part of the appeal of this dance-inspired love story are the amazing performances by Elton Landrew (as Eddie) and Kim Louis (as Dinah). They share some of their Kramer musical memories with us... from Kat and the Kings to Langarm.
Both Landrew and Louis are well acquainted with the magic of a Kramer-musical —they both practically grew up in and through his musicals. ‘We’re very much rooted in the style of Kramer’, shares film and television star Landrew, having performed as Young Kat Diamond in the 1998 staging of Kat and the Kings, and later having played Magoo in the 2004 production.
Louis, returning to the stage after a 20 year absence, has a similar nostalgic reaction, but says for her it goes back even further than the touring Kat and the Kings she did, 'where Jody Abrahams came in, with Loukmaan Adams and Alistair Izobell'.
'The first time I met David Kramer was at the age of 16, when they were busy with the VW Music Active school programme and the production of [Kramer and Taliep Petersen’s musical], Poison,' tells Louis. 'I was one of 700 kids that auditioned; I didn’t think I was going to get in, because the talent back then was already mind blowing. I think what saved me is that I had a music teacher at school that taught us about the big musicals of the world —Les Misérables and shows like that. David actually said to me afterwards that one of the reasons I was chosen was because of my song choice, ‘On My Own’ from Les Mis, which proved that I had some kind of training. Then I did the student production that went to Malaysia, Singapore, and everything —all which at the age of 16 was just “wow” as my first time overseas and on a plane.’
Three years after her first Kramer introduction, Louis says the theatre bug had definitely bitten and she just had stars in her eyes, wanting to be part of their next musical adventure. ‘[Kat and the Kings] was first an all-male cast, but I was so hungry for theatre at that point I was like, “Please, I need to do something!” to David. So, they actually wrote the female role into the show and I became the original Lucy Dixon.’
Now both Landrew and Louis are once again part of a new Kramer creation, and they say the magic is still there.
‘I think anything that’s an original is amazing to do, like with Langarm now too,’ says Louis, ‘because you’re more of a pioneer than simply following the way that somebody else has performed a role’. ‘With an original staging you can put your own spin on it and make the character your own, while somebody else later on is going to have to watch it and go, “This is how she did it”, so it feels quite good.’
Landrew and Louis share that they had the same, welcoming experiencing from the audition process, straight through to the actual staging of Langarm. Not only does the cast feel like family, with Louis joking that she's referred to as "Ma Kim", but also because of the familiar faces a Kramer production brings into that sacred space too.
Any creative process can be quite daunting, but that element of familiarity Landrew and Louis both associate with a Kramer musical makes it a fun experience for them.
Seeing ‘familiar, happy smiling faces like [that of set designer] Saul Radomsky, who also worked on Kat and the Kings, makes the process easier,' says Louis. Landrew completely agrees, ‘Not much has changed in terms of characters —people still have this humble, wonderful "gees" about them’.
He shares that the theatre journey that brought him to Langarm has taught him that Kramer works with people he trusts, because of their shared history: Once he places his trust in a performer, that trust in turn assures that there is a safe space where the performer can then believe in his or her own capabilities the same way Kramer does. ‘When we did the audition I could see how Rene and David both lit up while watching Kim,’ recalls Landrew who auditioned opposite Louis, ‘because all those memories just come back’ in that safe and familiar space.
Listening to Landrew reflect on Kramer’s approach to theatre, it is very obvious that he has great admiration for his Langarm director.
‘I think every director or producer, whether it be movies or theatre, they put a certain stamp on their work. With David, there’s a real love of music. We’ve seen that passion over the years, but also realised that he’s actually very passionate about District Six and the coloured people and the Cape people too; very passionate. He knows everything about our history and can tell us things about stuff we ask, and more. So, he’s got a stamp on certain things, and I think it’s also the experience of knowing that there are certain audiences that will appreciate’ the Langarm story.
While they reminisce about the past and share their relatable joy of being part of this new musical, it becomes clear that their love of theatre gives them the effervescence and vivacity that a Kramer musical requires of its cast, regardless of age.
As much as they speak of Kramer’s passion, they themselves are very passionate too, about theatre in general, but also specifically about Langarm and the joy, sadness and sense of remembrance that it brings along with it.
Much like their Langarm characters (who are trapped in the history of the lost love of their youth), Landrew and Louis have a playfulness to their performance style that gives you a glimpse of the ballroom heartbeat that brought their characters together as youngsters. This duo owns the stage when they perform, together and individually, to great audience applause and appreciation. They're the perfect Langarm-cast fit for the vision of a director whose productions always has something vibrant about its tone and feel.
So, even though the story behind Langarm has an element of heartache, you can be assured that the vibrant music will make you want to get up, dance, and sing along with Landrew, Louis and the rest of the fabulously talented cast at the Fugard Theatre until 3 March 2019. Tickets can be booked online at www.thefugard.com