In recent times, even though the Broadway season starts in early summer, things rarely get rolling until late September. However, this August has seen two new shows open on the Great White Way. Voices in the Dark, which opened Aug. 12 at the Longacre Theatre, was the first straight play of the 1999-2000 season, and Kat And The Kings, which opens Aug. 19 at the Cort Theatre, is the season's first Broadway musical.
After winning two London Olivier Awards (including Best New Musical and Best Performance ensemble honors), Kat and the Kings began previews at the Cort Aug. 6. Only four days later, the show's original cast CD was released by First Night Records. Thirty-two cuts fill the CD, most of them in the 1950s pop, doo-wop and jazz tradition filtered through South African township music.
Among the songs on the CD are "Lucky Day," "Cavalla Kings," "If Your Shoes Don't Shine," "Josephine," "Only if you Have a Dream," "Stupid Boy," "Lonely Girl," "Taffelberg Hotel" and "Wild Time." Audience cheers may be heard on the CD, which was taken from a performance at London's Vaudeville Theatre, June 6, 1998. Greg Hackett and Andy Butlin engineered the CD, which was recorded and mixed by David Hunt and Niall Accott.
The Cape Town musical was the first South African musical to open in London since the advent of majority rule in that country. Based on the real-life memories of the show's star, Salie Daniels, Kat and the Kings offers a glimpse of the "Cape Coloured," or mixed race community of Cape Town, through the story of a talented but "non-white" young band that couldn't compete with apartheid.
David Kramer directs. Kramer -- who also co-wrote the piece with Taliep Petersen -- co-produces with Harriet Newman Leve, Richard Frankel and Marc Routh. The year is 1957. The setting, District Six, the "New Orleans" of South Africa where the local teens bop to the sounds of Fats Domino, imported by American sailors docking at the Cape of Good Hope. Kat Diamond is 17 and convinced that he's the best singer and dancer in the whole district. He and his band hit the big time for awhile -- before crashing down. Forty years later, Kat, now a street shoeshine man, reflects on his youth and his moment in the spotlight.
Kat and the Kings had several successful runs in South Africa and came to the West End via acclaimed runs at the north west London fringe venue, the Tricycle Theatre. The award-winning West End production ran March 23-Aug. 1, 1998 at the Vaudeville Theatre. It was a shorter-than anticipated run; the cast's desire to visit their families back home, and a slew of big musicals in London at the time, weighed against extending the show into the fall of that year.