Combating mixed reviews with enthusiastic audience response, the musical Kat And The Kings has made it through its first Broadway milestone: the show reaches its hundredth performance Saturday evening, Nov. 13.
According to production spokesperson Beth Stevens, the troupe will have an even busier night Nov. 15, when they appear at two events. First, they'll perform at the Creative Coalition's Seconding The First" benefit at Town Hall. The organization works for the protection of First Amendment rights. After that, the Kat company heads to Aaron Davis Hall for the 27th annual Audelco Awards, honoring achievement in black theatre.
Kat and the Kings, a rock n' roll musical following a fictional doo wop vocal group in Apartheid-era South Africa, ends with the cast whipping the audience into a participatory frenzy and then rushing to the lobby to shake hands, sign autographs and receive hugs and kisses.
The native South African group of the title styles itself on such American groups as the Platters, the Drifters and the Ink Spots, but finds its potential limited by white rule in South Africa.
The cast includes Jody J. Abrahams, Luqmaan Adams, Junaid Booysen, Terry Hector, Alistair Izobell and Kim Louis. Kat and the Kings opened at the Cort Aug. 19. Previews began Aug. 6.
The show won two London Olivier Awards (including Best New Musical and Best Performance ensemble honors) for its hit London engagement. The show has yet to prove a box office success in New York, however. Grosses have declined in recent weeks, with the show taking in only $132,604 (less than a third of potential) for the week ending Nov. 7. Houses have ranged from 40-50 percent of capacity.
In August, the show's original London cast CD was released in the U.S. 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 can be heard on the CD, which was taken from a performance at London's Vaudeville Theatre, June 6, 1998.
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. It moved 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.