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DEATH OF MICHAEL LOVEGROVE (article first published : 2006-06-8)

Information received from Dlamini Weil Communications on behalf of The South African State Theatre passed on the sad news that Michael J Lovegrove, Chief Executive Officer of The South African State Theatre, passed away in Pretoria on June 5. One of the behind-the-scene giants of the industry, he died following a struggle with diabetes. He was 61.

“Michael Lovegrove was an integral part of South African theatre for more than three decades, a wonderful raconteur and a man who helped turn around The South African State Theatre. His challenge was to reinvent The State Theatre and change it into something more audience-friendly, which he achieved with his usual attention to detail, and this will be his heritage.

“This is an extremely sad and shocking time for everyone here at The State Theatre, and we all will take a long time to come to terms with Michael's passing,” says Dlamini Weil Communications.

Head of Pact Drama in 1981 when The State Theatre was launched, Michael Lovegrove then took control of the complex at the start of the new millennium following the mothballing of the Theatre.

Aubrey Sekhabi, Artistic Director and acting CEO, said that they were all still in a state of shock over Michael's passing. "It's just a sad, sad day for the State Theatre and the staff is trying to deal with the shock."

Producer Hazel Feldman worked with Michael Lovegrove when he joined Southern Sun in 1983 as Executive Producer with specific responsibilities for the Extravaganza shows. It was around the time that Sol Kerzner split the company from Southern Sun to form Sun International. Michael Lovegrove replaced Peter Wilkins who returned to England.

"We had produced four Extravaganza's by that time, three of them with the late Tony Farmer and the other with the Joan Brickhill/Louis Burke team,” Hazel Feldman remembers. “The first Extravaganza that Lovegrove did was Tony Farmer's Stars. It was the first under the Sun International label and opened on December 14, 1983. We also opened the Wendywood Theatre Production Office that year and Michael ran the production office, which became the benchmark for such facilities around the world."

Lovegrove and Feldman worked together on producing 10 Extravaganzas at Sun City, eight major shows at the Wild Coast Sun, and around a dozen at the Galaxy Theatre. He was also critical to the development on the production side of the Superbowl and the presentation in the 80s of some of the world's biggest names.

"He had an incredibly gentle manner, which belied a wicked sense of humour, and a special eye for the creative and the unusual,” adds Hazel Feldman who last worked with Michael Lovegrove in 2002 on her production of Fame - The Musical at the State Theatre. “Nobody could tell a story like Michael and you would be laughing from the first word. He did the accents amazingly and he observed people in a very off-beat way. It is so very sad, and ironic that Michael Lovegrove and Tony Farmer, whose lives were so connected for so long, should pass away so close together.”

Producer Richard Loring believes The State Theatre will remain as a living reminder of what Michael Lovegrove achieved. "We will benefit from his service to the arts for a long time to come and it is important to honour him."

Impresario Pieter Toerien, who worked with Michael Lovegrove on Cats and Phantom of the Opera" at The State Theatre, says that his name may not have made theatrical headlines, "but many headlines would not have been made without him."

Actor Peter Terry said "Michael has died long before his life was completed, and it is a cruel irony that such a fine man could not continue ... he cared so deeply ... and was a joy to be with"

More information from Peter Feldman on 011 804 1485 or e-mail: peter@dwcs.co.za




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