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JOHN FLETCHER CENTRE STAGE (article first published : 2003-08-22)

Celebrated international opera and musical star John Fletcher, together with London jazz pianist Stephen Higgins, presents the 2003 South African tour of the acclaimed John Fletcher Centre Stage, in aid of the of Rotary International Eradication of Polio Campaign.

The production features an eclectic blend of a number of projects that John Fletcher is currently working on. He has drawn from two of his UK shows Classic junXion and Passion. These included numbers from musicals such as Phantom of the Opera, Les Miserables and West Side Story as well as classics such as Rachmaninov’s Poncinelle and the Bach-Gounod Ave Maria and some pure jazz in the form of Gershwin’s Foggy Day and Summertime.

A third source of material is the work Fletcher is doing with a prominent New York production house, which is an African music/classical music crossover show for 2004 and has choreographer Debbie Rakusin (African Footprint) on board. The final source of material arises from the work he is currently doing with the Drakensberg Boys’ Choir using classical and popular music, African musical instruments and translations of the words into Zulu or Xhosa to create a whole new palette of sound.

John Fletcher’s 22-show national tour from July 30 to September 6 will be presented in aid of the Eradication of Polio Campaign’s work to wipe out the disease on the African subcontinent by 2005. During each show in the End Polio Tour, school choirs from all communities will join Fletcher and Higgins on the stage as part of the performance. The organisers are presently liasing with the South African Post-Polio Association to identify, train and rehearse people who have suffered from the ravages of polio but who are musically talented and who would like to perform with Fletcher and Higgins on the public stage.

John Fletcher’s Centre Stage is a superbly lit and staged programme in which the musical stars give a profound, beautiful and dramatic interpretation of some of the greatest songs ever written.

John Fletcher studied voice in the music schools of Rhodes University and the University of the Witwatersrand and at the Royal College of Music in London. He also read law in South Africa, took his PhD in administrative law at Trinity Hall, Cambridge, and practised as an advocate for five years. He was the first singer to be awarded the Nelson Mandela Nedbank Arts and Culture Trust Award for overseas study.

Stephen Higgins is on the staff of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden and Glyndebourne Opera and has recently made his Wigmore Hall debut. He leads his own jazz band in London and was musical advisor to the controversial film Hilary and Jackie and has also worked extensively in South Africa. He was part of the production team of the Spier Festival/Broomhill Carmen and Passion Plays which took 30 South African singers to London’s West End. Nedcor and Budget Rent-a-Car sponsor the End Polio Tour 2003.

KZN performances take place on August 26 and 27 at the Playhouse and on August 29 and 30 at the Hilton College Theatre. Booking is through Computicket.




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