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WINNERS TO STAR IN TOERIEN MUSICAL! (article first published : 2008-06-15)

The winners of M-Net’s latest reality series, High School Musical: Spotlight South Africa will start their professional careers in the company of theatre greats. Once the television series has ended, the winners will go on to play the roles of Gabriella and Troy in a High School Musical stage show to be produced by renowned theatre impresario Pieter Toerien and industry veteran Hazel Feldman.

The stage production of High School Musical will premiere in Cape Town at the Artscape Opera House on November 26 and move to Montecasino’s Il Teatro in Johannesburg in February 2009.

Pieter Toerien will also play an important part in the television production, which started with auditions in Port Elizabeth this past weekend and will now move on to Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban.

Sparked by the phenomenal craze surrounding Disney Channel’s original movie, High School Musical: Spotlight SA is a brand new reality show concept and a worldwide first. Unlike other talent searches, in which the contestants are under the scrutiny of critical judges, High School Musical: Spotlight SA is steered by the professionals who will finally be responsible for the stage production.

As such, Pieter Toerien will be seen in the role of “The Producer” in the television show.

On the last day of the three-day audition phase in each city, he joins the programme’s creative panel (a musical director, theatre director and choreographer) to make a final call on the selection of performers to go through to the next round – The Top 40. These finalists will strut their stuff in Cape Town, from where the show will be broadcast in August.

When the public starts voting for their favourite Troys and Gabriellas, the opinion of “The Producer” could be pivotal for the performers who find themselves at the bottom of the voters’ barrel. In this stage of the competition, after discussing their progress with the creative team, Pieter Toerien can exercise his veto to “save” someone who he thinks shows potential and deserves to be in the spotlight for another round.

From time to time, Hazel Feldman will join the team to offer the contestants valuable advice about the often bewildering world of professional theatre.

According to Carl Fischer, M-Net’s Head of Original Productions, the involvement of the likes of Pieter Toerien and Hazel Feldman in High School Musical: Spotlight SA is yet another indication of the magnitude of this television production. “The winners will be assured of a leading part in a theatrical production spearheaded by South Africa’s most prominent musical theatre producers and, with the involvement of Disney, it could even lead to an international career in the performing arts,” he says.

Renowned for his groundbreaking projects, Pieter Toerien is excited about the way this new show creates a bridge between various entertainment platforms. “We’ve never cast leads for a theatre production in this way before. The TV cameras could find fresh talent at grassroots level and I look forward to giving young talent the chance to shine in the national spotlight.” Pieter Toerien is arguably South African theatre’s leading light, with over 400 stage productions over the past 40 years to his credit. His most recent hits include last year’s triumphant production of The Lion King at Montecasino; Les Miserables; Cats; The Phantom of the Opera, Joseph and His Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Jesus Christ Superstar; Hair and Chess.

Hazel Feldman has produced more than 20 major extravaganzas over the past 13 years, including the hugely successful local stage productions of Chicago, Fame, We Will Rock You and Rent and high-profile concerts like Gloria Estefan, Luciano Pavarotti and the Three Tenors concert at the Union Buildings.

KZN hopefuls between the ages of 16 and 25 can audition in Durban on June 27 at the BAT Centre, Victoria Embankment. For more information, visit www.mnet.co.za

High School Musical: Spotlight South Africa starts on M-Net on August 2 and will be broadcast weekly on Mondays and Saturdays at 19h00. The series is produced by EdenRage Media.




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