The Hattiloo Theatre's Sarafina! is an interesting counterpoint to Ms. Saigon at Playhouse on the Square. Both musicals are historical fictions, but while Ms. Saigon, with its neon-lit nightclubs and helicopter drop, aims for over-the-top verisimilitude, Sarafina! is an impressionistic, bare-staged musical that aims to share the spirit of young, black South Africans during apartheid.
Like Ms. Saigon, Sarafina! looks at the children who've been placed in harm's way. The latter, set during the Soweto uprising, lets us get to know a diverse group of promising students — the brain, the tough guy, the giggly girl, and the gossip — before forcing us to watch them all dropped by machine gun fire because a trigger-happy policeman didn't like the curriculum.
The singing — sometimes accompanied, sometimes a cappella — will sound familiar to fans of Paul Simon's Graceland. Both are written in the mbaqanga tradition, an intoxicating fusion of regional music with jazz, gospel, and R&B.
This is a special moment for the Hattiloo. Not only is it closing its 2012-13 season on a high note, on Saturday, June 8th, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., Hattiloo will celebrate the groundbreaking for a 12,000-square-foot theater being built on the northwest corner of Monroe and Cooper in Overton Square. The groundbreaking will feature musical performances by Jamille "Jam" Hunter, Stefani Bolton, and Fiktive Kin.
Sarafina! is at the Hattiloo Theatre through June 9th. For more information about the Hattiloo groundbreaking, visit Hattiloo.org.