Opposing Apartheid on Stage: King Kong the Musical [Hardback]

Tyler Fleming(Author)

ISBN: 9781580469852 | Published by: University of Rochester Press | Series: Rochester Studies in African History and the Diaspora | Volume: 89 | Year of Publication: 2020 | 428p, H9 x W6,
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Opposing Apartheid on Stage


In 1959, King Kong, an interracial jazz opera, swept across South Africa and became a countrywide phenomenon. Its performances sold out, its LP record was widely heard, and its cast became recognized celebrities. Featuring an African composer, cast, and orchestra but predominantly white directors and producers, this interracial production seemed completely distinct from any other theatrical production in the country's history. Despite being staged over a decade after the enacting of apartheid, the interracial collaboration met widespread acclaim that bridged South Africa's racial, political, ethnic, and class fissures.

Widely considered a watershed moment within the history of South African theater and music, King Kong encapsulated key currents within South African cultural history. Author Tyler Fleming's gripping narrative unpacks the life of the musical, from the emergence of the heavyweight boxer "King Kong" Dlamini to the behind-the-scenes dynamics of rehearsals to the musical's 1961 tour of Britain and the later experience of cast members living in exile for their opposition to apartheid. Opposing Apartheid on Stage: "King Kong" the Musical explores the history of this jazz opera and its enduring legacy in both South African history and global popular culture.

Table of Contents

"Marvelous Muscles": A History of Ezekiel Dlamini, the Real "King Kong"
Creating a "Back of the Moon": The Union of Southern African Artists and Interracial Collaboration Behind the "All-African" Musical
"Quickly in Love": Popular Receptions of 1959 King Kong and Entertaining the Possibilities of a Different South Africa(s)
"Kwela Kong": The Trials and Tribulations of a South African Musical Abroad in 1961
"Sad Times, Bad Times": Issues of Exile, the King Kong Cast, and South African Jazz in Britain, 1961-1980
"The Boy's [and Girl's] Doin' It":Moving to America and Re-Discovering Africa, 1960-1989
"Death Song": The 1979 Remake of King Kong And the Power of Cultural Memories Under Apartheid

Reviews & Quotes

"Fleming's exposition is an opportunity to explore the history of prize fighting, racial discrimination with the rise of apartheid, urbanization, cross-racial artistic collaborations, and exile. This is an extraordinarily rich and ambitious work, and quite unlike anything in recent African historiography. . . . Opposing Apartheid on Stage is a spectacular achievement and a pleasure to read."
Benjamin N. Lawrance

"Fleming examines every aspect of the play, from its sonic genesis in the cultural ferment of Sophiatown&emdash;the area of Johannesburg where a rich musical, social and literary world blossomed until the district was bulldozed to make way for a white suburb called Triomf (Triumph)&emdash;to the fates of the musicians and actors who chose exile, and its ill-fated and forgotten restaging in 1979. . . . As Fleming makes abundantly clear, the story of King Kong is about much more than just musical theatre."


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