by John Ogah
Sitting in the theatre of the Muson Centre with the lights off and the powerful voice of Olu Jacobs welcoming everyone to the drama musical that was about to begin, I had no expectations. I had never been for a drama show before, but I had always heard of how amazing theatre was. So as the stage lights came on after Olu Jacobs had finished and the cast popped onto the stage singing and acting at the same time, I was sold on theatre.
I will begin with the vocal performance of the cast, giving that I am a singer and I know the difficulties of singing and dancing at the same time. Watching these actors belt out notes from the heavens, dance like they were a part of Kaffy’s dance crew and act like they were on the cast of Rent, made me feel all the more excited. There was no bad singer in that cast and if there were, then they did a good job of blending in the cast and singing in uniformity. Arinola, the photo journalist sings her heart out during her scenes, her voice interpreting the hurt or love or happiness she felt. Her Broadway type soprano voice soaring all the way to the roof and leaving us with dreams and possibilities. File, the renegade leader, left the audience in a state of emotional wreck after a heart breaking performance. His big tenor voice cascading down the theatre and our hearts, making us relive heartbreak and loss. His voice hitting notes many may have found unexpected and exiting the stage with rave applause.
As for the acting performance of the cast, it felt like we were watching a Hollywood movie. You know when something is so good you believe it’s real. That was how good the acting was that when one of the characters was stabbed, the audience exclaimed in shock and disbelief. The actor who played JD Dacosta was brilliant, we could believe in the meanness and playful nature of his character. It never seemed forced or over acted on his part. As for the Renegade or AFS group fighting for change, I will say that there was a tinge of the stereotypical Isakaba or militant portrayal we see in Nollywood movies, where the leader commanded with a powerful voice, bold stance, flexed out movements. This worked well in Heartbeat though, as leaders changed and we could see the difference in the leadership style of both characters. One of the most exciting characters was Adi, the funny food-loving member of Grace House. He also had an amazing voice and effortlessly relieved the audience of the tension through his comedic performance.
The story unfolded in a classic manner, commencing with the establishment of characters and later bringing these characters together in the setting of Grace House, where their purpose and lives would intertwine. Culture and a little bit of religion also spiced up the play, however it was right that much focus was not put on religion, but on moral standing. This made for the inclusivity of people of different faiths who possibly were seated in that theatre.
The performance and story of “Heartbeat: The Musical” will remain memorable because of the mood of the play and moments that touched us, annoyed us and excited us. Those moments were made possible by the stage crew, sound guys, the musicians, the lighting etc. There was a good flow to the production and this fluidity made for an amazing show. Obviously one must acknowledge the Director, Writer of the the play and Executive Producers, Najite Dede, Tosin Otudeko, Olu Jacobs and Joke Silva for bringing an amazing show like this to us, sharing it with theatre lovers, and those of us who didn’t know we’d fall in love with theatre.