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media: Queen At The Ballet


It is refreshing to discover theatre that doesn’t pretend to be deep, meaningful or earth-shattering. It’s simply a massively enjoyable ride; an entertaining (but not shallow) diversion. Sean Bovim’s QUEEN AT THE BALLET is such a production.

There’s a simple reason why this show, currently on at the Joburg Theatre until April 13, keeps packing out venues nationwide: it skilfully fuses popular appeal with high production values and extraordinary choreography, costumes and music.

Using the music of Queen (arranged by Michael Hankinson) as its sonic landscape, sung mainly by seasoned showman Cito and impressive newcomer Daniel Fisher, Queen at the Ballet loosely tells the story of Freddie Mercury and his male and female loves through contemporary ballet dance sequences that veer between playful, exquisite and deeply introspective.

It’s a feast for the senses: the 20 dancers, led by Henk Opperman and Devon Marshbank and supported by Tanya Futter, Nicola van der Merwe and Faye Dubinski, whisk us on a sublime odyssey through the mind of a tortured genius.

Not only will they rock you — they’ll take your breath away.

Christina Kennedy
8 April 2014


"Excess is part of my nature. Dullness is a disease."

..........So says Queen’s monumentally talented and greatly mourned Freddie Mercury. And thus the departure point for Sean Bovim’s exceptional modern ballet, Queen at the Ballet.

I was privileged enough to attend opening night, alongside a consummate Queen fan, namely, my mother. She brought me up to recognise his immense talent, passion, joy, and musical adultery – for nothing Queen did had very much in common with anything else they did, save for exceptional musical skill and showmanship. She felt like the perfect companion for a show like this.

Sean Bovim’s choreography shines best when witnessing the spectacular ensemble pieces, which he does to great effect on tracks such as Innuendo, Under Pressure, Bicycle Race, and more. The surprising combinations of male/female & male/male duets, and ensemble dances added layers to the storytelling aspect of the Ballet.

The lead male dancer, Henk Opperman, was utterly breathtaking, managing to instill the choreographic combination of ballet, jazz, and contemporary dance with the flamboyant, passionate, and at times desperate, spirit of Freddie Mercury. These qualities were equally apparent in the vocal approach of Cito Otto, who was one of the vocalists performing as Freddie. Daniel Fisher, who was the other voice of Freddie, I felt was not as emotional vocally, although polished he surely was.

Personally, I felt that the set design – done by artist Tay Dall – on the whole didn’t talk to the story or the dance. The staging of the set design was at its most strong on pieces such as Radio Gaga, and the flamenco styling for Innuendo. The costumes, on the other hand, were most sublime, and especially unusual. Costumes were designed by Kluk CGDT, Craig Port, Gavin Rajah, & Ian West – most of whom are not used to designing for the movement of dance, but all of whom proved they could execute to the brief strikingly well.

To mention high points of the show would require a list as long as my arm. In spite of my niggly concerns for one or two things, it is clear this is a show that is focusing on the dance more than anything, and managing to interpret the spirit and music of Freddie Mercury in the most thrilling manner possible.

I simply cannot recommend this show highly enough, not only for what it is in itself, but also for the rejuvenation it brings to South African ballet, allowing dancers and audience members to both delight in watching contemporary choreography that is relevant and engaging, beyond the classics.

9 April 2014




Last Thursday saw the Joburg theatre packed to the rafters for the opening of Sean Bovim’s Queen at the Ballet, a show which surpassed every expectation I had when I arrived. 

The ballet, which is set to 20 of Queen’s greatest numbers sung live by Cito of Wonderboom fame and Daniel Fisher with a special appearance by Angela Kilian is an exciting adventure through the life of the “Great Pretender” Freddy Mercury and the friends he held dear to his heart.

The lead parts for the opening night were danced by Henk Opperman as Freddie, Devon Marshbank as Jim Hutton, Elzanne Crause as Rosemary Pearson and Faye Dubinski as Barbara Valentin, who all danced their parts to perfection.

The publicity press release states: “This hit show uses the athleticism of rock ballet en-pointe in a high impact production that will entertain people of all ages.”

I can testify that people of all ages filled the theatre and every one of them – judging by the prolonged standing ovation the dancers received, was entertained and thoroughly impressed by the dancers’ energy and enthusiasm for the show, as well as the silky voices of the singers.

From the opening bars of the first number, the 24 dancers’ work was high powered and energetic yet looked effortless as they sailed across the stage delighting the audience with fantastic choreography made only better by the perfect execution of their beautiful moves.

For the first time, in my experience, it was the men – especially Opperman – who completely stole the show from the female dancers with their athletic and acrobatic moves performed with attitude and grace.
Opperman has a stage presence which I have never experienced in a male ballet dancer which, along with a cheeky attitude, had my eyes glued to his every move.

He was well supported by the entire cast but his work with Devon Marshbank was certainly the highlight of the various couplings on stage. The show will run until April 13 and in my opinion you cannot afford to miss this stunning show. 

Samantha Keogh
2 April 2014



You mention the band Queen and I am surely interested. You mention ballet, it's safe to say that less interest would begot from me.

Queen at the Ballet struck me at first as a concept that would be potentially great or incredibly superficial. But I am pleased to say that the South African ballet under the guiding hand of Sean Bovim impressed me beyond words.

The storyline that is centred around the late great Freddy Mercury’s love-life involving his friends and lovers (both male and female) is an in depth artistic representation with astonishing accuracy.
Now it’s easy to make a “play” about a man with too much love for just one person a very cliché and inevitably uncomfortable and depressing affair.

Yet to my greatest surprise the incredibly well choreographed dancers with the accompaniment of the great (and I mean great!) voices of South-African rock legend Cito and Daniel Fisher portrayed a delicate emotional journey of a man trapped in a never ending battle to love those (closest) to him. This production captured much spontaneous applause in the deepest sensual moments like during the classic songs “Who wants to live forever” and “Bohemian Rhapsody”.

At first sitting in the great Joburg Theatre I felt the show started off a bit slow and there was an overall feeling that it’s just not “enough”. Enough of what though? You’re not sure…. Maybe it lacked action, maybe lack of an explosive start. But you soon realize that it was perfect. Starting with a gentle introduction to make you “ease” into the performance. Almost like getting to know each character.
You are quickly engrossed in the story when it becomes “more”. Without words these creatures of art that grace the stage with their bodies as their canvasses portray many aspects of the late great performer’s character. From the flamboyant and confident colossus he was on stage to a soft and tender man with a quirky side that made light of the impending end he would have to face.

Somehow Sean Bovim and his cast had plopped in what seems like an almost accidental moment of patriotic genius during “God save the Queen” where the monarch renounces her crown to unveil the colours of the South-African flag as a “cape” that was paraded with pride.

Baring in mind that the show is not about the extensively great music of the band Freddie Mercury helped become an international phenomenon, there was an expectation that the music would be the “main attraction” as I went to find my seat. But yet again, another surprising moment when you realize the music has been expertly reworked to be the accompaniment to the dance and not the other way around. 

Perfectly “jazzing it up” or simplifying it to accentuate the emotional performances.
The only lingering regret is the ever constant gnawing realization that it takes two great South-African voices to pull off what Freddie Mercury had done on his own. You quickly realize your heart is broken at the loss of such a great performer. 

Again the Ballet makes great use of this as the performance lead to the gripped Joburg audience exploding into a standing ovation. Tears showed the appreciation after an amazing rendition of “Barcelona” that left the crowd feeling like they knew Freddy personally.

My recommendation: If you’re a fan of Ballet. Go and see this. If you are not a fan of Ballet. Go and see this! You will forever be grateful that for a brief moment you got to hear Freddy Mercury speak without words.

Aidan James
1 April 2014



Last night I had the privilege to attend @SeanBovim ‘s #QueenAtTheBallet at @joburgtheatre.
I have been pondering my review all day. How do I capture the profound performance of a ballet company so unique, merged – but never over powered by the music of Queen and exploring the raw fire inside The Great Pretender, Freddie Mercury?

Perhaps some may experience this masterpiece as a flawless performance by a talented ballet Company, to the music of a legend that ended too soon.  I would suggest we did not experience the same performance.

For me,  it was far more gripping and personal.  The talented Henk Opperman’s portrayal of Freddie Mercury was beautifully intense. Breathtaking in depth,  soul destroying in thought. I could feel the struggle, the torment as to Freddie Mercury’s exploring sexuality with passion and yet with ease.
I could tell you the company was formed in 2009, that @SeanBovim is a genius, that the show has had two sold out runs in Cape Town and will no doubt experience the same success here at @joburgtheatre. The company makes you both drool and sign a gym membership immediately…. 

It is not seeing a show. It is witnessing the gift of the arts, in all its greatness and splendor.

Nocturnal Wenchy
29 March 2014



Saturday Star:  "A sensual sizzler"
  "Thrilling dance tribute to Freddie Mercury"
  "Bursting with life, energy and movement"
  "Brooding, sensual and virile"
Samantha Keogh: "A ballet beyond compare"
  "High powered and energetic……"
  "surpassed every expectation I had"
Lesley Stones: "A right royal treat"
  "I could picture Mercury himself being delighted by the performance"
  "Queen at the Ballet leaves most tribute shows biting the dust"
Tunez:  "Their vision and talent is astounding!"
  "Queen at the Ballet redefines South African Ballet"
Citizen: "Thunderous applause"
  "Performed with Passion and Honesty"
Graeme Shackleford: "Queen rules at the ballet"
Aidan James: "Impressed me beyond words"
  "Incredibly well choreographed"
  "The gripped Joburg audience exploded into a standing ovation"
  "Performed with Passion and Honesty"
  "For a brief moment you got to hear Freddy Mercury speak without words"
Wenchy Lady: "It is witnessing the gift of the arts, in all its greatness and splendour"



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