A star is reborn in Lebo play
East London's Bhelekazi has been chosen to play the late kwaito icon Lebo Mathosa in the upcoming musical Drama Queen at the State Theatre. Veteran actor Sello Maake Ka-Ncube is directing the production.
The 28-year-old Bhelekazi, whose real name is Yolanda Ruiters, grew up just a couple of blocks from megastar Zahara's home in Mdantsane, but spent about seven years in Leeds, England, studying at HOST Media Centre, in Chapeltown, before returning to live in Johannesburg in 2010.
She said yesterday: "A friend of mine called and told me about auditions, so I went.
"I've always admired her [Mathosa] as an artist and what she brought to people on stage. Ever since she [died], nobody has been able to capture that on stage - I've always believed that I could do it."
Speaking to The Times at the end of May, Ka-Ncube bemoaned the lack of standout candidates during the initial auditions held in Pretoria, and announced further auditions in Soweto.
The Scandal actor, who's just returned from acting alongside Michael Richard and Graham Hopkins in the Clare Mortimer-directed Race at the National Arts Festival, said the musical was inspired by the Abba-based musical Mamma Mia!and the Queen tribute We Will Rock You,and "how their music is kept alive by turning them into musicals".
"It's nerve-wracking to play Lebo, because she was not one-dimensional, and people are going to be looking to see if I can capture that.
"But I look at it as a challenge and a chance to grow as an artist," said Bhelekazi.
She added that Ka-Ncube had told her that he was her "friend" as the director, and encouraged her to ask questions whenever she was unsure.
Bhelekazi hopes to release a debut single within two months, and has been in talks with record label Kalawa Jazmee.
Sindi Nene has signed on to be one of the back-up singers, and Londiwe Mthembu will play Mathosa's alter ego.
There are also six dancers.
But choreographer Thabiso Khomo ranks as a coup for Ka-Ncube.
Khomo choreographed, danced, and even wrote songs for Mathosa over a decade ago.
He said this was a chance to honour her music and memory after her untimely death in 2006.
She died when her driver lost control of the car they were in.
She was just 29.
He said of the dancers who will perform in the musical: "We actually started yesterday [Monday] and I was sussing them out.
"It's going to be a challenge to get them to do things the way we used to do it.
"When Lebo was around she was humble enough to let me coach her, so I have to get these dancers to understand what she encompassed in her work.
"She always said she was a dancer before a singer."
He added: "I don't think we will be able to do what we did at the time, but we will come up with something fresh - we have some exciting dancers and they know her music, which makes it easier for me."
Drama Queen runs from August 9 to September 9 at the State Theatre, Pretoria.