If there is one thing to take away from the production, ‘Legend The Musical’, it’s the fallibility of heroes which makes them relatable and real to their believers.
Co-produced by artistic director, Gbenga Yusuf, and music director, Ayo Ajayi Legend, the musical unites five of Africa’s heroes, Sango, the son of thunder, Queen Amina of Zazzau, Nana Ya of Asante Kingdom, Shaka the Zulu, and Queen Nefertiti of Egypt in an epic tale to save motherland, Africa, from evil.
Exploring themes of fallibility of legends versus realistic homage of legends, good versus evil, and love, the over 50 cast musical aims at striking a balance between exposing the flawed nature of Africa’s iconic heroes and the ideals they represent, which are worth fighting for once approached with practicality to avoid the mistakes of the past.
In delivering a credible plot, director Yusuf unites the past with the present through a unified quest embarked on by the five heroes with the contemporary character Zainab, also called Zina, a reincarnated priestess of the legends. He also devises a common enemy, the shadow, which supersedes the bickering, egotistic heroes.
A commendable addition to the plot, is the production’s balanced story and spectacle. Spectacle abounds in ‘Legend The Musical’, and is achieved regardless of minimal props with lavish costumes, actors controlled movements, live orchestra, lighting and recorded sounds. Several dance acts and mimed battle sequences served as transitions, prologue and epilogue. Although, the lighting could have been better handled to prevent the feel of sudden blackout rather than transitions that occurred a few times during the performance.
With a star featured cast as Waje, and Yinka Davies cleverly playing the few demanding singing roles, the brilliant cast did a good job channelling Africa’s great characters, carriage and native dialects. Standout performance goes to Frank Igbo in the role of Zina’s boyfriend and the shadow. He starts out as a whiny coward, to the wicked Shadow, quite calm and at ease in his evil ways, and finally a worthy mate. The character switch and development are impressive, bleeding into the majestic performance of ‘The Song of The Shadow’ as the most memorable number of the production, fit for Broadway.
In his address to the audience post-performance, Yusuf asserts the play’s aim to substitute Africans’ idolisation of foreign superheroes with African legends. It will take more than the 44 performances for this to happen; and despite its trite plot resolution, superficial information on the heroes, the musical offers the essentials to drive the curious to further knowledge.
The legends have been made real, flesh and blood, with weaknesses and vices. It shows that rather than idolise them, one learns from their mistakes, and strive for practicality in the ideals they represent which gives the continent hope for the future.