The original South African stage production “King Kong, All African Jazz Opera“ went overseas to be premiered in London, UK in 1961 after having taking South Africa by storm. The cast and production numbers were altered for the London version of “King Kong, All African Jazz Opera”. The London show was presented by Union Artists, also known as the Union of Southern African Artists. Founded in 1952 this organisation came into being with the dual function of promoting the talent that had already been shown to exist in the musical and dramatic field and to act as an Artists’ Equity. The Union promoted Township Jazz concerts which were the first large scale African entertainment shows to be presented in Johannesburg, and arranged for non-European audiences to see and hear a wide range of entertainment like Dame Flora Robson and Rosalinde Fuller, among others. It also provided rehearsal facilities, advice on a variety of topics, and opportunity of employment of its members.
Six years after the Union was formed ‘King Kong’ was presented. The musical was a spectacular success, over 100.000 people saw this South African production in the first months after its premiere. After ‘King Kong’ Union Artists went into the production of another all-black cast musical ‘Mhkumbane’, written by Alan Paton with music by Todd Matshikiza.
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