MADIBA the musical

Opera House, Wellington

07/02/2019 - 10/02/2019

Isaac Theatre Royal, Christchurch

14/02/2019 - 17/02/2019

Production Details


The soul-stirring celebration of Nelson Mandela’s life – Madiba the Musical — pays tribute to the charismatic icon and activist whilst exploring the struggles, racial conflicts and divisions behind his unyielding crusade for reconciliation in South Africa.

International critics have hailed it as ‘a story that touches our hearts’, ‘magnificent’, ‘breathtaking’ and ‘fascinating’. 

The show about destiny and desire springs to life with vigour and heart, and looks to forgiveness beyond the hate. It is a story of forbearance, passion and hope in the fight for a brand new world of modernity and freedom. 

With its pulsating African dance, strident and haunting drama, stunning visuals and inspiring songs, Madiba the Musical is a unique theatrical experience to lift our spirits.

“The best show about my grandfather” – Ndaba Mandela, Paris Match (Nelson Mandela’s Grandson)

Beginning its world tour in France before wowing audiences in Australia, this production is interwoven with stories of the fight against apartheid and forbidden love in a troubled land. The musical acknowledges the dramatic part New Zealand played in bringing an end to apartheid.


Timed to mark 25 years since the abolition of apartheid in South Africa, Madiba the Musical features African dance and vocal traditions set alongside eternal love songs and stirring anthems in a show that tells of Mandela’s lifework as a lawyer and activist for peace through the story of young artist Will, who is the victim of apartheid in South Africa.

The show features an exciting line up of singers, actors and dancers including New Zealand’s own Barry Conrad who’s opened for the likes of Brian McKnight, Craig David and Eric Benet, toured globally with world-renowned Darlene Zschech and Grammy-winning Israel Houghton, and has vocally produced and penned songs for an array of artists including X-Factor finalist Moorhouse, Ginny Blackmore and Stan Walker.

His screenwork includes FOX’s Power Rangers: Ninja Storm, numerous TV commercials and the #1 box office hit, The Sapphires. His musical theatre debut was in the Australian premiere of award-winning, critically acclaimed seasons of the Broadway smash, Violet. He toured in Hairspray: Arena Spectacular, Grease: The Arena Experience as Kenickie and recently, Beautiful: The Carole King Musical. The tipping point of Conrad’s rise to public recognition was cemented when he was named as one of the Final 12 on Channel 7’s The X-Factor, winning over a legion of new fans and truly solidifying himself as one of Australia’s most exciting talents. 

Barry plays Will Xulu who falls in love with white Afrikaans girl Helena (Madeline Perrone, Fiddler on the Roof). In a fictional parallel story to Mandela’s work as a lawyer and activist for peace, their story tells of the struggle and tragedy of the apartheid regime.

Following an extensive international search, South African star of stage, television and film Perci Moeketsi was chosen to play his hero Nelson Mandela. From a very humble background where a career in the arts was considered nothing but a hobby for a black child, Perci says he’s pinching himself that he is portraying his hero and on an international platform.

Tim Omaji (Fame, In the Heights), also known by stage name Timomatic, plays the role of Sam Onatou, a young black activist who is arrested in South Africa. In prison he meets the man known as “Madiba”, Nelson Mandela. The role of Sandy, Sam’s fiancée, who works for the family of a white policeman will be played by Tarisai Vushe (The Lion King); Peter Van Ledon, is played by Blake Erickson (Les Miserables, Grey Gardens).

Following her performance as Shirelles lead singer Shirley Owens in the successful Australian touring production of Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, Ruva Ngwenya plays the role of Winnie Mandela.

Directed by Pierre-Yves Duchesne and Dennis Watkins, Musical Director Paul White and Choreographer Johan Nus the musical is timely in its arrival, marking 25 years since the abolition of apartheid in South Africa, and the year that Mandela would have turned 100, if he was still alive.

MADIBA THE MUSICAL – New Zealand tour
25 January to 3 February 2019
Venue:  Bruce Mason Centre
Bookings:  Tickets from Ticketmaster

7 to 10 February 2019
Venue:  Opera House
Bookings:  Tickets from Ticketmaster

14 to 17 February 2019
Venue:  Isaac Theatre Royal
Bookings:  Tickets from Ticketek

Cast & Creatives

Theatre , Musical ,

2h 25m incl. interval

Madiba has moments of greatness

Review by Ruby Macandrew 09th Feb 2019

Condensing such a well-known life into two hours was never going to be an easy task, particularly when that life was fraught with challenges, but the team behind Madiba The Musical certainly gave it a good crack.

The English adaptation of Jean-Pierre Hadida and Alicia Sebrien’s musical tells – or more accurately, sings – the story of anti-apartheid revolutionary Nelson Mandela’s adult years, acknowledging his struggles and achievements in equal measure through music and dance. [More


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Rippling with vigour, vitality and energy to burn

Review by Grace Ahipene Hoet 08th Feb 2019

Madiba the musical celebration of Nelson Mandela’s legacy is interwoven with stories of the fight against apartheid and forbidden love in a troubled time and land.

Mandela was born of the Xhosa tribe from the Eastern Cape in the Transkei of South Africa. Nelson is the name given to him by a teacher. Madiba the name given to him by his ancestors, deeper than a surname, a sign of great respect and affection. Madiba originated from a chiefly line.

“In Africa there is a concept known as Ubuntu – the profound sense that we are human only though the humanity of others; that if we are to accomplish anything in this world, it will in equal measure be due to the work and achievements of other…” Nelson Mandela

The charisma of this production lies firmly in the cast; full credit to the talent and range of the Madiba cast: rippling with vigour, vitality and energy to burn. They show their abundance of abilities ranging from tradition-based African movement to gumboot stomping dances, vocal supremacy and singing that moved a nation.

Their range of musicality covers a variety of genres from spoken word, rap and soul stirring RnB numbers to traditional musical theatre sounds and emotional ballads.

The best moments are given by the whole company.  

This is a ‘go see’ show purely for the skill and talent of the performers. The various storytelling devices are well presented by the ensemble from staged scenes to sculpted tableaux and living sculptures that capture ones attention.

The seasoned skill of Sam Onotou (Timo Timomatic) and William Xulu (Barry Conrad) is clearly evident. They playfully entrance the audience with ‘The World is On Our Side’, joyfully showing of their vocal range to the delight of the audience.

The under-utilised voices and skill of Winnie Mandela (Ruva Ngwenya) and Sandy Xulu (Tarisai Vushe) is noticeable. Please Mr Director let the ladies loose, you so can hear the depth and range of their talent, and they leave us wanting more.

David Dennis’s fluidity as the narrator/storyteller is commendable even when his Rap and Hip Hop beats at times feel out of place – there is a method to the madness all is revealed in due course. No denying his rhythm, dance and delivery is like liquid chocolate: smooth and flawless.

The South African born actor Perci Moeketsi’s performance as Nelson Mandela is truthful, warm and precise, his vocal and physical qualities truly resemble Madiba. He finely balances Mandela’s statesman-like skills with his compelling humanity. 

The performance of the evening comes from Peter Van Leden (Blake Erickson): his consummate performance in ‘My Civilization’ is the catharsis for the evening.  Not only is Erickson’s singing amazing, he takes the audience with him on his true emotional journey through time. The fully fledged character holds the resounding resolution of the whole story, from naïve beginnings to self-loathing and hate through to resolution of forgiveness. 

Madiba the Musical is an original English language production of a French show the toured Australia and is now presented in Aotearoa New Zealand.

What qualified two French authors to tell the story of Nelson Mandela – Madiba? A passion, an inspiration, an aspiration? Though feasible in theory it is debatable in reality.  Madiba the Musical does pose the question: Is it as simple as black and white? Is Madiba a white man’s version of a black man’s journey? Is it right for us to tell other indigenous people’s stories? 

Is it possible to let the world learn from the black man’s interpretation?

“It is hard to eulogize any man – to capture in words not just the facts and the dates that make a life, but the essential truth of a person – their private joys and sorrows; the quiet moments and unique qualities that illuminate someone’s soul. How much harder to do so for a giant of history, who moved a nation toward justice, and in the process moved billions around the world.”Barack Obama

“Please explain,” the Narrator (David Dennis) asks of Mandela?

“Why? Why should the future ask the past please explain?”

Why ask Mandela to explain: he need not explain himself. All is revealed by the narrator at the closing as to why he ask the questions; who he is and his right to ask the questions.

“I’ve cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.” Nelson Mandela, 1964.

Yes there is the bumpy jarring ride between song transitions which is noted in the exciting foot stomping ‘Gumboot Dance’ to the gear-changing ballad that follows. The flow of the storytelling and the emotional journey was interrupted a few too many times, everyone loves a good story so let it flow.

The slightly underdeveloped character arc and the one-dimensional shallowness of the central character give us little to hold on to at times. However, what it lacks in script and emotional depth is made up for by the charm and skill of the cast.

Credit must be given to the authors and composer Jean-Pierre Hadida and Alicia Sebrien: they endured and gave it a go. Over time Madiba the Musical, like a rough African diamond, may become a polished jewel.

Think of Madiba, and the words that brought him comfort within the four walls of a cell: “It matters not how strait the gate, how charged with punishments the scroll, I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.” Nelson Mandela – Madiba   


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