New York Theatre Workshop and National Black Theatre's production of Dreaming Zenzile off Broadway has named its cast. The show, written and performed by Grammy Award-nominated musician Somi Kakoma, will play from May 17 to June 26, with an opening night on June 1. Kakoma herself will play Miriam Makeba, the South African singer and activist on whose life the show is based. The cast also includes Aaron Marcellus, Naledi Masilo, and Phumzile Sojola as the Sangoma Chorus. Additional casting has yet to be announced.
Dreaming Zenzile, a portrait of the South African musician Miriam Makeba, will be performed at New York Theatre Workshop as part of the Off-Broadway 2021/2022 season. Get Dreaming Zenzile tickets on New York Theatre Guide.
Dreaming Zenzile is a musical about Makeba's life and career, centered around her rousing final concert. As she performs for an enthusiastic audience and raises their spirits along with their consciousness, her ancestors appear to take her through the memories connected to her music, allowing Makeba to go on a spiritual journey of reconciliation as she reaches the culmination of her career. Grammy-nominated international artist Somi Kakoma has written the musical and performs as Makeba, and she's accompanied by a live jazz band that plays both original music and new arrangements of Makeba's jazz, Afropop, and world music on stage.
The musical takes its name from Makeba's birth name, Zenzile. She shed it professionally and went by her middle and last names as a singer, and she was eventually nicknamed "Mama Africa" later in her career. Besides being a singer/songwriter, Makeba was an activist, advocating against apartheid in South Africa, and was named a UN goodwill ambassador in 1999. She passed away in 2008, but in her decades-long career, she became one of the first African musicians to rise to worldwide prominence and popularize African music in the West. Makeba collaborated with fellow music icons like Harry Belafonte (who was her mentor and collaborated with her on a Grammy-winning album), Dizzy Gillespie, and Nina Simone — the subject of another Off-Broadway concert-style musical, Little Girl Blue. The two share multiple similarities, including their release of music advocating for racial equality and human rights.
Prior to the official world premiere of Dreaming Zenzile off Broadway, the musical was developed at Sundance Theatre Lab and received a reading at the McCarter Theater Center in Princeton, New Jersey, as a Sundance/Beirut collaboration with Zoukak Theatre. Lileana Blain-Cruz, who is also helming The Skin of Our Teeth on Broadway in 2022, directed the reading and now directs the New York Theatre Workshop production.
Dreaming Zenzile is presented with the support of The Miriam Makeba Estate, The Mama Africa Cultural & Social Trust, and The Miriam Makeba Foundation.
Get tickets to Dreaming Zenzile in New York now.
At her final concert, South African musical legend and activist Miriam Makeba delivers the performance of her life, raising the conscience and the consciousness of a people. But the ancestors are calling—transporting her through the music and fractured memories of her past on a spiritual journey of reconciliation.