Inside the Opening Night Party of MANDELA at The Young Vic with Musical Director and Conductor Sean Mayes

Performances, Photography, Theater

The Young Vic. Photo by Lia Chang

Opening night ticket and program for MANDELA. Photo by Lia Chang

In December, I flew to London for the opening night of The Young Vic’s world premiere of Mandela, a new musical that tells the story of Mandela the man and the movement behind him.

Mandela began previews at the Young Vic on November 30, opened on December 8 and has performances through February 4, 2023. The Young Vic is located at 66 The Cut, Waterloo, London SE1 8LZ. Performances are Monday – Saturday at 7:30pm, with Wednesday and Saturday matinees at 2:00pm. Click here for tickets and more information.

Choreographer Gregory Maqoma, Composer and Lyricist Greg Dean Borowsky, Michael Luwoye, Danielle Fiamanya, Director Schele Williams, Book Writer Laiona Michelle, Composer and Lyricist Shaun Borowsky. Photo by Lia Chang

Featuring a book by Laiona Michelle, music and lyrics by Greg Dean Borowsky and Shaun Borowsky, and directed by Schele Williams.

Director Schele Williams. Photo by Lia Chang

Director Schele Williams and Young Vic Artistic Director Kwame Kwei-Armah. Photo by Lia Chang

Schele Williams, Nandi Mandela, Laiona Michelle. Photo by Lia Chang

Nandi Mandela, Choreographer Gregory Maqoma, Luvuyo Madasa. Photo by Lia Chang

Mandela is presented in partnership with Nandi Mandela, Luvuyo Madasa, the Mandela family, Shaun Hurwitz, Ronen Zekry, Greg Dean Borowsky, Shaun Borowsky and Brian and Dayna Lee.

Nandi Mandela, Choreographer Gregory Maqoma, Composer and Lyricist Greg Dean Borowsky, Michael Luwoye, Danielle Fiamanya, Director Schele Williams, Book Writer Laiona Michelle, Composer and Lyricist Shaun Borowsky, Bongi Duma, Luvuyo Madasa. Photo by Lia Chang

Infused with the rhythms and spirit of South Africa, Mandela shines a light on the South African people’s courageous fight for their liberation. For 27 years, Mandela and his comrades sacrificed their freedom and their families paid the price. It is a story of determination, hope and how the world rallied to free him and his people.

Opening night curtain call for MANDELA at The Young Vic in London on December 8, 2022. Photo by Lia Chang

Opening night curtain call for MANDELA at The Young Vic in London on December 8, 2022. Photo by Lia Chang

Opening night curtain call for MANDELA at The Young Vic in London on December 8, 2022. Photo by Lia Chang

Opening night curtain call for MANDELA at The Young Vic in London on December 8, 2022. Photo by Lia Chang

Opening night curtain call for MANDELA at The Young Vic in London on December 8, 2022. Photo by Lia Chang

Opening night curtain call for MANDELA at The Young Vic in London on December 8, 2022. Photo by Lia Chang

Michael Luwoye (Hamilton) and Danielle Fiamanya (Frozen) play Nelson Mandela and Winnie Mandela with Gregory Armand as Vusi, Zion Battles as Bongani, Earl Carpenter as the Prime Minister, Stewart Clarke as the Warden, Hanna Dimtsu as Nomsa, Lerato Gwebu as Adelaide Tambo, Prudence Jezile as Praise Singer, Akmed Junior Khemalai as Walter Sisulu, Blue Makwana as Gugu, Kayleigh McKnight as Barbara, Posi Morakinyo as Thembi Mandela, Sneziey Msomi as Albertina Sisulu/Maki Mandela, Ryan O’Donnell as Joe Slovo, Adam Pearce as Kobus, Shiv Rabheru as Ahmed Kathrada, Will Richardson as Piet, Leanne Robinson as Zindzi Mandela, and Ntsikelelo Nicholas Vani as Oliver Tambo. Additional cast members include Nomfusi Ngonyama and Botlhale Phora.

Opening night for the full company of MANDELA at The Young Vic on December 8, 2022. Photo by Lia Chang

Opening night for the full cast of MANDELA at The Young Vic on December 8, 2022. Photo by Lia Chang

Mandela features additional music and lyrics by Bongi Duma, with choreography by Gregory Maqoma, set design by Academy Award winner Hannah Beachler, costume designs by Fay Fullerton, sound design by Paul Gatehouse, lighting design by Tony Award and Olivier Award winner Jon Clark, Projection and Video Designer Akhila Krishnan, Orchestrator Sam Young, musical supervision by Benjamin Kwasi Burrell, music direction by Sean Mayes and casting by Pippa Ailion CDG and Natalie Gallacher CDG.

Associate Choreographer Dickson Mbi, Julia Cheng, Dialect Coach Hazel Holder, Set Designer Hannah Beachler, Associate Set Designer Debbie Duru and Music Director Sean Mayes. Photo by Lia Chang

Completing the creative team are Associate Choreographer Dickson Mbi, Assistant Director Becca Chadder, Associate Set Designer Debbie Duru, Associate Music Director Sam Young and Associate Casting Director Richard Johnston, and Associate Directors Rochelle Wilson and Becca Chadder.

Musical Director Sean Mayes. Photo by Lia Chang

I came to celebrate opening night with Sean Mayes, who is the Musical Director and Conductor for MANDELA. Sean and I first worked together when he served as Music Director for Tony, Grammy and Emmy winning Death of A Salesman star André De Shields on his Award winning theatrical concert in 2021 – Black By Popular Demand: A Musical Meditation on How Not To Be Eaten by The Sphinx at 54 Below, and at The Cabaret in Indianapolis. In December of 2021, Sean created the orchestrations, arrangements and served as Music Director for André’s series of concerts with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.

Debbi Blackwell-Cook Lori Tishfield, Freida Williams, Andy Einhorn, Sean Mayes, André De Shields at curtain call with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and The Baltimore City College Choir at Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall in Baltimore, MD. Photo by Lia Chang

Debbi Blackwell-Cook Lori Tishfield, Freida Williams, Andy Einhorn, Sean Mayes, André De Shields at curtain call with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and The Baltimore City College Choir at Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall in Baltimore, MD. Photo by Lia Chang

Debbi Blackwell-Cook Lori Tishfield, Freida Williams, Andy Einhorn, Sean Mayes, André De Shields at curtain call with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and The Baltimore City College Choir at Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall in Baltimore, MD. Photo by Lia Chang

Lia Chang, Lori Tishfield, André De Shields, Freida Williams, Sean Mayes, Debbi Blackwell-Cook at Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall in Baltimore, MD on December 5, 2021. Photo by Kevin Brown

Below is Sean’s photo essay of MANDELA’s opening night at The Young Vic.

The room where the music magic happens.

Sam Young, Nomfusi Ngonyama and Sean Mayes. Photo by Lia Chang

Based in New York and Toronto, Sean Mayes enjoys an active and varied career as a conductor, music director, orchestrator, arranger, composer, author and educator across North America and Europe, spanning the range of numerous musical styles between Broadway, theatre, opera, classical and pops.

Prudence Jezile, Bongi Duma, Sean Mayes, Leanne Robinson. Photo by Lia Chang

His conducting credits include: Hadestown (Broadway); MJ (Broadway); The Color Purple (Canadian Premiere). Conductor of Black Broadway with American Pops Orchestra (PBS National Broadcast).

Third row: Michael Luwoye, Stewart Clarke, Posi Morakinyo, Ntsikelelo Nicholas Vani, Akmed Junior Khemalai, Zion Battles, Gregory Armand, Sean Mayes, Bongi Duma and Shaun Borowsky
2nd row: Dickson Mbi, Shiv Rabheru, Schele Williams, Botlhale Phora
1st row: Will Richardson, Ryan O’Donnell. Photo by LIa Chang

Supervision, Composing, Orchestra credits include: Come From Away (Music Supervisor, Finland); Fall On Your Knees (Music Supervisor/Composer, Canada National Tour) aportia chryptych (Composer/Music Supervisor, Canadian Opera Company).

Sean Mayes and Greg Dean Borowsky. Photo by Lia Chang

Co-author of An Inconvenient History of Black British Musical Theatre & Reframing the Musical (Bloomsbury), upcoming text Conversations in Colour.

Sean Mayes, Nandi Mandela, Danielle Fiamanya. Photo by Lia Chang

Michael Luwoye, Sean Mayes, Nandi Mandela, Luvuyo Madasa, Danielle Fiamanya. Photo by Lia Chang

Luvuyo Madasa, Nandi Mandela, Sean Mayes, Greg Dean Borowsky, Kwame Kwei-Armah, Shaun Hurwitz, Ronen Zekry, Schele Williams, Michael Luwoye. Photo by Lia Chang

Sean Mayes, Greg Dean Borowsky, Shaun Borowsky. Photo by Lia Chang

Paul Gatehouse, Matt Elliot, Sean Mayes. Photo by Lia Chang

Shiv Rabheru and Sean Mayes. Photo by Lia Chang

Scott, Laiona Michelle, Shaun Borowsky and Schele Williams. Photo by Lia Chang

Gregory Armand and Sean Mayes. Photo by Lia Chang

Greg Dean Borowsky, Shaun Hurwitz, Nandi Mandela, Luvuyo Madasa, Ronen Zekry, Shaun Borowsky. Photo by Lia Chang

Shaun Borowsky, Schele Williams, Choreographer Gregory Maqoma, Composer and Lyricist Greg Dean Borowsky, Nandi Mandela, Laiona Michelle. Photo by Lia Chang

Music Director Sean Mayes and Dialect Coach Hazel Holder. Photo by Lia Chang

Nandi Mandela and Kwame Kwei-Armah. Photo by Lia Chang

Luvuyo Madasa, Nandi Mandela, Sean Mayes, Greg Dean Borowsky, Kwame Kwei-Armah, Shaun Hurwitz, Ronen Zekry, Schele Williams, Michael Luwoye. Photo by Lia Chang

Michael Luwoye. Photo by Lia Chang

Greg Dean Borowsky, Michael Luwoye, Shaun Borowsky. Photo by Lia Chang

Michael Luwoye, Greg Dean Borowsky, Shaun Borowsky, Bongi Duma, Choreographer Gregory Maqoma. Photo by Lia Chang

Michael Luwoye, Greg Dean Borowsky, Shaun Borowsky, Bongi Duma, Choreographer Gregory Maqoma. Photo by Lia Chang

Greg Dean Borowsky, Choreographer Gregory Maqoma, Associate Choreographer Dickson Mbi, Shaun Borowsky. Photo by Lia Chang

Sean Mayes and Lia Chang at the opening night party of MANDELA at The Young Vic in London on December 8, 2022. Photo by Lia Chang

Lia Chang is an actor, a multi-media content producer, photo activist, documentarian and an Award winning filmmaker and co-founder of Bev’s Girl Films, making films that foster inclusion and diversity on both sides of the camera. Lia is also the host and Executive Producer of BACKSTAGE PASS WITH LIA CHANG, an Arts and Entertainment and Lifestyle program that airs on Sundays at 6:30pm on FIOS 34, RCN 83, Spectrum 56/1996.

Bev’s Girl Films’ debut short film, Hide and Seek was a top ten film in the Asian American Film Lab’s 2015 72 Hour Shootout Filmmaking Competition, and she received a Best Actress nomination. Her short film, When the World Was Young garnered a 2021 DisOrient Film Audience Choice Award for Best Short Narrative. Lia has appeared in the films Wolf, New Jack City, A Kiss Before Dying, King of New York, Big Trouble in Little China, The Last Dragon, Taxman. She stars in and served as Executive Producer for the short independent films Hide and Seek, Balancing Act, Rom-Com Gone Wrong, Belongingness and When the World was Young. She is also the Executive Producer for The Cactus, The Language Lesson, The Writer and Cream and 2 Shugahs. BGF collaborates with and produces multi-media content for artists, actors, designers, theatrical productions, composers, musicians and corporations.

She is the recipient of the 2022 Prospect Muse Award, 2000 OCA Chinese American Journalist Award, the 2001 AAJA National Award for New Media. Lia is an AAJA Executive Leadership Graduate (2000), a Western Knight Fellow at USC’s Annenberg College of Communications for Specialized Journalism on Entertainment Journalism in the Digital Age (2000), a National Press Photographers Association Visual Edge/Visual Journalism Fellow at the Poynter Institute for New Media (2001), a Scripps Howard New Media Fellow at the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism (2002), and a National Tropical Botanical Garden Environmental Journalism Fellow (2003).

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