Watching The Lion and the Lamb musical is like attending a relatively lively church service rather than a theatrical event.
The show, directed by James Ngcobo, is billed as a reimagined version of the musical originally created by John Kani and Barney Simon, which last performed at the Market Theatre a decade ago.
Kani strides and shimmies, cavorts and cajoles as he flawlessly acts out the narrative, taking us from the immaculate conception to Jesus rising. On route he has Jesus conversing in the temple as a child, gathering his disciples, walking on water, raising Lazarus and predicting his betrayal by Judas.
Kani holds our attention well, his tone and mood changing to add gravitas or levity and drawing on his skills to portray different characters. He confines his actions to the raised dais, coming forward only once to get close to the audience in a more intimate style that would increase the drama.
The set by Nadya Cohen is clean and spacious, with projections behind Kani that sometimes add depth to the stage and sometimes add details to the story.
Kani isn’t alone on stage, with a choir to one side and a four-piece band to the other. The choristers aren’t a homogenous group, with different singers standing up to take the lead or coming forward to play a part or belt out a number.
Several among them were particularly impressive in their acting roles, with a line-up featuring Nokukhanya Dlamini, Gugu Shezi, Nomfundo Dlamini, Avril Mkansi, Hlengiwe Pitso, Lebo Barole, Lerato Gwebu, Mpho Somani, Tebogo Mokeona, Thembisa Khuzwayo, and Itu Tshabane as the only male singer.
The Lion & The Lamb runs at the Market Theatre until December 22.