Abuja audience should expect magic, says producer
‘There is no good theatre space in Abuja, but politicians don’t care’
By Godwin Okondo
JUST when you thought the rave for musical theatres has died down, One Good Man by Patrick Itoro will hit the stage in Abuja with an A-list star cast on November 12 & 13, 2022 at NAF Conference Centre, Kado, Abuja. Richard Mofe-Damijo (RMD) will lead the cast of stars that will light up the stage in the highly entertaining political satire, One Good Man. Agbaro the Musical in 2019 was Itoro’s first musical theatre production.
The producer and CEO of Rivera of Water Productions, Mr. Patrick Otoro, stated that the question about the one good man that will lead the country to its promised destination is what the musical theatre that will be seasoned with energetic dances, soul-lifting songs and powerful acting will attempt to answer without being preachy but in an entertaining manner.
According to Itoro, “We are asking the question: who is that one good man that will lead Nigeria to the promised land as we choose our leaders in the next general elections, from the president to the local government councils? Who is that one good man that we are all canvassing for? It is in our hands. We can change our story, and we need to start doing that now. That is the story we have to tell with this production.”
Itoro counted himself lucky to be working with an amazing cast of performers in One Good Man, adding, “I am very honoured to be working with this amazing cast and crew. I am getting very emotional now because Nigeria is me. I am pained for what we are feeling in this country. I want to thank Richard Mofe-Damijo, and the other cast and crew. They have worked very hard. Nigeria must make that choice and make it wisely. We need that one good man, from the president to the local government chairman.”
On why he felt compelled to express this urgent political message through musical drama, Itoro said, “Nigeria is a diverse country. We are diverse in culture, diverse in ethnic backgrounds. I reckoned that a musical drama will help us express the diversity of Nigeria in terms of music, costumes, dance, food – because we have a bit of display of cuisines in the play.
“We thought a musical drama will help us express all that more effectively. Of course, you know that today the dancehall music and hip-hop, and most of the songs we used in this musical are Nigerian songs. We deliberately chose them to celebrate Nigerian artistes who have done so well globally. We chose this genre of musical drama to be able to express our diversity in our creativity, our beautiful, colourful costumes, our beautiful musical voices, our beautiful dance styles, and in our beautiful wealth of words in terms of proverbs, and respect for elders, our values and customs. Two things we want to achieve is to send a message, as well as give our audience quality entertainment. We know that music and drama and dance put together give you value for your time and money.”
Itoro also spoke about the politics of scenic interplay and juxtaposition in the play, noting, “the one scene you saw is one out of several scenes in the play. It is the only northern scene in the drama. There are other scenes showing the Yoruba, Igbo, south-south cultures and so on. You need to see the full play to appreciate the story. I tell you, it is a beautiful story.
“At the risk of cliché or political correctness, how do you balance the political statement you are making with the entertainment factor of the musical? I mean, a lot of people come to the theatre seeking escapism, only for them to come to the show to meet reality again in the form of springing political messages on them. How do you ensure the performance doesn’t become too preachy and take away the entertainment factor for your audience?
“It is not (with One Good Man). I know it is not, because we deliberately chose this scene to make a statement out there that every human being is a political animal. We all are. We cannot pretend that we are not. Whatever happens in politics affects all of us. We are part of the political state in Nigeria, and we must make comment, but what we have done deliberately is to take the political reality of this country, and sandwiched it with a lot of entertainment. What you are going to see, nobody is going to preach at you. There is a lot of dance, popular songs and creative dances.”
Michael Atonwu, a new choreographer on the scene, Itoro said, has wrought choreographic magic in One Good Man that will stun audiences as they see the musical. Itoro assured his audience that RMD will play the lead character’s father, and will make the show unforgettable. He’s part of the 40-man cast of talent artists who will entertain Abuja theatre-goers.
“I have always done plays on a very small scale, with a small cast, but in 2019 I decided to take on the challenge of doing a musical. I know that musicals involve a lot of cast members. We have a cast and crew of about sixty. We did Agbaro the Musical in 2019, and it was very expensive,” Itoro disclosed. “A lot of them were my friends already, and most of them are joining us for the first time. One of the things our company has chosen to do is to bring fresh talents, and use our platform to give them a voice, and platform to be seen on. We are deliberately giving our cast and crew the opportunity to express themselves. We are hoping that other producers (in Abuja) will see these actors, and dancers, and choreographers and directors and lighting experts, and costume designers and realize that we don’t have to go to Lagos.”
Itoro said culture production has grown in Nigeria’s capital city, Abuja, and urged show promoters to encourage Abuja-based producers, directors and artists by engaging them in productions, saying it was time Abuja weaned itself from Lagos, as Nigeria’s emerging cultural capital and not just political capital. The susccessful performance of One Good Man is just one loud way Itoro hopes to make this cultural capital statement.
“For me as an Abuja-based producer, it pains me to see producers import people from Lagos to Abuja to do the shows that we can do better,” Itoro lamented. “That for me is an indictment on us. We are saying give us the money and we will do better. At the celebration of Independence Day, I went to two productions in Abuja, and they were all Lagos-based. They came to collect our money; that has to stop. Abuja people must use us and pay us. They must pay us the money, or be paying through their noses for flights and accommodation for the actors they bring in from Lagos. We don’t have to pay accommodation for the 60 cast and crew members in this production. They all come from their homes.
“We are speaking to the government officials: stop going to Lagos. You can, if you have billions to pay, call us; we are good enough to perform for you. We are good enough for the Abuja audience. Stop playing us second class in this FCT. Abuja artists have all you need. Use us for the job.”
Speaking on what theatre lovers should expect, he said, “Magic. They should expect magic. I say that with every sense of responsibility. Abuja has never seen a show like this. Hold me to my word when you come. I know my cast, they are good.”
However, while Itoro believes Abuja’s cultural players have come of age and are capable of doing wonders on stage, he lamented the continuing absence of purpose-built performances spaces, carpeting the designers of the city of a lacked of critical foresight in building a soulless city without cultural spaces and the failure of those who have presided over its affairs since creation for failing to correct that obvious anomaly.
“One of the challenges we have in Abuja is real estate,” he lamented. “We don’t have performance halls. And we are hoping that as you write you will make that case for us. This is a government property, and it is costing us a lot of money to rehearse here. We can’t even get a good place to perform because there is no good theatre space in Abuja. Politicians don’t care.
“The conference halls we have in the city are for conferences. With the amount of creativity and talent in this country, a place like Abuja should not lack a performing arts theatre. But we don’t have that. We hold performances at Hilton Hotel which costs millions per night. We have moved to NAF Conference Center in Kado, because it seems cheaper but it is going to cost us N2 million per day. So, you are paying N4 million for two days. How much gate fee will I take to make that amount but for sponsors? I want to plead with the media to please project us. Please make noise for us, loud us and let Lagos shut-up.”
One of the actresses, Inimfon Ighene (Usa), also related her experience working with Itoro thus: “I have worked with Mr. Patrick in the past in Agbaro the Musical, where I played the lead role. It was such an amazing experience. Then, it was the first time I did such a huge show. So, I’ve been ready since then to explore other parts of myself that I didn’t know I had. I am doing this present role, and I know it will charm the world better than (what) I did the last time.”