The popular Disney movie High School Musical spurred the creation of a South African version which will be taken to the stage. The reality show set out to find its own Troy and Gabriella, the male and female leads in the show, as it puts together its cast for the production. Last week, by public vote, the final three in the running for the male lead were Lyle Volkwyn, David Schlachter, and Daniel Wessels.
align=justifyA senior official at the agency received an email from Toerien on September 15 begging for assistance in what he described as “a CRISIS”.
align=justify”We HAVE to get Lyle out tonight. He simply can’t act poor boy and will KILL the show. BUT he has a HUGE church voting for him in their thousands,” reads the email.
align=justifyToerien then asked for assistance by encouraging email recipients to vote for Schlachter. “At the moment he (Volkwyn) is 3,000 votes ahead of David and we HAVE to get David ahead”.
align=justifyAn email was then sent to the agency staff stating: “I know that I’m not supposed to send out to all staff… but I have a desperate client! I’ve met David and he is definitely right for the role. So please get your youngsters to vote.”
align=justifyLani Lombard, M-Net Publicity manager says “This behaviour was regrettable and no-one linked to an M-Net show should ever send an email like this. We do have to state, however, that in his role as ‘producer’ on the television show, Toerien has always been open and transparent about all the contestants, their performances and his preferred Troy and Gabriella.
align=justify”These opinions were also expressed at the end of each Saturday night performance show and changed from week to week, depending on the growth and performance of the contestants.”
align=justifyFans are outraged and say it is “unethical”, stating that this really raises questions about the credibility of the show. “It feels as if no matter how badly you want someone (Volkwyn) to win, it just won’t count. This has put a damper on my willingness to continue watching and supporting the show,” says Volkwyn fan Debbie Mooi.
align=justifyMany feel that the conspiracy against Volkwyn stems from the colour of his skin. “I hate to say it, they are trying to get rid of him because he is coloured,” says another fan, Jared Chui.
align=justifyAdds Mooi, “It comes down to racism and wanting to imitate the American version by having a white male as the lead.”
align=justifyLombard denies that race has anything to do with it, “M-Net has had reality show winners of all races and our shows are not race-biased.”
align=justifyToerien later issued a statement reading: “I wrote that e-mail in my private capacity as a producer who is considering his casting options and the comments I made about Lyle’s suitability to play the role of Troy were purely a professional assessment on the demands of that role – in no way do they reflect my regard for Lyle as a person.
align=justify”My role in this production included voicing my honest opinion every week about the performers’ progress, and I believe I have been transparent about my opinions all along.”
align=justifyLombard concludes by saying that the show will continue as planned, “It will of course be a spectacular finale on September 27 at 7pm.