Saluting the great divas

Cat Simoni presents her final performance of Divas Around the World at 2pm on Sunday , May 7.

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STAGE: Cat Simoni presents “Divas Around the World” – Rhumbelow Theatre, Umbilo, Durban

REVIEW BY BILLY SUTER
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NOTE: FINAL PERFORMANCE AT 2PM SUNDAY (MAY 7)
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THE always amiable, always charming, hard-working and ever-versatile Cat Simoni has come a long way since I first reviewed her 21 years ago.

Back then the vivacious Durban brunette was a slightly nervous singer-saxophonist-pianist in Motown Magic, a show directed by Michael Evans at the now-defunct O’Hagans Supper Theatre, opposite the fire station, in Durban North. (See my old newspaper review clipping on that show under ‘Theatre’ on my site).

Cat went on to perform for a decade as a singer-pianist at some swank venues and celeb-flecked corporate events in London – rubbing shoulders with shieks and performing alongside Boy George and Kiki Dee, among others – then returned to Durban a few years ago, to settle in Howick with her parents.

She is now planning a move this year to Cape Town, with her folks and children, as she tends to perform there most often. Makes sense.

Good to know, though, that she will not be totally cold-shouldering KwaZulu-Natal, and will be popping back for shows.

Her latest production at the quaint Rhumbelow Theatre, at 42 Cunningham Road, off Bartle Road, is a tribute to songs associated with great pop, jazz and rock divas, devised and directed by Paul Spence.

It follows on from Cat’s earlier Rhumbelow shows, among them a salute to Barbra Streisand (still my personal favourite) and a tribute to hard-rock stars.

It’s a casual affair, with Cat offering minimal casual patter, mostly associated with back stories of the divas she salutes.

In an attractive gown, and seated at her piano, she first nods to Petula Clark with a rendition of the pop classic, Downtown, then goes on to salute Ella Fitzgerald (Lullabye of Birdland), leaving the piano to perform to a backing track of The Way We Were, to tip a hat to Barbra Streisand.

After a tribute to Nancy Sinatra (These Boots Are Made for Walking), Cat then sings and plays sax for a rendition of Besame Mucho, before returning to the piano for The Girl From Ipanema and good salutes to Nana Mouskouri, Francoise Hardy and Edith Piaf.

After interval she nods to her part-Italian roots, mingling with the audience for Mambo Italiano and Volare. She then returns to the sax and vocals for a tribute to Dusty Springfield, with The Look of Love, from the spoof 007 film, Casino Royale.

Other favourites in the second half include Joan Baez’s The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down, Roberta Flack’s classic Killing Me Softly, The Carpenters’ I Need to Be in Love and a fun Miriam Makeba medley that cheats a little by including Margaret Singana’s Mama Tembu’s Wedding and, curiously, fails to include Makeba’s The Click Song.

Peggy Lee’s Fever, Janis Joplin’s Mercedes Benz (with Cat on acoustic guitar), Cilla Black’s You’re My World and encore items of hits associated with Celine Dion and Ella Fitzgerald complete the programme of a show that has its final performance  at 2pm on Sunday (May 7).

Divas Around the World was first performed by Cat on the MSC Sinfonia, between Mauritius and Reunion, and the songs, while mostly sung in English, include a little Portuguese, Spanish, Italian, French, German and Greek.

Tickets cost R150 each and booking is at Computicket. Or phone Roland at 082 499 8636.


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