BILLY SUTER chats to Durban theatre darling LISA BOBBERT, who is once again teaming with singer-pianist Evan Roberts and vocalist Anthony Stonier for A Nightingale Sang… A Tribute to Vera Lynn, to be staged as a highlight of the 25th Hilton Arts Festival at Hilton College from September 15 to 17. Performances are planned for 3pm on the Saturday and noon on the Sunday of the festival weekend. These performances follow the show’s premiere at Durban’s Rhumbelow Theatre on March 17, 2017.
TELL ME ABOUT THE VERA LYNN SHOW – AND WHAT YOU WOULD SAY TO ENCOURAGE PEOPLE TO SEE IT.
Vera Lynn turned 100 on March 20 – she is still alive! The show is a tribute to this amazing singer and her life. People will love the story of a life well-lived, overcoming the odds… and how each of us has a gift that, if we tap into it, can see us change the world.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE SONGS IN THE SHOW – AND ANY SURPRISES, WITHOUT GIVING AWAY TOO MUCH?
All the Vera Lynn favourites are in the show – A Nightingale Sang in Berkley Square, I’ll Be Seeing You, We’ll Meet Again, Lili Marlene and White Cliffs of Dover among them. Evan and Ant also sing some of the more popular songs of the time – like London Pride and It Had to Be You.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE MOMENT IN THE VERA LYNN SHOW?
There are many. I have loved learning all the songs. My favourite songs are some of the more unknown numbers, like A Lovely Weekend and Room 504. I am normally a mezzo-soprano, but I have had to stretch my vocal chords down a few octaves, so that has been fun. I have dug deep – Melanie Roberts would be so proud of me!
WHEN DID YOU, EVAN AND ANTHONY LAST PERFORM TOGETHER – AND WHAT DO YOU RECALL OF THAT EXPERIENCE?
It was at the Hilton Arts Festival in 2015. We did a show called The Replacements, written and directed by John van de Ruit. It was a musical comedy-cabaret where Anthony and I, at one stage, had to wear flesh-coloured Lycra catsuits to play Adam and Eve. It was a lot of fun and we were pushed out of our comfort zones
IS THE VERA LYNN SHOW LIKELY TO BE STAGED ELSEWHERE?
Yes. Definitely. There are plans afoot!
WHAT WERE YOU LAST IN ON STAGE – AND WHAT PLANS FOR THE REST OF THE YEAR?
The main production I was in last year was KickstArt’s Into The Woods. Other than that, I have been involved in corporate shows with my husband, Aaron McIlroy, The Glitter Girls and alone.
After the Vera Lynn tribute show, I don’t have any definitive plans as far as theatre goes, but I’m sure that will change if something nice comes along.
I have been teaching The Trinity College of London’s Musical Theatre syllabus at Reddam House, Umhlanga, which has been a wonderful experience. I never thought I would love teaching as much as I do.
WHAT FIVE WORDS BEST DESCRIBE YOU?
Mom. Wife. Sister. Daughter. Friend.
WHAT HAVE BEEN YOUR TWO FAVOURITE STAGE ROLES?
Oh gosh, I don’t know. It’s like asking which of my children is my favourite. I have loved the parts I have played.
I have been very blessed in this industry. I have played most of the parts on my ‘bucket list’ – Shirley Valentine in the show of that name, Sally Bowles in Cabaret, Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady, The Witch in Into The Woods, Audrey in Little Shop Of Horrors.
There were also the shows I have done with Aaron – Seven Deadly Sins, Defending The Planet and Abbamaniacs, among them. And, of course, The Glitter Girls and Brutal Tunes. You see what I mean?
WHAT ARE FIVE THINGS ABOUT YOURSELF (HOWEVER TRIVIAL) THAT PEOPLE ARE UNLIKELY TO KNOW?
I can’t live without a toothpick. I climbed Kilimanjaro. I have never had an epidural and have four kids. I love drawing – especially flowers, trees and guitars. I have been banting (on and off) since 2014.
YOUR MOST EMBARRASSING MOMENT ON STAGE?
I once “dried” (forgot my lines) so badly during a performance of Spring Awakening, and had absolutely no idea what I was meant to say.
I looked out into the vast darkness of the Playhouse Drama theatre and wanted to die – my poor co-performer, Christopher Catherine, tried his best to save me but I think I failed dismally.
Then, as I walked off stage in the blackout, I missed my footing and fell behind the roster. The lights came up for the next scene and I had to leopard crawl off stage. The stuff nightmares are made of!
THE MOST FAMOUS PERSON YOU HAVE MET – AND WHO WOULD YOU GIVE GOLD TO MEET?
Father Christmas! I would love to meet Queen Elizabeth.
HOBBIES, PASTIMES AND FAVOURITE THINGS?
Reading, playing Candy Crush and watching my kids play sport, sing or do gymnastics or netball. I also love t just hang out with friends over a cappuccino.
WHAT WOULD YOU LIST UNDER ‘VASTLY OVER-RATED’?
I once went to the Food and Wine Show. It was too awful – too many people, long queues everywhere and tiny plates of food.
WHERE WERE YOU BORN – AND WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR MOST MEMORABLE BIRTHDAY?
I was born in Joburg. I really enjoyed my 16th birthday. It was a school night and my folks took Tonya Koenderman (my best friend) and I out for dinner.
We went to a lovely French Bistro in Rosebank, and my dad poured us glasses of wine and we sang very loudly and behaved badly.
My dad started talking his own version of ‘French’ to the waiter… and we laughed so hard. My poor mom had to drive everyone home.
WHAT ARE YOUR FEARS AND PHOBIAS ?
Usual stuff like cockroaches, leaving the gas on and burning down the house… and long black hairs on my chin!
WHAT IS THE BEST THING YOU CAN COOK?
Banting Flaxseed Bread.
WHAT ARE TWO OF YOUR MOST TREASURED MATERIAL POSSESSIONS?
Probably all the artwork I have collected over the years – and my engagement ring.
IF YOU COULD CHANGE THREE THINGS ABOUT YOURSELF WHAT WOULD THEY BE?
I would love a nice, thick head of hair instead of the few measly strands I possess. I would also like good time-management and organisational skills, and a large bank balance.
WHAT MARKED THE FIRST TIME EVER THAT YOU APPEARED ON A STAGE?
I played an angel in a Nativity play and I remember needing to go to the loo – but I was too nervous to ask the neurotic teacher. So I just widdled where I was.
WHAT IS THE WORST TROUBLE YOU HAVE EVER BEEN IN?
I was arrested for drinking and driving the night before I got married, and Aaron had to come and bail me out. My sister paid the bail in small change.
WHAT THINGS DO YOU MOST MISS FROM CHILDHOOD?
Handstands and cartwheels. Also, having deep and meaningful conversations with my dad while he drove me to school.
THE MOST FRIGHTENING THING THAT EVER HAPPENED TO YOU?
Every time I stand on the scale in the gym’s changeroom.
WHAT IS THE MEANING OF LIFE?
See John 3.16