BILLY SUTER chats to Durban singer-actor ROWAN BARTLETT, star of KickstArt’s Winnie the Pooh and a string of Durban’s popular adult pantomimes, who is starring alongside Darren King and Bryan Hiles in a new supper show. It’s Tie a Knot In It (Vegas Baby!), a light-hearted salute to stars who played Las Vegas. It will be seen at the Hilton Arts Festival in September – but, before that, will be staged at the Rhumbelow Theatre branch at Tina’s Hotel, Beryldene Road, Kloof, at 8pm on Saturday, August 19, and 2pm and 6.30pm on Sunday, August 20. Tickets cost R150 each. To book, or for more information, phone Roland Stansell at 082 499 8636.
HOW DOES “TIE A KNOT IN IT (VEGAS BABY!)” DIFFER FROM THE SHOW OF THE SAME TITLE THAT YOU THREE PREMIERED AT LAST YEAR’S HILTON ARTS FESTIVAL?
Last year’s show focused on songs made famous in Las Vegas by popular male singers. So we had songs from the Rat Pack, the Mickey Mouse Club, Robbie Williams, Elvis Presley and the like.
This year we have decided to focus on songs by female performers, among them Bette Midler, The Andrews Sisters and Britney Spears.
The show at Tina’s Hotel combines both productions, and will feature songs by both male and female stars.
HOW AND WHY DID THE PRODUCTION COME ABOUT?
Bryan Hiles, Darren King and I work together each year on Think Theatre’s Shakespeare production for schools. One day we were in the dressing room together and asked ourselves, “Why don’t we do a show together?”
So we took some pics, drew up a press release and a proposal, and sent them in to the Hilton Arts Festival. Our proposal was accepted and that left us pondering as to what the show would be.
So, over several cups of tea, we got together and chose all our favourite songs to sing, and – voila! – the show was born!
WHAT WOULD YOU SAY TO PEOPLE TO ENCOURAGE THEM TO SEE THIS SHOW?
Audiences will be familiar with Bryan and Darren in their various roles for KickstArt, and me for my roles in Winnie the Pooh and the naughty-but-nice adult pantos… but this show offers a chance to see a different side of us. No characters, no script, just us singing beautiful songs.
WHO DECIDED ON SONG CHOICES – AND WHAT ARE SOME SONGS PERFORMED?
We all chose our favourite songs to be in the show. The problem was then to decide which to leave out, as we had so much material. We sing, to name a few, our favourite Britney sing, Toxic (Bryan’s choice), and Darren’s sentimental favourite, That’s All. I chose my favourite Judy Garland torch song, Somewhere Over the Rainbow
WHAT WOULD YOU RATE AS A HIGHPOINT OF THE SHOW?
Definitely the slick moves. You’ll see…
WHERE TO FOR THE SHOW AFTER THE TINA’S HOTEL PERFORMANCES – AND WHAT POSSIBILITY OF ANOTHER SPINOFF?
We are performing the new part of the show at this year’s Hilton Arts Festival in September, for a start. We have so much fun working together that there will definitely be another sequel.
WHERE AND WHEN WERE YOU BORN AND WHAT MARKED YOUR FIRST TIME EVER ON A STAGE (TALKING CRECHE LEVEL, MAYBE)?
I was born at Mother’s Hospital in Durban. I don’t recall the date…
My first time on stage was when I played an ogre in my Grade 4 Christmas production. I didn’t have any lines but had to stand around growling and looking threatening. I wasn’t wholly convincing…
WHEN DID YOU KNOW FOR CERTAIN YOU WANTED TO PURSUE A CAREER IN SHOWBIZ? ALSO, WHAT MARKED YOUR FIRST PRO SHOW?
I never really wanted to be a performer. I always wanted to be a teacher. After a failed attempt at a Bachelor of Science I then started waitering at Legends Cafe in Musgrave. I used to sing to my customers for bigger tips.
One day a customer told me about auditions at the Playhouse for Amadeus. I thought, what the hell… and went for it. That marked my professional debut.
I remember being in the wings absolutely petrified before the show started, then I remember walking out, delivering my first line, getting a good response from the audience and thinking, yes, I can do this.
WHAT HAVE BEEN THREE CAREER HIGHLIGHTS?
All the pantos I’ve done, but especially my first, Aladin Trouble. It was a highlight because I got to work with the wonderful Anthony Stonier and Clare Mortimer.
Another highlight was playing the lead in Winnie the Pooh. Aaaaaaah, it was like walking in my favourite children’s story… it was so beautiful. Greg King and Steven Stead rock!
And then there’s Tie a Knot In It – our first performance of it last year. We really had a great time both in rehearsals and at the 2016 Hilton Arts Festival.
WHAT NEXT FOR YOU? AND FOR BRYAN AND DARREN?
Nothing for me until next year. I am currently studying, so trying to focus on that. Darren and Bryan? I think they’re retiring after Hilton. But maybe I got that wrong… I heard a rumour they might be at Durban’s Sneddon Theatre some time soon.
WHAT FIVE WORDS BEST DESCRIBE YOU?
Handsome, charismatic, talented, intelligent and meek.
WHAT ARE FIVE THINGS ABOUT YOURSELF (HOWEVER TRIVIAL) THAT PEOPLE ARE UNLIKELY TO KNOW?
I hate baby marrow. I support Real Madrid. I once had a pet tarantula. I’ve never been to Maine. I have a pet cat called Loopy.
THE MOST FAMOUS PERSON YOU HAVE MET – AND WHO WOULD YOU GIVE GOLD TO MEET?
I would give gold to meet Sir David Attenborough. He is my absolute hero. Have I met anyone famous? Um, I once bumped into some of the Proteas in a restaurant.. I bugged them for a while. I don’t like cricket, I love it.
HOBBIES, PASTIMES AND FAVOURITE THINGS?
Gardening, birding, knitting and music. The good things in life.
WHAT FIVE THINGS WOULD YOU LIST UNDER ‘VASTLY OVERRATED’?
Kim Kardashian. Khloe Kardashian. Kylie Jenner. Kourtney Kardashian. Patty pans.
WHAT HAS BEEN THE MOST SURPRISING THING SOMEONE HAS SAID OF YOU?
I’d hate to think….
WHAT ARE YOUR FEARS AND PHOBIAS?
I hate spiders. That is why I bought the tarantula, to face my fears. It didn’t work
IF YOU COULD HAVE ANY FIVE THINGS FROM FIVE DIFFERENT PEOPLE, WHAT AND WHO WOULD THEY BE?
Um, I think maybe one of the Queen’s palaces, Roger Federer’s forehand, Mozart’s musical gift, Freddie Mercury’s voice… and then another of the Queen’s palaces.
WHAT IS THE WORST TROUBLE YOU HAVE EVER BEEN IN? PLEASE ELABORATE.
That never happened. You can’t prove a thing. I was in Paris buying hats….
WHAT THINGS DO YOU MOST MISS FROM CHILDHOOD?
Toys! I miss playing with toys. Lego, army men, cars..
SOME OF YOUR ALL-TIME FAVOURITE SONGS?
Exit Music, Paranoid Android and Creep by Radiohead. Also, American Trilogy by Elvis Presley.
WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE ENSCRIBED ON YOUR TOMBSTONE?
Rowan Bartlett, Inventor of the Time Machine. 1979 – ????