STAGE: Woodstock – Rhumbelow Theatre, Umbilo
REVIEW BY BILLY SUTER
ORGINALLY staged at the now-defunct Heritage Theatre in Hillcrest in 2009, and last performed at the Rhumbelow Theatre in Umbilo in 2014, when the venue first installed and used the audio-visual screens flanking the stage, Woodstock is back to celebrate the 48th anniversary of America’s legendary three days of love and peace.
And a few little technical hiccups on opening night, notwithstanding, it proves a great success, a fine mesh of talent and classic songs and tunes, that kept the customers more than satisfied.
Under the musical direction of keyboardist-singer Dawn Selby, the show highlights singer-guitarist Barry Thomson, bassist Jason Andrew (in blond wig and headband for the first half), Mali Sewell on drums and guest vocalist Marion Loudon.
They perform against a backdrop of a large peace sign and changing coloured lighting, presenting a repertoire that has been tweaked since it was first performed years ago.
The production now opens with Richie Havens’s Freedom, performed by Thomson, who goes on to offer Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young’s The Cost of Freedom, Andrews and Loudon then taking the lead vocal for I Feel Like I’m Fixing to Die.
With various footage from the Woodstock documentary appearing on the raised screens between songs, patrons are treated to a broad cross-section of the legendary material that made the Woodstock music festival such a historic event.
Highlights in the first half include Loudon’s Me and Bobby McGee and I Shall Be Released, along with Sewell’s delivery of The Letter, Andrews’s interpretation of The Band’s The Weight, Thomson’s If I Were a Carpenter and the closer before interval, the band performing the catchy Marrakesh Express.
The second half is even better, opening with Lay Down, Woodstock, If You’re Going to San Francisco and Thomson’s delivery of Fortunate Son, before Selby’s belting, showstopping rendition of Janis Joplin’s gutsy Piece of My Heart.
The instrumental Soul Sacrifice follows before the show’s finest moment – a medley of hits by The Who ( See Me, Feel Me, Summertime Blues and My Generation) , followed by Thomson taking the spotlight for I’m Going Home and a closing salute to Jimi Hendrix with the rousing Voodoo Chile and Star-Spangled Banner.
The audience lap it up, especially when Thomson plays guitar with his teeth, then behind his neck, in tribute to Hendrix, who was the last to perform at Woodstock and also the highest paid act at that festival.
The show, which closes with a crowdpleasing rendition of the Joe Cocker version of The Beatles classic, A Little Help From My Friends, is a great deal of fun, performed by a band that is clearly having a good time making music.
Final performances are at 8pm today (August 26), 2pm tomorrow (August 27), 8pm next Friday and Saturday (September 1 and 2) and 2.30pm and 6pm on Sunday, September 3.
Tickets for Woodstock cost R150 and booking is at Computicket or by calling Roland at 082 499 8636.