STAGE: A Handful of Keys – iZulu Theatre, Sibaya Casino, near Umhlanga
REVIEW BY BILLY SUTER
IT MAY well have toured to Durban many times over the decades, and I know of at least one person who, at interval during the first night of its new Durban season, rolled eyes and labelled it dated. But bah and pooh-pooh to all that.
The fun, witty, varied and award-winning A Handful of Keys, originally devised and performed 24 years ago by Ian von Memerty and Bryan Schimmel, now has another great line-up, some fresh costumes and new additions to a programme that remains a great treat – and a perfect showcase for the acting, piano and vocal skills of its stars.
Even better news is that tonight and tomorrow (Thursday and Friday, November 9 and 10), there is a super-cheap ticket-price special – R50 cash, payable at the door.
Rated as South Africa`s most successful musical revue ever, A Handful of Keys first drew rapturous applause in 1994, and more than 420 000 people have seen it since, in some 1 450 performances over the years.
Roelof Colyn, who has performed in this hit show before, alongside Von Memerty, is now teamed with an exciting newcomer in tall, curly-topped, 19-year-old James Smith, who has a comfort on stage and chutzpah that belie his age. Remember his name.
He has a great vocal range that goes from the highs of Elton John’s Crocodile Rock to low, low-down bass, and is a colourful and charming character. He provides a perfect foil for the more camp, much shorter Roelof, who raises many smiles with his constant commentary during Smith’s solos, notably renditions of songs associated with Adele and John Legend. Both men are in fine voice and wow on piano.
Highlights of a pacy production that nods to most famous singer-pianists are renditions of The Beatles’ Yesterday, performed by both men in the styles of various classical composers; Roelof’s fun nudges at Liberace and at the sentiment of Barry Manilow and Lionel Ritchie; and a rousing rendition, by both pianists, of the stirring Funeral From a Friend, one of my all-time favourite instrumentals by Elton John.
A nice touch this time around in the countrywide tour of the show is to invite a local pianist to perform two numbers. The Durban choice is David Langley, husband and accompanist for local singer Kerry-Lee Cherry, with whom he recently performed in a good Amy Winehouse tribute show at Tina’s Hotel in Kloof. He does a fine job.
The show runs until November 19. Performances are at 8pm until this Saturday, when there will also be a 3pm matinee. A 3pm matinee is also set for this Sunday. The final performances will be at 8pm next Thursday and Friday, 3pm and 8pm next Saturday, and 3pm next Sunday.
Booking is at Computicket outlets.
NOTE: A Handful of Keys will be on stage at Pieter Toerien’s Montecasino Theatre, Johannesburg, from November 24 to January 7. Booking is open.