STAGE: A Beautiful Noise – Rockwood Theatre, Sibaya Casino, near Umhlanga
REVIEW BY BILLY SUTER
GREAT to see Durban’s newest theatre – the elegant and attractive, three-level Rockwood Theatre in the newly refurbished, former Krakatoa at Sibaya Casino – going from strength to strength.
Early acoustic wobbles at the venue have been addressed, black fabric now discreetly hides once-distracting lighting from the venue’s dominating spiral staircase, and show devisor-director, Andrew Webster, is hitting his stride creating the venue’s compilation tribute shows.
Webster also stars in A Beautiful Noise, the Rockwood Theatre’s second production since having opened in November with Knowing Me, Knowing You which, in its final weekend, featured Durban darling Marion Loudon as a stand-in cast member.
Bubbly Marion, star of such other successes as The Glitter Girls, The Chain –The Fleetwood Mac Story, Into the Woods and the recent Sinbad the Sailor pantomime, shares lead vocals in the new show with strong-voiced Capetonian Candice Kennedy. Ofentse Mokhuane (who featured in Knowing Me, Knowing You) joins Webster on male lead vocals, while former Tree 63 frontman John Ellis handles vocals, various guitars, ukelele and banjo.
The band also features bassist Llewellyn Chetty, keyboardist Lifa Arosi, versatile pedal-steel guitarist Andy Turrell, violinist Anita Roscoe and Knowing Me, Knowing You drummer Dylan van der Linde.
It’s a low-fuss, slick and engaging tribute to popular country, folk and acoustic rock that celebrates both golden greats such as the Eagles, Rodriguez, Dolly Parton, Tina Turner, Whitney Houston, Sting, Neil Diamond and John Denver, and more current recording stars.
As enjoyable as Knowing Me, Knowing You was, this new show is better, and high praise for all for including more contemporary hits among the golden oldies – excellent choices including Ed Sheeran’s Thinking Out Loud, Jason Mraz’s I’m Yours, Mumford and Sons’ I Will Wait and The Lumineers’ Ho Hey and, the show highlight for me, Kennedy’s rendition of Adele’s Send My Love (To Your New Lover).
While the similarity between Rockwood Theatre and Barnyard Theatre tribute shows is there, charming Webster has taken care to avoid the goofy, corny narration I got to detest in Barnyard shows. As MC for A Beautiful Noise, he also keeps the yapping to a bare minimum.
He has also sidestepped impersonations and excessive novelty, instead preferring to let the music – and some excellent lighting – do all the talking.
Opening with Hotel California, Andrew’s delivery of Rodriguez ’s I Wonder and Ellis on guitar and vocals for Sugarman, the show reaches an early high with Ofentse’s delivery of The Sounds of Silence, Kennedy’s Jolene and a fun Duelling Banjoes involving Ellis on banjo and Anita on violin.
Also of note are Marion and Andrew with Islands in the Stream, Kennedy’s gutsy rendition of Sweet Child of Mine, Andrew’s Have You Ever Seen the Rain?, and the two women vocalists sassing things up, in cool shades, black leather and draped chains, for a delivery of AC/DC’s You Shook Me All Night Long.
What might have been a highlight, the galloping The Devil Went Down to Georgia, with Marion on lead vocals, was marred the night I was in by a sound mix that made the lyrics difficult to decipher. However, I am sure this would have been sorted out by now.
Other songs in this show include Walking in Memphis (Andrew and Ofentse), Bryan Adams and Mel C’s When You’re Gone (Andrew and Candice), Tree63’s Treasure (John), a medley of classics by The Police (John on lead vocals) and a rollicking finale including Take Me Home Country Roads, Grandma’s Feather Bed, Cotton Eye Joe, Sweet Caroline and Heartache Tonight.
A Beautiful Noise runs until April 1. Tickets are available from R100 each.
Seating at the show is at counters or at tables of eight. Reasonably priced, good-value meals are available at the venue, as are alcohol and coffee. One cannot take along one’s own food unless it has been bought from Sibaya Casino Food Court outlets.