STAGE: Synergy: Vivienne and Ian von Memerty – Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre, UKZN, Durban
REVIEW BY BILLY SUTER
RETURNING to Durban, where they met almost three decades ago, the seasoned and versatile Ian von Memerty and his charming dancer wife of 26 years, Vivienne, reunite for an elegant, slick and nostalgic outpouring of song, dance and humour that makes for a very entertaining night out.
Synergy, which has been touring the country, is at Durban’s Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre until Sunday (February 18).
The show follows the von Memertys having teamed for and toured with Fabulous 50, a production that followed a similar song-and-dance concept but focused more on their story as partners, parents and performers, their life and times on stage and off.
Synergy continues the couple’s celebration of marriage and life, but focuses more on the chemistry and chutzpah ignited by a couple inspired by one another and passionate about their craft. It also sees the Von Memertys tipping hats to the great synergy that has resulted over the years between great songwriting partnerships.
Consequently, we get a mixed bag of musical numbers and, a great plus for fans of musical theatre, excerpts from musicals associated with great songwriting partnerships – all performed to backing tracks augmented by live keyboard accompaniment from the excellent Roelof Colyn (seen often with Ian in A Handful of Keys). Ian also sometimes hops onto the podium accommodating the keyboards to tinkle away at the ivories.
The show is presented on a stage that is simply, but elegantly, dressed with white drapes flanking the piano podium, which overlooks a simple large couch. The magic is conjured with effective lighting designed by David Limbert.
The show, jam-packed with fun and varied choreography (by the couple) opens in style with an exuberant salute to the music of the Gershwin brothers, a medley including S’Wonderful, Embraceable You, Summertime and Strike Up the Band. It then then goes into three numbers, performed in appropriate costumes, from Fiddler on the Roof (If I Were a Rich Man, Do You Love Me? and Sunrise, Sunset).
We then get a delightful tribute, with fun new arrangements, to the hits of the Sherman Brothers (Mary Poppins, The Jungle Book,The Aristocats, Chitty Chitty, Bang Bang) which closes the first half.
The second half is every bit as fun, Vivienne often taking a solo spot. She also handles more vocals than in the last show we saw her in at this theatre – and handles the singing with a lot more confidence and aplomb.
The second half opens with nods to Kander and Ebb successes including Cabaret, Chicago and New York, New York, before two songs from Stephen Sondheim’s A Little Night Music and a closing Lennon and McCartney medley that spurred many to give the couple a standing ovation.
Synergy, featuring eye-pleasing costumes created by Vivienne, is well worth a visit.
Final performances are at 7.30pm today (Friday, February 16), 3pm and 7.30pm on Saturday (February 17) and 3pm on Sunday (February 18). Tickets are priced from R130 to R145 and booking is at Computicket (or pay cash at the door).