Stage: An Evening with Jonathan Roxmouth – Rhumbelow Theatre, Tina’s Hotel, Kloof
REVIEW BY BILLY SUTER
IT’S no surprise that Jonathan Roxmouth has become the king of musical theatre in South Africa, having raked in multiple awards over the years for varied performances, his many hit productions having included Joseph, Phantom of the Opera, Sunset Boulevard, Beauty and the Beast, Sweeney Todd and, more recently, West Side Story and Evita.
This is a 31-year-old who, from when he was a teen who toured in five of the Northcliff High School musicals that annually visit Durban’s Playhouse, has shown massive potential and gone from strength to strength.
I have long rated him as the most exciting thing to happen to the South African stage in many a year, so it is very special indeed for Durban theatre fans that Roxmouth is in Durban again with a solo show.
He previously impressed locally, in a solo capacity, in early versions of his Topsy Turvy, Disney, In Black and White and Stage to Stage. Also, Call Me Lee, his Liberace tribute that grew bigger and more spectacular after its Durban season.
He is in Durban now, until Easter Monday, with An Evening with Jonathan Roxmouth, in which Durban pianist Evan Roberts accompanies him on piano.
For a duo that had only 48 hours to put this show together, Roxmouth and Roberts have done a marvellous job. This is a gem of an entertainment, with Roxmouth showcasing not only his fine, versatile voice, but also ad libbing up a storm with wit, warmth and loads of pinanche.
On a small stage featuring black drapes and only Roberts at a baby grand piano, Roxmouth arrives singing Luck Be a Lady Tonight from Guys and Dolls, the first high school musical in which he starred, and which toured to Durban’s Playhouse.
He immediately apologises for his longer hair, moustache and beard, explaining that they are necessary for his role as Che in Evita, and that he is in between tours of the hit musical. He points out that the dishevelled look is driving him mad and that Durban’s humidity is making his moustache itch like hell.
Over the course of two acts, Roxmouth dips into a vast repertoire of show songs, many familiar and some less so. Sometimes he even covers songs usually associated with women (the poignant Unusual Way from Nine and feisty, showstopping Don’t Rain on My Parade from Funny Girl).
Highlights include Maria from West Side Story, If I Loved You from Carousel (Roxmouth’s favourite audition song), Music of the Night from Phantom of the Opera, the amusing and increasingly speedy The Museum from Barnum and an even more comical rendition of the fun Flanders and Swann ditty, Madeira, My Dear.
Roxmouth’s brilliant delivery of Bring Him Home from Les Miserables brings tears to the eyes, especially after he tells a personal story associated with the song; and another highlight of the show is an encore in which Roxmouth takes to the piano for a jaunty boogie woogie instrumental from his Call Me Lee show. Also a standout is his delivery of All I Care About is Love from Chicago.
By the way, an interesting thing that some fans might not know about Roxmouth is that he started his career many years ago as the bespectacled “financial advisor” in Sanlam’s series of ‘baby’ TV ads.
An Evening With Jonathan Roxmouth has final performances at 2pm on Easter Friday, 8pm on Saturday, March 31, and 2pm on Easter Sunday and Easter Monday.
Anyone appreciating musical theatre and a world-class performer who is passionate about his work would be foolish to miss it!
Tickets cost R150 and booking is by calling Roland Stansell at 082 499 8636.