Stage: That ‘80s Show – Rockwood Theatre, Sibaya Casino, near Umhlanga
REVIEW BY BILLY SUTER
ANDREW Webster has devised and directed That ’80s Show, the third party show at Durban’s impressive, three-level supper theatre, which opened last November under his management and creative eye.
I have to be honest and say the new production is neither as elegant nor memorable as this venue’s previous show, Beautiful Noise, but fans of the 1980s will be sure to lap it up as Webster has come up with an excellent variety of songs from the era, and has assembled a top-notch band of musicians.
Among them are Durban favourites Barry Thomson on lead guitar and vocals (his Tears for Fears vocal medley here is a highlight) and his wife Calli Thomson, on keyboards and backing vocals. Sadly, Calli’s voice was often muffled on the show’s opening night, notwithstanding her constant gesturing (sometimes wildly so!) to the sound-booth men to up the volume on her microphone. Hopefully this slight technical wobble has been sorted out by now.
That ’80s Show also features Durban’s fine, dreadlocked drummer Dylan van der Linde and his saxophonist wife Kirsty, who were both so good in the venue’s opening show, Knowing Me, Knowing You. Also here is bassist Trevor Donjeany.
On the vocal front, the production’s male lineup at last night’s opening will change by next week as there were some apparently unavoidable mishaps necessitating the advertised singers – charmer Kyle Matthews and Itu Tshabane – not being able to join the cast for a few days.
I enjoy the versatile Kyle on stage so look forward to seeing him take over the narration and lead vocal duties from Deon Rautenbach, who performed last night. Itu’s last-minute stand-in was Marvin Nethonondo who, in spite of having fluffed some lyrics on opening night, still oozed charm and got the crowd clapping along and dancing at their tables.
The female vocalists in this show are gutsy performers, both newcomers to the Durban stage, I believe – blonde Ally de Bryn and brunette Aimee Rain. They kept the customers satisfied with a good range of songs and a passing parade of icky ’80s outfits including day-glo colours, lurex jumpsuits, padded shoulders and tight leggings. Not the most flattering decade for fashion!
That ’80s Show opens with the male vocalists in fright wigs for David Lee Roth’s Just Like Paradise, then stripping down to groovy headbands, shorts and vests for The Safety Dance, followed by a great Yazoo medley with Ally excelling with Situation.
The first half also includes the likes of Addicted to Love (Deon with the women singers in black dresses and electric guitars), Tainted Love, Every Breathe You Take, Heaven is a Place on Earth and a popular Duran Duran medley. All the time, videos on a screen at the back of the stage capture iconic videos and other images of the times. Lighting, as usual at this venue, is impressive.
Barry and Ally have a good moment with Total Eclipse of the Heart and the wild wigs are back for the four lead vocalists to rock through Pour Some Sugar On Me, I Wanna Rock and, the first half closer, We Built This City.
The second act is better, opening well with the band delivering an instrumental melding of Yello’s The Race and Harold Faltermeyer’s Axel F, before we get classics such as Red Red Wine, New Sensation, Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now, Another One Bites the Dust, I Don’t Wanna Dance and a fresh, enjoyable interpretation of Whacko Jacko’s The Way You Make Me Feel.
We also get Into the Groove (Aimee in iconic Madonna gear), Simply the Best (a Tina Turner tribute from Ally, complete with orange fringed dress and fright wig) and the two women teaming for Pat Benatar’s We Belong.
Of particular note in the second half is Kirsty, in black leather and chains, in the solo spotlight for Urgent/Who Can It Be Now/Careless Whisper, which has her mingling with members of the audience.
The show closes with a Mango Groove medley that has most up on their feet to sing, bop or clap along.
I’d have liked less chit-chat from Deon, as narrator, and less of the corny dress-up impersonations, but there is no denying the show will have people letting down their hair and having fun.
That ’80s Show is to be performed at 8pm every Thursday to Saturday and at 2pm on Sundays, until June 17.
Tickets on Thursdays cost R100 each on even numbers. The regular price is R200 a head. Tickets on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays cost R130 each, while on Sundays there is a 50% discount for pensioners and free entry for under-12s. To book, or for more info, visit www.rockwoodtheatre.co.za or phone (031) 161 0000.