Classy cabaret by a fine trio

Evan Roberts, Samantha Landers and Shylo Pereira in the excellent That’s Life.

Stage: That’s Life – Rhumbelow Theatre, Cunningham Road, Umbilo, Durban

BACK in April I offered strong pats on the back to Roland Stansell and his Rhumbelow Theatre team for having presented three shows in a row at the Kloof branch of The Rhumbelow Theatre that were a good cut above the rest.

The Reals’ Poetry in Music, Dave Starke’s Tribute to Leonard Cohen and the cherry on top, An Evening with Jonathan Roxmouth, were all in a class of their own, more thoughtful, sophisticated and theatrical in presentation than what was usually performed on the Rhumbelow circuit.

To this list we then added the cool and sophisticated That’s Life, which also ran at the Kloof venue in April and, after last weekend’s highly successful shows in Durban, is to be seen again at the Rhumbelow Theatre’s Umbilo branch in Cunningham Road, at 8pm on Friday and Saturday (November 23 and 24) and 2pm on Sunday (November 25). Tickets cost R150 (R130 for pensioners) and booking is at Computicket or by phoning Roland at 082 7877 2060.

From left are Samantha Landers, Shylo Pereira and Evan Roberts..

Featuring versatile Durban pianist Evan Roberts, who backed Roxmouth in his last show, That’s Life stars former The Voice SA contestant Samantha Landers (also seen in The Reals’ Poetry in Music).

It also stars someone I had not seen before on the local circuit, Durban vocal coach Shylo Pereira, a 2010 Idols contestant, a blonde with a beautiful, versatile voice and a charming stage presence.

Pereira, who is also adept on violin and piano, talents not showcased in That’s Life, is a very exciting find, and I hope we get to see a lot more of her on local stages.

Both she and the amiable Landers, a delight in her comfort zone with character songs and ballads featured in this show, are in excellent voice. Each shines in demanding solo performances and in beautiful harmony with one another in a production making use of excellent musical arrangements devised with Roberts.

The trio has come up with an elegant and hugely enjoyable cabaret that is a must, especially if you are a fan of show tunes and popular songs lent new life through novel interpretations.

Loosely based on a narrative of women friends whose relationship is rocked when both are wooed by the same man, and who later reconcile, the show unfolds on a small stage. The piano is positioned to the left of the stage, with a small table with  glasses opposite it. It is very effectively lit by Sarah Claxton.

Opening with three wonderful, very well delivered songs from the musical WickedWhat is This Feeling, Popular and I’m Not That Girl – the show moves at a brisk pace and covers a wide spectrum of well-known and lesser-known songs from shows as well as charts old and recent.

Both Katy Perry’s I Kissed a Girl and Britney Spears’s Oops, I Did It Again get a slinky, jazzy treatment, as does George Michael’s Careless Whisper, while the lesser known comic numbers 15 Pounds Away From My Love, The Girl in 14G and the jaunty Never Met a Wolf Who Didn’t Like to Howl (from the TV musical series Smash) add to the smiles.

Pereira is particularly good in quieter moments – a haunting Losing My Mind from Stephen Sondheim’s Follies and the poignant The Story by Brandi Carlile – and Landers delights with the belting They Just Keep Moving the Line (also from Smash) and in duet with Pereira for I Feel Pretty/Unpretty, Don’t Rain On My Parade, You’ve Got a Friend and Cheek to Cheek.

Roberts is an infinitely better pianist than he is a vocalist, but he has an interesting vocal style, very much his own. He contributes a few solo songs here, the best being his gutsy This is a Man’s World and If It Moves You. I wasn’t quite as thrilled with his rendition of Pure Imagination which, I note, has now been removed from the songlist for the Umbilo season.

That’s Life is a show that comes highly recommended. Treat yourself and some friends!

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