Stage: Soulfire and Fireflies – Rhumbelow Theatre, Tina’s Hotel, 14 Beryldene Road, Kloof
REVIEW BY BILLY SUTER
DURBAN doesn’t know how lucky it has been in recent times to have welcomed to Kloof’s Tina’s Hotel the reigning king of South African musical theatre, Jonathan Roxmouth, and now, this weekend only, one of the country’s undisputed queens of the genre, Samantha Peo.
In both instances, these stellar performers have been accompanied by Durban pianist Evan Roberts, who, in spite of minimal rehearsal due to tight schedules, has managed to add immeasurably to the enjoyment and success of both cabarets.
In addition to this, Roberts was also the accompanist, at the same Kloof venue, in That’s Life, a fine, recent show by locals Samantha Landers and Shylo Perriera. So he has been a very busy man.
But back to Durban-born and Johannesburg-based Peo, one of my favourite people in showbiz, star of such successes as Chicago (a whole decade ago, would you believe!), the sparkling Thoroughly Modern Millie and KickstArt’s touring production of Cabaret.
I urge you to hurry and book to see this delicious, dainty dynamo as we are unlikely to see much of her in KwaZulu-Natal for some time. The reason is that she will soon be launching into rehearsals, then jetting off to New Zealand and Hong Kong, as the star of a new production of a hit musical that will also feature Roxmouth.
I have to remain zip-lipped about revealing more at this stage, but watch this space – as the touring musical will also be seen in South Africa in the new year!
If you enjoy strong and varied vocals, a memorable and vivacious stage personality and elegant, classy cabaret with splashes of humour, don’t miss the Divine Miss P in ‘Soulfire and Fireflies’, which has only two more performances in Kloof – at 8pm on Saturday, May 12, and 2pm on Sunday, May 13.
‘Soulfire and Fireflies’ was first staged locally last year, at the Umbilo branch of the Rhumbelow Theatre, and I did not review it then as I had been able to see it only at its final performance. It is a joy to see it again in Kloof, as the show, which I rated as the best production staged in a Rhumbelow Theatre in 2017, remains a huge treat.
An intimate reflection on life and love, breakups and breakdowns, reassessment and eventual contentment, Soulfire and Fireflies is set on a stage simply dressed with a baby grand piano, a barstool and a large candlestand. Subtle fairylights snake here and there, and the stage floor is dotted with LED tea light candles.
The show opens with the plaintive Both Sides Now, then the more feisty Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off and goes on to the amusing Co-Dependency Duet (incorporating lyrics from the Shirley Bassey hit Nobody Does It Like Me and Carly Simon’s Nobody Does It Better).
Flecked with casual patter, some thoughtful quotes and brief lines of poetry here and there, from both Peo and Roberts, the show offers a great mix of songs, the first half including Rihanna’s Take a Bow, a slow version of The Beatles’ Help, the sweet Times Like This from the musical Lucky Stiff, and Barbra Streisand’s Funny Girl belter, Don’t Rain On My Parade.
The second act opens with a nicely arranged ‘Tomorrow’ from ‘Annie’ that leads into ‘Since You Stayed Here’, a poignant song about changes after a relationship.
Also here are a brilliantly arranged ballad delivery of Michael Jackson’s Thriller and versions of Robbie William’s Feel, Radiohead’s Creep, Seal’s Love Divine and Shirley Bassey’s My Life. The rousing I’m Here, from The Color Purple musical, is also here.
The best is kept for the last – the ballad For Good, from the musical Wicked, for which Peo invites super-talented Durban teenager Marianthe Panas (of ‘SA’s Got Talent’ fame) to perform alongside her. What a treat!
Soulfire and Fireflies is so good I could easily sit through it a third time. Play it again, Sam!
Seating is at tables of six and a cash bar is available. No food is permitted into the venue. Tickets cost R150 each. To book call Roland Stansell at 082 499 8636.