Stage: Rock ’n’ Roll Nerds: The Piano Greats – Rhumbelow Theatre, Cunningham Road, Umbilo , Durban
REVIEW BY BILLY SUTER
IF YOU’RE a fan of the greats of the pop and rock piano world you are sure to find a lot to enjoy in this lively, unpretentious and well-paced showband entertainment which, running only from Friday to Sunday (September 7 to 9) in Umbilo, after a successful run at the Kloof Rhumbelow Theatre at Tina’s Hotel, offers fine song choices.
The production includes among its cast three members of the ’80s tribute show that proved a success recently at Umhlanga’s Rockwood Theatre at Sibaya Casino – dreadlocked Durban drummer Dylan van der Linde, energetic and charming vocalist Ofentse Mokhuane and sassy saxophonist Kirsty van der Linde, who is married to Dylan.
They are teamed now with another married Durban couple – Nicky Knott, daughter of the late singer-guitarist and show producer Stuart Mey, and her husband, guitarist Dave Knott. Rounding out the cast are jovial musical director Evan Cullum, who is as strong on vocals as he is on keyboards, and ubiquitous, multi-instrumentalist Andy Turrell, who here is on bass.
Together they present a show which, if it came over as a tad under-rehearsed on opening night in Kloof some time ago, certainly kept the audience happy and whooping for more by the finale.
Making use of occasional picture montages of artists featured on the programme, all beamed on a large screen to the left of the stage, the show offers a loose narration celebrating famous pianists – generally considered nerdy; the least likely musicians to “pull the chicks”, we are told.
MC and lead female vocalist Nicky appears a little shy and self-conscious at times, coming across as quite wooden alongside the uber-exuberant Ofentse, but she has a sweet voice, at best here with Alicia Keys’s If I Ain’t Got You and a rendition of Queen’s Somebody to Love.
I can’t say I was impressed with the show’s shrill and awkward presentation of Elton John’s Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, however – a duet by Nicky and Kirsty, who is making her vocal debut in this show and also gets to sing a bit of Billy Joel’s Piano Man.
The stars of this production are the animated Ofentse and Evan, Ofentse being particularly good on upbeat numbers that include Ray Charles’s Hallelujah, I Love Her So, Little Richard’s Good Golly, Miss Molly and Stevie Wonder’s Signed, Sealed, Delivered.
Evan opens the show with a novelty song about pianos and nerds which flows into a robust Jerry Lee Lewis medley that has him raising a leg on to his keyboard. He also delights with Bruce Hornsby’s The Way It Is, Elton John’s I’m Still Standing, Billy Joel’s Just the Way You Are and in duet with Ofentse for Elton John’s Don’t Let the Sun Go Down On Me.
The show also features two songs associated with Carole King – a fun I Feel the Earth Move and a too-meek rendition of Natural Woman – while patrons can also listen out for songs by Journey, Marc Cohn and Mango Groove. We even get Barry Manilow’s Copacabana, complete with yellow feathers.
The production is being staged at 8pm on Friday and Saturday, September 7 and 8, and 2pm on Sunday, September 9.
Tickets cost R150 each (R130 for pensioners). Book at Computicket or phone Roland Stansell at 082 499 8636.