Swinging back to the Sixties

The cast of Woodstock. From left are bassist-singer Jason Andrew, singer-guitarist Barry Thomson, singer-drummer Mali Sewell, singer-keyboardist Dawn Selby and vocalist Marion Loudon.

STAGE: Woodstock – Rhumbelow Theatre, Tina’s Hotel, Beryldene Road, Kloof

ORGINALLY staged at the now-defunct Heritage Theatre in Hillcrest in 2009, and last performed at the Rhumbelow Theatre in Umbilo in 2017 and in 2014, when the venue first installed and used the audio-visual screens flanking that stage, Woodstock is back again, in Kloof this time, to celebrate the 49th anniversary of America’s legendary three days of love and peace.

The current season, which runs until Sunday, September 2, and then again from next Wednesday to Sunday, September 5 to 9, marks my fourth time seeing the show, which remains as vibrant and enjoyable as ever, a fine mesh of talent and classic songs and tunes, that keeps the customers more than satisfied.

Under the musical direction of keyboardist-singer Dawn Selby, the show highlights singer-guitarist Barry Thomson, bassist Jason Andrew (in blond wig and headband for the first half), Mali Sewell on drums and vivacious guest vocalist Marion Loudon, who appears in a changing parade of outfits.

They perform against a backdrop of a large peace sign and changing coloured lighting, the stage draped in drops of colourful fabric, to present a repertoire that has been tweaked since it was first performed years ago.

The production now opens with Richie Havens’s Freedom, performed by Thomson, who goes on to offer Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young’s The Cost of Freedom, Andrews and Loudon then taking the lead vocal for I Feel Like I’m Fixing to Die.

With various footage from the Woodstock documentary appearing on a raised screen between songs, patrons are treated to a broad cross-section of the legendary material that made the Woodstock music festival such an historic event.

Highlights in the first half include Loudon’s Me and Bobby McGee and I Shall Be Released, along with Sewell’s delivery of  The Letter, Andrews’s interpretation of The Band’s The Weight, Thomson’s If I Were a Carpenter and the closer before interval, the band performing the catchy Marrakesh Express.

The second half is even better, opening with Lay Down,  WoodstockIf You’re Going to San Francisco and Thomson’s delivery of Fortunate Son, before Selby’s belting, showstopping  rendition of Janis Joplin’s gutsy Piece of My Heart.

The Santana instrumental Soul Sacrifice follows before the show’s finest moments –  a medley of hits by The Who ( See Me, Feel Me, Summertime Blues and My Generation) , followed by Thomson taking the spotlight for I’m Going Home and a closing salute to Jimi Hendrix with the rousing Voodoo Chile and Star-Spangled Banner. Brilliant stuff!

The audience laps it up, especially when Thomson plays guitar with his teeth, and behind his neck, in tribute to Hendrix, who was the last to perform at Woodstock and also the highest paid act at that festival (ShaNaNa got the least, by the way).

The show, which closes with a crowdpleasing rendition of the Joe Cocker version of The Beatles classic, A Little Help From My Friends, is a great deal of fun, performed by a band that is clearly having a good time making music.

Evening performances of Woodstock start at 8pm, and Sunday matinees are at 2pm. Tickets cost R150 (R130 for pensioners and students with cards) and booking is at Computicket or by calling Roland at 082 499 8636.

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