Stage: A Rocking World Tour – The Rockwood Theatre, Sibaya Casino
REVIEW BY BILLY SUTER
HARD-WORKING Andrew Webster, show creator-director and co-owner of Sibaya Casino’s Rockwood Theatre, near Umhlanga, is doing a terrific job presenting productions which now open in Durban before moving on to a season at the larger Rockwood Theatre in Pretoria.
His latest show, thematically a global flight to feature songs associated with hit acts from various countries, sticks to the party showband formula, but has added pleasure with Webster having signed up a diverse range of singers including some welcome new faces.
He has also compiled another impressive mix of popular songs designed to get one in happy spirits, and has assembled a choice line-up of all-Durban musicians under the musical direction of Calli Thomson and Sheldon von Grimm.
The band includes Dillan Kanny on drums, Shem Mahabeer on keyboards and former Tree63 member John Ellis on guitar and some lead vocals (Barry Thomson stood in for him for the opening weekend). We also have a welcome return to the stage of Lloyd de Gier on bass.
Webster must be further commended for not always going for the obvious when it comes to song choices. So, yes, while we get a nod to Michael Jackson once again on a Durban stage, this time as part of the US leg of A Rocking World Tour, we don’t get the ubiquitous Beat It, Thriller or Billie Jean, but Smooth Criminal and Bad – performed, by the way, with the performers wearing illuminated outfits.
Another plus with A Rocking World Tour is that it features some of the best costumes to date at this venue – designed by a Durban trio comprising Andrew’s marketing manager wife Cindy Webster, KickstArt’s regular costumier Shanti Naidoo (who has provided the Abba tribute costumes here) and the show’s choreographer, Zia James.
Opening with the cast performing ELO’s All Over the World, then featuring a visit to Australia with Midnight Oil’s Beds Are Burning, Kylie Minogue’s The Locomotion and AC/DC’s All Night Long, the show has Kieran Rennie as MC and main male lead vocalist (Kyk-Net presenter Stephan van Huysteen was his stand-in on the opening weekend).
Also on vocals are short-haired newcomer Christina Jenkins, newcomer Aimee Rain and Jean Citto, the last named of whom appeared in this venue’s first show, Knowing Me, Knowing You, which ran over the 2017 festive season.
Completing the team of vocalists is the versatile and vivacious Jemma Shankland, who was also seen in Knowing Me, Knowing You. She is particularly good here with renditions of Katy Perry’s Firework (with bubblegum-pink wig) and Shakira’s feisty Te Aviso, Te Anuncio (Tango).
Against a wall of flashing coloured lights, the show pays visits to a number of countries, among them Norway (A-Ha’s Take on Me), France (a Gipsy Kings medley), Cuba (Mambo No 5 by Lou Bega) and Sweden (Abba and Roxette medleys). Then there’s India (a colourful Jai Ho), Germany (Daddy Cool by Boney M), Italy (Eiffel 65’s I’m Blue) and Jamaica (Bob Marley’s Everything’s Gonna Be Alright and One Love).
England is represented by Every Breath You Take by Police, sung by Ellis; and Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody, featuring the full cast; while alongside Whacko Jacko in the US leg we get tributes to Miley Cyrus (Party In the USA), Ricky Martin (the guys with She Bangs and Living La Vida Loca), Mr Big (Be With You), Miami Sound Machine (Conga) and Toto (Africa).
Running until November 4, the production has ELO’s Rocking All Over the World as an encore. This follows an excellent, rousing South African section featuring a standout delivery of Hotline’s Jabulani, Freshlyground’s Fire is Low and Mandoza’s Nkalakatha.
The theatre opens at 6.30pm – meals are on sale at the venue – with the show commencing at 8pm Thursdays to Saturdays. Tickets cost only R99 each on Thursdays, and R130 each for other performances, but half price for pensioners at the 2pm Sunday matinee performances, when under-12s get in free.
To book, or for more details, phone (031) 161 0000.