BILLY SUTER chats to Durban singer-pianist EVAN CULLUM, who is among the cast of Elton and Friends, a new showband entertainment saluting Elton John and others, that is headed for The Rhumbelow Theatre at Tina’s Hotel in Beryldene Road, Kloof, from October 17 to 21. The show will also feature singer Ofentse Mokhuane, saxophonist Kirsty van der Linde and drummer Dylan van der Linde. Tickets cost R150 each (R130 for pensioners and students with cards). Book at Computicket or by phoning Roland at 082 499 8636.
See the end of this interview for a chance to win a table for six people to attend the 8pm opening night performance!
WHAT WOULD YOU SAY TO PEOPLE TO ENCOURAGE THEM TO SEE YOUR ELTON JOHN TRIBUTE SHOW AT THE RHUMBELOW THEATRE AT TINA’S HOTEL IN KLOOF?
The fact that most of Elton’s music is not ridiculously loud and in your face, and that the lyrics of his songs are beautiful yet simple, tend to make a lot of people enjoy him. Metal, rock and hip-hop are not everyone’s cup of tea, but I personally think everyone likes a few good pop songs and the sound of piano.
HOW MANY COSTUME/GLASSES CHANGES DO YOU HAVE DURING THE SHOW AND HOW MUCH NARRATION IS INVOLVED?
I have managed to find a few pairs of “out there” glasses, a jacket that’s been bedazzled (by my mother), and a glitzy earring for the show. I have the amazing Ofentse Mokhuane and Kirsty van Der Linde on stage with me and they both have quite a costume selection, so I think I will leave the quick changes up to them.
We are hoping to keep the narration down to a minimum, a few interesting facts about the life of Elton John and introductions of the guest artists.
WHAT ARE SOME SURPRISES PEOPLE CAN EXPECT – WITHOUT GIVING AWAY TOO MUCH?
We are going to try something different with the narration of the show, which I don’t think has been done at the Rhumbelow before.
We are still in the development stages of it. If it works it could be rather entertaining. If it doesn’t, it will most probably still be entertaining. I will just leave it at that.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE MOMENT IN THE SHOW – AND WHY?
Each time Ofentse Mokhuane, Kirsty van der Linde and Dylan van der Linde step on stage is a moment I enjoy. They are so entertaining, and I get to be involved creating those moments with them.
WHAT LED TO YOUR DECISION TO PRESENT AN ELTON JOHN TRIBUTE SHOW?
My mom bought an Elton John cassette tape for me in 1995. Since then I have always found his music and lyrics intriguing. I have only really been on the showbiz scene for four years and have had a few opportunities to be involved in other shows, but I am hoping this could be the start of something new for me.
WHAT ARE SOME OTHER SHOWS WE HAVE SEEN YOU IN AT THE RHUMBELOW THEATRES, AND WHICH WAS A FAVOURITE?
The first Rhumbelow Show I did was in 2015 – Mazirlou and the Rockabilly Rebels with Marion LoudOn, Jill Murraybrown, Francois Hardy and Andy Turrell.
I have also been involved with Doug Weich, playing rock ’n’ roll piano for his Elvis tribute shows for the past three year,s and recently I was the piano geek in the Rhumbelow’s Rock’n’ Roll Nerds show.
I would have to say my favourite has been the rockabilly show. It was my first opportunity to perform in a show alongside some of Durban’s finest.
WHAT NEXT FOR YOU ON THE SHOWBIZ SCENE?
I love playing the piano and singing, and I would love to become more involved in different shows in and around Durban.
I have an incredibly supportive wife who “holds the fort” at home with my two little children, while I am away rehearsing and performing. I am truly blessed with a wife that is both patient and encouraging.
TELL ME ABOUT YOUR OTHER MUSICAL INVOLVEMENTS… AND WHAT YOU DO AS A DAY JOB.
I work at Curro Heritage House in Durban as a music teacher/logistics manager. I teach choir and marimbas each day from about 6.45am to 7.30am, then class music lessons until about 10.30am. After that I work with the estate staff to ensure everything from security to vehicles and maintenance are operating correctly.
WHERE AND WHEN WERE YOU BORN? HOW DID YOU FIRST GET INTO MUSIC… AND WHAT MARKED YOUR VERY FIRST TIME ON A STAGE?
I was born in Durban in 1983. I was brought up by my mother, sister, two brothers and grandparents.
I was a ridiculously nervous child and would vomit each morning to try to get out of going to school, so that I didn’t have to be around people.
Mrs Theresa Hunter (the music teacher at Woodlands Junior Primary School) suggested that I learn the piano to try to get me out of my shell.
I had lessons with her for two or three years and then, due to the fact that I was learning all of her songs by listening to her and not reading the music, she and I parted ways. Since then I have been playing by ear.
My first time on stage (playing the piano) was in 2015, with Mazirlou and the Rockabilly Rebels.
HAVE YOU HAD ANY FORMAL MUSIC OR VOICE TRAINING?
WHAT MARKED YOUR FIRST PROFESSIONAL SHOW AND WHAT DID YOU DO IT IN – AND WHERE AND WHEN WAS IT?
Mazirlou and the Rockabilly Rebels, in November 2015 at the Rhumbelow Theatre’s former branch in Westville. I played acoustic guitar and piano.
WHAT ARE FIVE THINGS ABOUT YOURSELF (HOWEVER TRIVIAL) THAT THE GENERAL PUBLIC IS NOT LIKELY TO KNOW?
I am an Australian Cricket supporter, even though they cheated, which still breaks my heart.
I have broken four of my fingers, my jaw and my nose, all while playing action cricket over a period of 15 years. I have since retired from cricket.
I play the piano for Westville Baptist Church.
I cannot stand the smell or taste of watermelon or cucumber.
I am not a morning person… at all!
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT ON STAGE? PLEASE ELABORATE A BIT.
During a rockabilly show Marion Loudon called up my daughter, Rebecca, who was four at the time, to do a song with us. I melted.
WHAT FIVE WORDS BEST DESCRIBE YOU?
Accountable, Punctual, Entertaining, Naughty, Analytical .
YOUR MOST EMBARRASSING MOMENT ON STAGE?
I started playing the Patsy Cline song Crazy three keys too high during the Elvis and Legends show. Apologies again to singer Nicky Knott. I felt like a proper tonsil!
THE MOST FAMOUS PERSON YOU HAVE MET – AND WHO WOULD YOU GIVE GOLD TO MEET?
I met the captain of the Australian National Cricket Team in 2009 during a test match in Durban. I would have given gold to have met Freddie Mercury.
HOBBIES, PASTIMES AND FAVOURITE THINGS?
I love fishing… and eating far too much chocolate.
WHAT HAS BEEN THE MOST SURPRISING THING SOMEONE HAS SAID TO YOU?
I was playing the piano for a school function at Bill Buchanan Home for the aged and had a rather risqué proposition from a little woman who looked like she was in her early nineties. I don’t really think it is right to elaborate any further than that.
WHAT HAS BEEN THE HIGHLIGHT OF YOUR YEAR SO FAR?
Getting some positive feedback regarding my playing and singing from everyone who watched the Rock ’n’ Roll Nerds show earlier this year.
WHAT ARE YOUR FEARS AND PHOBIAS?
There aren’t too many things that I am not afraid of. I think it’s genetic.
WHAT THINGS DO YOU MOST MISS FROM CHILDHOOD?
Riding my bicycle around Woodlands with no breaks, no helmet, no shoes and having absolutely no worries whatsoever.
THE MOST FRIGHTENING THING THAT EVER HAPPENED TO YOU?
In 2002 I tried to help a woman who was being hijacked. Unfortunately, the hijackers turned their attention to me and I thought that was the end of the road. Fortunately, the attackers fled and no one was harmed.
WHAT FIVE THINGS WOULD YOU LIST UNDER ‘ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS’? AND WHAT FIVE THINGS WOULD YOU LIST UNDER ‘ABSOLUTE NO-NOS?
Absolutely Fabulous: my family; the gentle rocking motion of a fishing boat in the middle of Durban harbour; the smell of a new cricket bat; a perfectly cooked medium-rare rump steak; and playing a well-tuned Yamaha Grand Piano
Absolute No-Nos: inconsiderate driver; cheap toilet paper (like R19 for 18 rolls cheap); people who are late; horrible or badly made coffee; and slow internet speeds.
WHAT IS THE MOST PAINFUL THING YOU HAVE ENDURED?
Before my grandmother passed away she asked me to play the piano and sing a particular song at her funeral. I was very close to her and I think that song was probably the most painful thing I have endured.
WHAT ARE YOU PLANNING FOR CHRISTMAS DAY THIS YEAR? AND WHERE AND HOW WILL YOU WELCOME THE NEW YEAR?
As always, I will be spending Christmas Day with my family. It will be a noisy affair with the entire family eating exorbitant amounts of food and all talking at the same time.
There is a possibility that I may be performing in Dubai on New Year’s Eve, but nothing has been confirmed yet.
WIN A TABLE FOR SIX TO SEE KLOOF RHUMBELOW THEATRE’S “ELTON AND FRIENDS”
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