Stage: Best of Decades – Rockwood Theatre, Sibaya Casino, near Umhlanga
REVIEW BY BILLY SUTER
THIS latest party showband entertainment, featuring hits from the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s and more recent years, marks the first full year of operation for this increasingly popular, three-tier supper theatre at Sibaya Casino.
Running until January 27, Best of Decades is designed for audiences to let down their hair while waving goodbye to this year. Consequently, it is suitably jam-packed with classic chart favourites – as well as some decidedly lesser hits – in an attempt to keep most of the people happy most of the time.
All well and good, but for my liking it contains far too many obvious songs – hits we have heard too often at this and similar venues. Such choices might satisfy many, but in a production that salutes almost five decades of music, I would have expected a much better song list.
Mercifully, we are spared Tina Turner and Michael Jackson, staples on the Rockwood and Barnyard circuits, but Abba is here. That’s fine. and I realise one show can’t showcase every star. However, do we really need three done-to-death Abba songs marking the 1970s, when the songsheet ignores the likes of that decade’s The Sweet, Chicago, Carpenters. Diana Ross, Eagles, Elton John and David Bowie (who is on the show poster but conspicuous by his absence), not to mention countless others?
Best of Decades gets off to a good start with Robbie Williams’s Let Me Entertain You and offers a fun 1970s section that nods to pop, disco and big-hair rock. It all moves at a smooth enough pace, albeit with slight wobbles with mixing and choreography on opening night, which are sure to have been sorted out by now.
The show has competent vocalists in chirpy host Andrew Webster and feisty and attractive Jemma Badenhorst – both of whom are performing only for a fortnight, until the arrival of Riyaan Cornelius and Janine Cupido. Singer Ofentse Mokhuane is also a charmer and audience favourite.
Sadly, however, blonde Jessica de Wet and brunette Christina Jenkins are not quite in the same league.
Jessica, at one stage, during Katy Perry’s Hot N Cold, works some magic on stage by changing into different dresses after standing in fabric hoops, but she is generally slightly wooden and, frustratingly, constantly presents inaudible lyrics between her belter screams.
Christina may get by vocally, but breaks into too many, largely unremarkable and often unnecessary, solo dance moments, which become a little jarring.
The band is solid – Calli Thomson on keyboards, dreadlocked Dylan van der Linde on drums, Trevor Donjeany on bass and musical director Sheldon von Griem on lead guitar and occasional lead vocals.
Completing the lineup is Durban’s lively Kirsty van der Linde, who, in a variety of sequinned dresses, adds much oomph to proceedings with her spirited sax playing. She is particularly impressive during Gerry Rafferty’s Baker Street and the Average White Band’s Pick Up the Pieces.
True, the show is not among my favourites at this venue, but it has to be recorded that the vast majority of the audience seemed to lap it up.
For the record, the production features songs such as Laura Branigan’s Self Control, Starship’s We Built This City, Stevie Wonder’s Isn’t She Lovely and that grandstanding old chestnut, I Will Always Love You – the overworked, vocal gymnastics version by Whitney Huston, not the soft, better, original version by Dolly Parton, who wrote the song.
You can also look forward to some Queen, Bee Gees, M People, Kelly Clarkson, Black Eyed Peas, Bruno Mars,Van Halen and Madonna, among others.
Tickets cost R99 on Thursday nights, R130 on Friday and Saturday nights, and R130 on Sunday afternoons, when pensioners pay half price and under-12s get in free. To book, or for more details, phone (031) 161 0000