Tonya and the French connection

Tonya Koenderman in A Night in Paris, at Durban’s Rhumbelow Theatre in Umbilo, every Friday to Sunday until April 14.

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Stage: A Night in Paris – Rhumbelow Theatre, Cunningham Road, Umbilo, Durban
REVIEW BY BILLY SUTER
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I HAVE had little luck in recent years getting to see Johannesburg-based singer Tonya Koenderman in Durban. This was due to her last three shows at the Rhumbelow Theatre having been cancelled, or their runs cut short, due to Tonya having been unlucky to have been struck with bouts of illness.

Good to report, then, that it was great seeing this petite dynamo back on stage again last night at the Umbilo Rhumbelow, in a new show which has her rekindling memories of being in Paris when she was in her early twenties.

A Night in Paris is a two-act programme, performed to backing tracks, in which Tonya pays homage to the City of Love with a string of varied songs related to the city, or artists or songs linked in some way to a French connection.

The result is a very entertaining, elegant yet informal, entertainment which perfectly showcases Tonya’s  vocal versatility and mischievous charm.

Tonya Koenderman.

She goes from the sort of gutsy, belter moments one most associates with her excellent, long-running Liza Minnelli tribute shows, to gentle interpretations of French ballads, the whispered hush of Charles Aznavour’s poignant Quiet Love (complete with sign language), to an impressive operatic outpouring in a crowd-pleasing, spirited delivery of The Habanero from French-born Bizet’s Carmen.

French aficionados in the audience might quibble about slight pronunciation wobbles here and there, but this in no way detracts from one’s appreciation of a show that is presented on a black-curtained stage with atmospheric lighting and the simple props of a stool and small, draped table with a wine glass.

Appearing first in a deep-red gown then, in the second half, a cocktail dress seemingly inspired by the can-can, Tonya sips red wine and chats between songs about her Parisienne experiences, recalling how she loved watching people while sitting in a look-at-me coat in a small café on the Champs-Élysées.

Her song list varies from the opening Le Vie en Rose and I Love Paris to If You Go Away, Mon Dieu, Lili Marlene and Jacque Brel’s Port of Amsterdam, which I first discovered as the B-side of David Bowie’s Sorrow single. We even get the saucy toe-tapper, Le Jazz Hot, from the musical Victor, Victoria, which was set in France.

Second-half song choices include Ce’st Si Bon, My Baby Just Cares For Me, I Wish You Love, Autumn Leaves (which Tonya says is her favourite song ever), Cabaret, Nature Boy, Non, je ne Regrette Rien and an encore of Dream a Little Dream of Me.

Final performances of A Night in Paris are at 8pm today (April 6) and 2pm tomorrow (April 7), then at 8pm next Friday and Saturday (April 12 and 13) and 2pm on Sunday, April 14. Tickets cost R150 and booking is at Computicket or by phoning Roland at 082 499 8636.


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