Stage: Rhythm of the Night – Barnyard Theatre, Suncoast Casino, Durban
REVIEW BY BILLY SUTER
THE Barnyard Theatre franchise’s showband entertainment, while invariably enjoyable, is so often so formulaic that it always comes as a surprise, nay a blizzard of fresh air, when a show arrives that is a cut above the rest.
Such is the case with Rhythm of the Night, a production given more thought in concept and delivery than most, embellished with a strong theatrical flair, and so beautifully lit, costumed and choreographed that it emerges as one the finest such showband entertainments I have seen in a while.
It is an excellent choice to replace the imaginative Big Top Rock which, having featured acrobatic and aerial acts alongside the band and singers, opened this Suncoast Casino venue in December. Nice to note that the sound mix at the venue has improved since that first show too.
Booked in until June 9, Rhythm of the Night is a joyous burst of fun – a sassy, sexy, slick spectacle of Latin-soaked pop, rock and novelty numbers which, if still relatively true to formula with a corny narrator linking hit songs, has a trump card in featuring three attractive and versatile professional dancers, rather than singers taught some moves.
And what a difference these dancers make, their versatility, verve and vivacity giving huge lift to a show that is already buoyant with toe-tapping, party-mode songs sung by a good trio of vocalists.
Ballroom and Latin American dance champs Ryan Hammond (of Strictly Come Dancing and Shall We Dance fame) and his wife, Angelique, together with the sassy Simone Youlton, are the gems of this production.
They are hardly ever off stage, performing solo, in pairs or as a group, sometimes sharing choreography with the singers. They are terrific, performing everything from showgirl fantasy fare with feathers to seemingly effortless lifts and dramatic back bends (Ryan and Angelique) to a feisty routine that Ryan performs with a blindfolded Simone.
We even get a touch of musical theatre with the dancers’ frantically paced rendition of The Cell Block Tango, from Chicago, complete with a prison cell with elasticised jail bars – but that number, while enjoyable enough, seems very out of place in a Latin-themed show.
Novel touches include toreador-like cape-waving, cast members silhouetted against window blinds and the women dancers with fire flaming from their palms.
Among the cast are vocalists Themba January, curly-topped Ruben Lotter and tall Zoe Townsend, all of them enjoyable, with the versatile Themba the best of the lot and doubling as the show’s jovial host (whose exaggerated Tex Mex accent starts to wear a little thin).
The band produces a nice big sound considering there are only four musicians on stage – Nkosinati Nguheni centrally placed on stage behind drums, musical director Jaydine Baron on keyboards and Tumelo Thipenyane on bass. Then there’s a standout in the quirkily animated Jason Guile, switching constantly between lead and acoustic guitar and also handling lead vocals on the Santana songs She’s Not There, Smooth, Black Magic Woman and Mas Que Nada.
The show has some great music that got a receptive crowd in very high spirits the night I attended, the songsheet including, among others, offerings from Pitbull, Enrique Iglesias, Los Lobos, Shakira, Gibson Brothers, Ricky Martin, Lou Bega and Jennifer Lopez. A Gipsy Kings medley, a feisty rendition of Santa Esmeralda’s Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood and a novel delivery of the Camila Cabello hit, Havana, are among highlights.
Performances of Rhythm of the Night are at 7.30pm on Tuesdays (R165 a head, but buy one and get one free), 7.30pm on Wednesdays and Thursdays (R165 a head) and 8pm on Fridays and Saturdays (R165 a head). Tickets cost R130, but R65 for pensioners and no cost for under-12s, at Sunday performances which are 2pm matinees.
Contact The Barnyard Theatre at Suncoast Casino at (031) 940 0500 for more details.
To view a trailer of Rhythm of the Night click here: https://youtu.be/gxG2_N18Q8M