Stage: ’80s to Now – Rockwood Theatre, Sibaya Casino, near Umhlanga
REVIEW BY BILLY SUTER
WHAT’S this, a party showband entertainment with not a single Queen, Tina Turner, Michael Jackson, Abba, Madonna or Whitney Houston song? Yay!
LOL. Okay, I am being facetious, but what a refreshing change to find a songlist that strives to steer away from the obvious old chestnuts.
Kudos for that to ’80s to Now producer Andrew Webster, who has put together a briskly paced and enjoyable show where a backdrop screen’s assorted nostalgic images and videos add to the fun.
Booked in at this attractive venue until November 10, the production has everything one would expect, otherwise – a team of varied, cheerful vocalists, a competent band headed by Durban musical director and keyboardist Shem Mahabeer, and an attractive parade of costumes. Also, as always, lighting is top-notch at this venue.
The usual format is followed – a narrator linking songs with, mercifully brief, chit-chat which in this show relates to changing fads and fashions over the respective decades. However, the music mix is well chosen and fun.
The ball is set rolling with the band performing Europe’s The Final Countdown, with the standout, consistently excellent saxophonist Mxolisa Mdlalose taking the main spotlight. Then host and vocalist Ruan Geldenhuys, appearing in his third show in a row at this venue, delivers Matthew Wilder’s jaunty Break My Stride.
This leads to blonde belter Jessica de Wet doing a nice job of Phil Collins’s Against All Odds, although her delivery later of Brandi Carlile’s The Story is not nearly as effective, being too strident, more about volume than emotive punch.
The show’s first half also offers a Yazoo medley and an excellent rendition of Bonnie Tyler’s Total Eclipse of the Heart from Jemma Badenhorst, who is also the show’s choreographer and married to the production’s bassist, Nico Badenhorst.
Completing the band are drummer Paul Cassells and tatooed lead guitarist Sheldon von Grimm. Sheldon lends backing vocals to Total Eclipse of the Heart and comes into his own with a splendid delivery of Gary Moore’s Still Got the Blues.
Getting back to Ruan, he is a friendly and confident host with a voice that has matured in versatility and range over the years, but it is Granville Michaels, who has not been seen on a local stage in some while, who takes top vocal honours in this show.
He first appears to do justice to the Bruce Springsteen-penned Fire, a hit for The Pointer Sisters, and also excels with renditions of Cutting Crew’s I Just Died in Your Arms, Pitbull’s Fireball, Depeche Mode’s I Just Can’t Get Enough, Ed Sheeran’s Thinking Out Loud and in a colourful Ricky Martin medley that has the women in yellow-feather headdresses.
Among other show highlights are Jemma’s fine version of Adele’s Send My Love (to Your New Lover); Granville’s reggae medley in dreadlocks and his boy band sequence alongside Ruan; Jessica and Ruan’s Human League medley; and the women performing Alanis Morissette hits. Ruan’s best solo moments are with Robbie Williams’s Rock DJ and, in cowboy hat, Bon Jovi’s Bed of Roses.
Among other hits that crop up during the show are favourites by Meaghan Trainor, Madness, Sam Smith, Sipho ‘Hotstix’ Mabuse and The Spice Girls, along with the likes of Nkalakatha, Conga, Waka Waka, Careless Whisper and I Want It That Way. Yegods, even Kurt Darren’s Kaptein makes an appearance.
Ticket prices for ’80s to Now start at R99 and under-12s get in free to all performances. For more details or to make a booking call (031) 010 6444.