Stage: Wine, Woman and Song – Rhumbelow Theatre, Umbilo, Durban
REVIEW BY BILLY SUTER
WESTVILLE’S Cat Simoni, now based in Cape Town, has built up a strong and deserved national following in recent years, following her decade as a singer-pianist at some of London’s classiest hotels.
She has always been a fun and charismatic performer, a good pianist and acoustic guitarist (and, sometimes, saxophonist) and a vivacious, versatile singer who has performed countless solo tribute shows.
In her latest cabaret, Wine, Woman and Song, she is the best she has been in Durban since her inaugural show at the Umbilo Rhumbelow Theatre Some five years or so ago – an excellent tribute to the songs and life story of Barbra Streisand.
Simoni has always been good value as an entertainer but she now seems to have jumped up another level, both as a singer and pianist, exuding a seemingly refreshed confidence, a new level of elegance and flair.
In a chat after the show, Cat admitted to being more self-assured of late and expressed delight that it had been recognised by a number of people at the theatre at her opening performance in Durban last night.
This renewed confidence is also seeing her jet off for the Middle East in late September, for a four-month performing contract in Bahrain. So if you are a fan note that the last two Durban performances of Wine, Woman and Song – at 8pm tonight (August 31) and 2pm on Sunday (September 1) – mark the last chance you will have to see this exuberant talent locally in some while.
Hopping between baby grand piano and acoustic guitar, and occasionaly leaving the stage to mingle among the audience with a microphone while performing to backing tracks, Simoni appears in glittering gowns for a slick programme of evergreens, more recent hits and novelties. She offers just the right amount of casual patter, with some clever play on words here and there.
She opens with the show’s title song, set to music by Strauss, then goes on to present a variety extending from a great delivery of Marianne Faithful’s Ballad of Lucy Jordan, to the toe-tapping Amy Winehouse hits Valerie and Rehab, a playful version of Nana Mouskouri’s Never on a Sunday and a standout rendition of Edith Piaf’s La Vie en Rose.
The first half also features Quando, Quando, Quando and Speak Softly Love, with Cat on guitar for The Pretenders hit, Brass in Pocket, and changing lyrics for comic effect for her delivery of That’s Amore.
The second half opens with Mary Hopkins’s classic Those Were the Days and the jaunty, swinging Caro Emerald hit, Liquid Lunch, before going into Red, Red Wine (Cat on guitar again) and a poignant delivery of Neil Diamond’s Love on the Rocks.
We also get Cat teasing male audience members with her version of Peggy Lee’s Fever, while fun deliveries of Chris de Burgh’s Patricia the Stripper and Shania Twain’s Man, I Feel Like a Woman prove big audience favourites.
Etta James’s At Last, Piaf’s No Regrets and a really good rendition of Frank Sinatra’s My Way complete the programme, and an encore item, Billy Joel’s Piano Man, has the audience singing along in the chorus.
Tickets for the show are priced at R150 (R130 for pensioners and students). Booking is at Computicket outlets or by phoning Roland Stansell at 082 499 8636. Treat yourself!