Pounding out the hit medleys

The vocalists in 101 Hits, at Durban’s Barnyard Theatre at Suncoast Casino until October 20.

STAGE: 101 Hits – Barnyard Theatre, Suncoast Casino, Durban

THE party shows just keep on coming… and if you are a fan of squeezing in as many hits as possible over two hours-plus then you, like most at a performance of 101 Hits that I attended this week, are sure to love this colourful new production.

At this beachfront theatre until October 20, the show covers six decades of music and is presented by a nine-member cast that includes a hard-working band comprising seasoned lead guitarist Charles Knighton Pullen, jovial bassist Bongane Sokhela, keyboardist Vusi Maseko and Durban drummer Dylan van der Linde (now sans dreadlocks).

Vocals are handled by standouts Marvin Nethononda and young Richard Kaldenberg, both versatile and engaging singers, as well as Lee Paver, feisty Faith Nkosi and leggy Caelee Vercuiel, who occasionally bares a passing resemblance to Angelina Jolie.

To grumble a little, let me quickly point out that, with some exceptions, I wasn’t blown away by costumes in 101 Hits. For the most part, they are not on a par with costumes in previous shows at this venue, with some really odd design choices and some ugly, ill-fitting jumpsuits for the men.

A scene from the South African section of 101 Hits.

Also, notwithstanding some very good performances, the venue’s customarily excellent lighting and a great sense of fun from both cast and audience, I found the production a bit too frenetic. I would have much preferred hearing fewer songs done in full rather than a gazillion strung-together snippets.

But, to be fair, the majority lapped it up. Also, not all numbers in this show are in medleys, and there has been some careful thought put into the programme, which thematically links songs in different ways.

Better moments include the male vocalists performing excerpts from 20 different songs built around the same four bars of music – numbers ranging from hits by U2 and James Blunt to Andrea Bocelli.

Also of note is an early medley by the women, performing disco hits, mostly by Donna Summer; and a second-half solo spotlight by Pullen, who excels with a medley of classic guitar intros and interludes.

I also enjoyed a South African section including the hits Weekend Special, Impi, Shadows, Kaptein, Shibobo, Waka Waka and Nkalakatha; while the second half’s medleys of hits associated with Meghan Trainor and Maroon 5 are crowd favourites.

The show also offers a medley of songs centred on cars and driving – performed with a large, pink cadillac prop – and the audience reaches full-throttle mode by the time the cast encourages audience participation for snippets of songs associated with popular dance moves. We get everything from The Time Warp, The Macarena and YMCA to Gangnam Style and a snatch of line-dancing set to my choice for worst song of all time, Achey Breaky Heart.

Lead guitarist Charles Knighton Pullen in 101 Hits.

This brings me to another little moan – why does this venue have to pack the tables in so tightly? I, for one, could barely stand at my seat, let alone consider doing The Time Warp. Throughout the shows, on busy nights, it is a constant battle to find a way of snaking between tables to head for the pub or loo.  It’s not only my view – I have heard a number of people grumble about it.

Also featuring snatches of songs associated with, among many others, Josh Groban, Bruce Springsteen, Aretha Franklin, Billy Ocean, Mango Groove, The Chainsmokers, Led Zeppelin, The Beatles and Robbie Williams, 101 Hits is performed every Tuesday to Sunday. To book, contact The Barnyard Theatre at 031 940 0500.


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