Stage: Ladies Sing the Blues – Rhumbelow Theatre, Tina’s Hotel, Kloof
REVIEW BY BILLY SUTER
IF YOU’RE seeking a pleasant outing and favour a mixed bag of song – mostly old standards but also with more recent hits and fun mash-ups – you’re sure to find enjoyment in Ladies Sings the Blues.
A light and breezy show which premiered at the recent Hilton Arts Festival at Hilton College, it is directed by Peter Mitchell and features four cheerful Pietermaritzburg vocalists – Erin Fourie, Tanya Nicolson, Grace Botha and Helen Vermaak.
The production has been lengthened for its short run at the Rhumbelow Theatre in Kloof, where it is presented over two halves and will have final performances at 8pm on Friday (September 27) and 2pm on Sunday (September 29).
The team, with Vermaak and Botha doing a fine job alternating at the black grand piano on stage, and Fourie often providing accompaniment on acoustic guitar, offers a wide variety of blues and jazz, covering a century of music.
It’s a relatively informal presentation with linking patter offering facts about songs and those who have performed them, all interspersed with lighthearted interplay between all performers.
Sadly, the show’s linking dialogue is stilted and much of the banter and humour is hammy. Also, it must be said that the attractive Nicolson, while often in very good voice, would greatly benefit from toning down her hyper-exuberance. That all said, the song choices and deliveries are good.
Opening with a lively rendition of Beyonce’s Single Ladies which leads into an early highlight with the strong-voiced Fourie’s delivery of Cry Me a River, the show covers a wide range of artists – from Ella Fitzgerald, Peggy Lee, Frank Sinatra and Johnny Mathis to Etta James, Amy Winehouse, Nina Simone and Edith Piaf.
We even get a jolly, jazzy mash of Britney Spears’ Hit Me Baby (One More Time) and Toxic, well performed by Nicolson and Botha; and a toe-tapping second-half medley including snippets of Is You Is Or Is You Ain’t My Baby, What a Difference a Day Makes, They Can’t Take That Away From Me and I Put a Spell on You.
The performers entertain as a team, a trio, in duet and solo, highlights including Fourie’s Stormy Weather, At Last and her standout Miss Otis Regrets, although her delivery of That’s Life and Fever were curiously lacking in oomph.
The least showy, but for me the most charismatic member of the cast, Botha, sparkles most with performances of Ella Fitzgerald’s A Tisket, A-Tasket and Joan Armatrading’s Love and Affection, both of which have her accompanying herself on piano. Botha is also on good form with Georgia on My Mind and sharing Unforgettable with Fourie.
I also greatly enjoyed Fourie in duet with Nicolson for a great meshing of Amy Winehouse’s Fade to Black and the Ray Charles classic, Hit the Road Jack.
Nicolson impresses most when she stops acting the giddy goat to offer heartfelt, breathy, very impressive deliveries of Someone to Watch Over Me, What a Wonderful World and Over the Rainbow.
Vermaak is at her best with an interesting melding of La Vie en Rose and Fly Me to the Moon; although her misjudged, playful delivery of I’ve Got You Under My Skin falls flat.
Ladies Sing the Blues closes with Mack the Knife and also features favourites such as My Funny Valentine (Vermaak), Making Whoopee (Nicolson), Norah Jones’s Don’t Know Why (Vermaak), Smile (Fourie), It Don’t Mean a Thing If It Ain’t Got That Swing (Botha) and Autumn Leaves (Nicolson). We also get a very pleasant, sway-to rendition of Cyndi Lauper’s Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.
Ticket for the show cost R150 each (R130 for pensioners) and booking is at Computicket or by phoning Roland at 082 499 8636.