Stage: Live in Vegas – Barnyard Theatre, Suncoast Casino, Durban
REVIEW BY BILLY SUTER
THE level of theatricality that has been injected into recent shows performed at Durban’s Barnyard Theatre at Suncoast Casino continues to rise. This latest compilation production there, booked in until January 12, is a case in point – and gets my vote as the most impressive show at this venue since Rhythm of the Night.
Packed with hit songs by various artists who have performed in Vegas, beautifully lit, and with props including a bench, an illuminated mini baby grand, canes, a large picture frame, prison cells and wing-capes festooned in fairylights, this is a colourful, slick show with wide appeal.
It is sure to prove a popular choice for end-of-year functions as it has a bit of everything, performed well by a talented, 10-member cast headed by a vivacious vocalist who has perhaps the best female voice I have heard to date on the Barnyard or Rockwood theatre circuits – and I have seen ’em all.
She is Elizca Coetzer, who won a Naledi Award in 2007 as best female newcomer, for her lead role in Richard Loring’s production of Hairspray. She has also featured in High School Musical, Hair, Footloose, Chess and other stage successes.
Coetzer is the clear vocal standout in Live in Vegas, blessed with a powerful mezzo-soprano that wraps itself particularly well around the hits of Celine Dion and Jennifer Lopez, but which also suits songs associated with, among others, Shirley Bassey and Cher.
The show loses points for some cheesy, totally unnecessary, linking patter by Wayne Cumming, whose poor attempt at an American accent, as the show’s MC, gets worse as the show progresses. Fortunately, he fares much better as a versatile vocalist.
He is joined on vocals by a pint-size newcomer to Durban, Capetonian Cole Adams, who first appears performing Tutti Frutti as Little Richard, albeit that he more closely resembles a very juvenile Prince.
Adams is much better with his Lionel Richie medley and later, performing with the whole cast, in a showstopping Michael Jackson medley that is imaginatively lit, very well choreographed and rates as the best tribute to Whacko Jacko seen on a Barnyard stage.
The show, produced by Duck Chowles and with choreography by Drew Mathie, also benefits greatly from three attractive and energetic dancers – Dylon Daniels, Marcella Solimeo and the super-sexy Simone Youtlon – who perform throughout in varying combinations and as a trio.
Live in Vegas makes good use of a changing backdrop of various illuminated Vegas venues, with headliner acts at these venues echoing the acts being saluted on stage. This backdrop also often gives way to other visuals, including a jail cell for Cumming and dancers’ fun Elvis Presley tribute that features Jailhouse Rock and Burning Love.
Costumes by Ashleigh Bradford are excellent, the only exception being an unflattering, awkward, blue, sequinned get-up that poor Coetzer has to wear for her medley of Cher’s I Found Someone, Bang Bang and Strong Enough.
Bonus points for fine contributions by Mike Raven on lead guitar and James Dobson on keyboards – the former excelling throughout in guitar solos, a top-notch Santana tribute and on vocals for Smooth; the latter wowing as Elton John (Rocketman and Sad Songs ) and also delivering gutsy vocals on Aerosmith’s I Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing and Def Leppard’s stomping Pour Some Sugar On Me.
The show also features Rohan Blignaut on drums, with bass in the hands of Lihle Ndimande.
Among other highlights in a highly enjoyable production are Coetzer and Cumming’s brilliant delivery of Shallow from A Star is Born; Cummings’ Fly Me to the Moon performed alongside dancers Dylon and Marcella, in a nod to the bench scene from La La Land; and Coetzer’s Celine Dion tribute featuring I’m Alive and A New Day Has Come.
Also standouts are Cumming alongside dancer Simone, with large, feathered fans, for Maria Maria; a fun Bee Gees sequence that opens the second half; and the sequinned-and-feathered Viva Las Vegas finale that follows Cummings and Adams performing Sinatra’s New York, New York.
Performances of Live in Vegas are every Tuesday to Sunday, with a buy-one-get-one-free offer on Tuesday nights, and the Sunday matinees offering a low price (when tickets are half-price for pensioners and free under-12s).
For prices and other details ring The Barnyard Theatre at (031) 940 0500.