STAGE: ’80s vs ’90s – Barnyard Theatre, Suncoast Casino, Durban
REVIEW BY BILLY SUTER
AFTER seeing out 2019 with a great, big bang with the feathers, frills and fabulosity of the colourful and theatrical Live in Vegas, Durban’s Barnyard Theatre returns to saluting chart favourites from yesteryear in its latest showband entertainment, booked in until March 8.
In the spotlight among the ’80s vs ’90s cast of 10 are some familiar faces and some newcomers to this venue, and the songs performed make for a rollercoast along memory lane which, coupled with a good pizza from the venue and a few drinks, add up to rollicking good fun.
Barnyard regular Ray Oberholzer, who has also performed on the circuit as Raymond Ray, makes for an amiable co-host alongside the jolly Richard Hala. Both also handle much of the vocals, with Oberholzer often encouraging one half of the audience to support the 1980s with a cry of “Awesome!” whenever he mentions the decade; and Hala inspiring the other half to shout out “Lekker!” whenever he mentions the 1990s.
It’s a bit silly and cheesey, but the audience is quick to play along, even though it is sometimes difficult to hear the hosts’ (mercifully brief) chit-chat which, certainly the night I was in, occasionally came across as overamplified and rather muffled.
Against a backdrop of panels depicting walls with graffiti associated with the two decades in question, the cast first appears in a delivery of The Final Countdown. They then go quickly into saluting songs associated with Depeche Mode, Whitney Houston and Cutting Crew.
Also early in the show is a flash tribute to MC Hammer – rather amusingly delivered by versatile singer Austen Luring, who performs snippets of one of the most lame dances ever inspired by a pop star, while wearing the Aladdin-like, crotch-hanging pants that helped give MC Hammer his 15 minutes of fame.
The show’s female vocalists include shapely and tattooed blonde, Peyton Amber, who wears the show’s most imaginative (and sexy) costumes. She first appears with The Cranberries hit Zombie and the Alannah Myles classic, Black Velvet, and also impresses with her delivery of Flashdance (What a Feeling) and, alongside fellow vocalist Thembelihle Benenengu, Destiny ‘s Child’s Independent Women and Bananarama’s Venus.
Amber has been working the Barnyard circuit for some while now, while power-voiced Thembelihle Benenengu is new to the Durban venue and makes a very strong impression as a soloist (Special Star and Smooth Operator). She is also memorable in duet with the versatile Hala (Beauty and the Beast and a somewhat clumsily arranged mesh of the done-to-death I Will Always Love You and Bryan Adams’s Everything I Do).
Hala’s versatility is underscored with his hopping from dramatic balladry to the Vanilla Ice hit, Ice, Ice Baby, and Bob Marley’s Buffalo Soldier, while Oberholzer impresses with Kenny Loggins’s Danger Zone, the rocking Don’t Stop Believing (rather oddly included in the show’s ‘Ballad Challenge’) and the second half’s AC/DC tribute, Thunderstruck, where he goes full-throat yell, to great effect.
Vocalist Luring’s numbers include Robbie Williams’s Rock DJ, Big Mountain’s Baby I Love Your Way, UB40’s Can’t Help Falling in Love and, with Oberholzer and Hala, a fine delivery of Boyz II Men’s End of the Road that won the loudest applause of the night.
Also of note are moments highlighting the musicians – lead guitarist Regardt de Bruin delivering excellent guitar solos throughout and also turning to the tiny concertina for Mango Groove’s jolly Marabi Party, for which he teams with Mduduzi Khumalo on pennywhistle. Khumalo also handles sax and does a beautiful job throughout, most notably during Black Velvet and Rock DJ.
Completing the line-up are Umkhozinati Ngubeni on drums, Bongani Sokhela on bass and Durban’s own, Calli Thomson, on keyboards and backing vocals.
’80s vs ’90s also features songs associated with Wham, Metallica, Starship, David Foster, Dexy’s Midnight Runners, PJ Powers, TK Zee, Sipho ‘Hotstix’Mabuse and Bonnie Tyler, among others.
There is a ticket special until February 29: R140 each for 7.30pm shows on Wednesday and Thursday, as well as 8pm shows on Fridays and Saturdays. At the 7.30pm Tuesday performances, R140 will get you two tickets.
Tickets cost R140 each at the 2pm Sunday shows but pensioners pay half-price and under-12s get in free that day.
From March 3, tickets will cost R180 each, with two-for-one specials remaining on Tuesdays. Sunday show tickets will remain at R140 (half-price for pensioners and free for under-12s).
To book, contact The Barnyard Theatre at (031) 940 0500