STAGE: Here’s to You: The Simon and Garfunkel Songbook
– Johannesburg’s Pieter Toerien Theatre, Montecasino (until March 8)
Sasolburg’s Etiene Rousseau Theatre (March 12 to 14)
Durban’s Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre (March 19 to 29)
Cape Town’s Theatre on the Bay (April 3 to 25)
REVIEW BY BILLY SUTER
SEE END OF REVIEW FOR DETAILS ON HOW TO WIN DOUBLE TICKETS FOR THE DURBAN PREMIERE OF THIS SHOW
WHEN I attended an early performance last July of this Simon and Garfunkel tribute show at Johannesburg’s Pieter Toerien Theatre, I was so captivated, so impressed, it came as little surprise that the production became enormously popular.
So much so, that a return season is now underway at the same theatre, before the show tours to Sasolburg, Durban and Cape Town (venues and dates above). A CD recording of the show is also newly available for purchase at the respective theatres.
Here’s to You: The Simon and Garfunkel Songbook is a production from VR Theatrical, a small, passionate and versatile entertainment company which has presented such diverse and exciting fare as Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Avenue Q and The Mystery of Irma Vep. It is headed by hard-working Jaco van Rensburg, who was the director of the popular Curtain Up, the youth musical staged last July at Durban’s Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre.
Most of Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel’s classic songs have been rearranged for Here’s to You, which omits some obvious hits (Simon’s Take Me to the Mardi Gras and Mother and Child Reunion; Garfunkel’s Bright Eyes and I Shall Sing, for instance) in favour of some perhaps lesser known songs associated with the close-harmony American duo.
But, that said, the choices are good ones, and there are still many classic hits in what amounts to a must-see, stylish show which, in the past year, has seen the talented cast of eight develop an easy comfort with each other and the classic material they present.
I loved Here’s to You’s easy elegance and theatricality, it’s freshness involving a very talented team, all of whom sing beautifully and also hop between various musical instruments, allowing the music, the Simon and Garfunkel poetry, to speak for itself.
It is presented with occasional patter that highlights a few facts about the famous duo but, thankfully, steers away from being yet another history lesson, a trap into which many tribute shows so easily fall.
The old songs in new wrappings – fine arrangements by Bryan Schimmel, Matthew Vlok, Jaco van Rensburg, Wessel Odendaal and Daniel Keith Geddes – together with director Timothy le Roux’s deftly orchestrated manoeuvrings of the performers around the stage, lend a freshness and elements of surprise that see this production amount to a whole lot more than just another showband tribute.
Embellishing no end on all this is truly wonderful, inspired lighting design by Oliver Hauser and a striking, deceptively simple set by Nadine Minaar that comprises mostly slatted pine and suspended and raised globes. There is a sophisticated country jamboree feel to it all.
Director Le Roux, also a noted choreographer, moves the show along with a smooth, informal precision. He often injects moments of surprise as the stage layout changes with the removal or moving of wooden trunks here; the swivelling of a platform or piano, the repositioning of chairs, there.
All the time, while performing in varying combinations, sometimes a cappella, the performers shift between playing everything from guitars, percussion, piano, cellos and violin to ukelele, banjo, triangles, tambourines and pennywhistle. It’s great fun and the harmonies are excellent.
More than 20 songs from the Simon and Garfunkel songbook, as well as the men’s solo catalogues, feature in the show which opens with the cast casually arriving on stage, one at a time, for a rendition of Mrs Robinson.
Each member of the team has time to shine, more than once, and highlights include a number of solos by sweet-voiced 2017 The Voice South Africa runner-up, Josh Ansley, who has played the Barnyard Theatre circuit.
Ansley, often on guitar, is also great pairing for The Sounds of Silence alongside cellist-soprano Sanli Jooste, best remembered for her hapless Joanna in KickstArt’s excellent touring production of Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd. I also loved Ansley’s gentle, beguiling interpretation of The Dangling Cnversation, in duet with the versatile Ashleigh Butcher, both of them on acoustic guitars.
Another highlight is a playful melding of Feeling Groovy and Slip Siding Away, involving percussion and a ukelele.
Also on vocals and various instruments are Daniel Geddes, Phindile Dube and Jason Swartz, with the show’s music director, Wessel Odendaal, behind the piano and on backing vocals.
Completing the lineup is versatile Hanna So, who plays cello and violin and wins hearty applause for a piano solo which meshes songs to open the second half. I found it overly dramatic last year, too hammering for my ear, but it now comes across as a lot more appealing.
Ho also leads vocals in a pleasing delivery of Simon’s Still Crazy After All These Years, while a new addition to the show is a good rendition of America, led by Odendaal, singing from behind the upright piano.
One of my favourite moments is a slow, gospel-gutsy, slinky interpretation of the usually upbeat Keep the Customers Satisfied, performed by feisty Phindile Dube, who I would have liked to have seen perform more songs in the show. A light-hearted duet by her and amusing vocalist-percussionist Jason Swarz, of the omitted Simon solo success, 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover, would have made a terrific choice.
Among other songs featured in the show are a beautifully delivered Scarborough Fair and a poignant rendition of Kathy’s Song, as well as The Boxer, The Sounds of Silence, A Hazy Shade of Winter, Kodachrome, Al Condor Pasa, Graceland, Cecilia, You Can Call Me Al and, of course, Bridge Over Troubled Water.
Booking for all performances is at Computicket outlets.
WIN DOUBLE TICKETS FOR THE DURBAN SHOW!
Care to put yourself in line to win one of THREE sets of double tickets to see Here’s to You at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre, Durban, at 7.30pm on Thursday, March 19? The value of each prize is R300.
You simply have to be a follower of the SoSuterBill site to win. At no cost.
If you are not already a follower, simply leave your email address in the space provided towards the end of the cover page of this site, sosuterbill.com
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Once you have subscribed (there is no cost), send your NAME and PHONE NUMBER via email (NOT THIS SITE’S CONTACT FORM) to email@example.com and place the words ‘HERE’S TO YOU COMPETITION’ in the subject field.
Note that the competition closes at 6pm on Sunday, March 1, and the winners will be contacted soon after.
Also note that tickets may not be exchanged for another performance and that the prize is for tickets only (not travel and/or accommodation should this prove necessary).
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Standard terms and conditions:
- Tickets are only valid for the specified date and performance time and may not be upgraded, exchanged for cash or for an alternate performance.
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2 thoughts on “Excellent nod to Simon & Garfunkel”
Would love to see this. Have been a fan of Simon and Garfunkel forever.
Would be delighted to win 2 tickets to see the show… love the Music Of Simon and Garfunkel…. thank you 🙂