Stage: ’80s Rewind – Barnyard Theatre, Suncoast Casino, Durban
REVIEW BY BILLY SUTER
WHAT a joy to return to a theatre again, even in these weird times of the “new normal” requiring masks, a maximum of 100 patrons and other protocols. And what a pleasure to do so for a show that proves such a hugely enjoyable salute to the hit songs of the 1980s.
It may have been put together with relatively short notice, thanks to the continuing uncertainties of lockdown restrictions, but ’80s Rewind is a definite tonic for Covid blues. It is unpretentious, frothy fun that bristles with an exuberance that attests to the cast enjoying performing again as much as the audience enjoys diving into their splash of hit songs.
Under the tight musical direction of Durban’s Calli Thomson, who also handles keyboards and backing vocals, the show is performed against a changing parade of imaginative lighting and projected backdrop footage. It features a strong 10-member cast, only one member of which is not from Durban – seasoned Barnyard vocalist Raymond Ray.
Sharing lead vocals with him are ever-cheerful show host Kyle Matthews, actor and musical theatre star Rory Booth and two ebullient vocalists in petite, shapely, blonde Savanah de Beer – who has grown in leaps and bounds since I first saw her on stage in Rockwood Theatre productions – and a welcome newcomer to the Barnyard family, Kerry Cherry.
A power-voiced performer, Kerry may be remembered for her fine Amy Winehouse tribute show a few years ago at The Rhumbelow Theatre in Kloof. She is now sporting a new, shorter, pink hairdo – and is the belter in the ’80s Rewind group.
Following a very loose theme, the production makes use of a giant clock face while depicting the count through the years of the decade that gave us the Rubik’s Cube, day-glo colours, the Sony Walkman and some of the ugliest fashion ever – some of it reflected, with tongue in cheek, in the costumes in this show.
Mostly favourites are on the song sheet but it’s refreshing to note that it’s not always the most obvious tunes selected – and I am personally grateful for the absence of any Michael Jackson, Tina Turner or Madonna, all of whom have been done to death in tribute shows.
What can you expect? A quick pace, lots of solo performances as well as songs sung in varying permutations, plus a good supply of choreography and humour from a spot of drag and novelty numbers such as Shaddap Your Face, Turning Japanese and Da Da Da.
Highlights include saxophonist Kirsty van der Linde’s solo spotlight with David Foster’s Theme from St Elmo’s Fire and a sax-heavy medley featuring George Michael’s Careless Whisper. Kirsty, looking a million dollars in two elegant trousered outfits, also gets to play the pennywhistle in the inevitable South African sequence.
Also in the band are bassist Bongani Sokhela, drummer Dylan van der Linde (Kirsty’s husband) and bearded, unobtrusive lead guitarist Jason Kylen, who gets a solo vocal and guitar spotlight with Dire Straits’s Money For Nothing. He will be alternating with Barry Thomson in some performances of this show.
My favourite moments in a truly fun production include the three male vocalists opening the show with Shout and Everybody Wants to Rule the World by Tears for Fears and singing a great medley of Toto hits later. The finale, a rousing delivery of Depeche Mode’s I Just Can’t Get Enough, is also a big winner.
Loud applause, too, for Ray’s delivery of Bon Jovi’s Always and Kenny Loggins’s Danger Zone, Rory’s UB40 reggae medley and nod to DeBarge’s Rhythm of the Night, Kyle’s Jukebox Hero and Lean on Me, Savanah’s Flashdance (What a Feeling) and Bette Davis Eyes, and Kerry’s crowd-stealing The Power of Love, Sisters Are Doing It For Themselves, Don’t Go and Let the River Run.
Also on the songlist, among other hits, are I Want to Break Free, Jump (For My Love), It’s Raining Men, Never Gonna Give You Up, Take a Chance on Me, The Safety Dance, Respectable, 99 Red Balloons, Summer of ’69, Walk Like an Egyptian, Come On Eileen, Get Down On It, You Can Leave Your Hat On, Kilimanjaro and Africa.
Scheduled to run Fridays to Sundays until May 30, ’80s Rewind has 7pm performances on Fridays and Saturdays and 2pm Sunday matinees. Tickets cost R195 each with 50% discount for pensioners and under-12s on Sundays only (limited to two children per paying, full-price adult).
To book or for more details phone The Barnyard Theatre on (031) 940 0500.