Parading the show tunes

Judith Hawthorn in I Love a Show Tune, at the Pietermaritzburg Rhumbelow Theatre, at the Allan Wilson shellhole, at 2pm on Sunday, May 9 (Mother’s Day).

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Stage: I Love a Show Tune – Rhumbelow Theatre, Allan Wilson Shellhole, Pietermaritzburg

at 2pm on Sunday, May 9.
REVIEW BY BILLY SUTER
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AFTER a long series of pop and rock showband tributes it comes as a very welcome and most pleasant surprise to discover this salute to musicals on the roster of productions touring to the various local Rhumbelow Theatre franchises.

Seasoned, Hilton-based singer-pianist Judith Hawthorn, while certainly no stranger to the stage and many voice students, is a new face on the Rhumbelow circuit, so a warm welcome to her. She makes for a cheerful stage presence and has a pleasant voice, so let’s hope we get to see more of her in future.

Directed and co-devised by Paul Spence – who has created productions for Cat Simoni, who is soon to emigrate to the UK – I Love a Show Tune had its first Rhumbelow performance, at the theatre’s Umbilo branch, at the end of March.

It is a little disjointed at times and would benefit with some editing and tweaking, but this is a fun, colourful and unpretentious show.

Opening with Hawthorn arriving to sit at a baby grand to chat about her childhood, family, early piano lessons and her love of musicals, the show soon sees pianist Jacques Heyns arrive to free Judith to cover both popular and lesser-known show tunes.

Her tongue-twisting rendition, with speedy arm choreography, of the stage musical version of the Mary Poppins hit, Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, is a standout in a show that also includes songs from, among others, My Fair Lady, Showboat, Sweet Charity, Beauty and the Beast, Once Upon a Mattress, Little Women and Oklahoma (a fine delivery of the amusing I Cain’t Say No).

On the down side, an increasingly corny Victor Borge sequence, featuring Hawthorn in long black wig while playing the piano, overstays its welcome; and an odd, silly sketch centred on a Sunday School teacher is longwinded and glaringly out of place in a tribute to musicals. The production would benefit from booting, or at least drastically editing, both sequences to add more show tunes.

Hawthorn also misses some opportunities to playfully ad lib with her audience during several silent moments which see her donning clothing and accessories on stage. It also has to be said that there is an urgent need for some gel or a hairclip or two – constant flicking of unruly curls from the face at the show’s opening proved most jarring.

For all this,  I Love a Show Tune, remains an enjoyable nod to nostalgia and it must be recorded that it kept many in the audience at the first Durban performance more than happy.

Tickets cost R160 each and booking is at Computicket or by calling Roland Stansell at 082 499 8636.


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