STAGE: British Revolution – Rhumbelow Theatre in Umbilo, Durban (and, later in October, at Tina’s Hotel in Kloof)
REVIEW BY BILLY SUTER
AN ENTHUSIASTIC audience greeted the premiere, at the weekend, of this latest showband entertainment from Durban’s The Reals, a sequel of sorts to the popular team’s earlier hit, British Invasion, saluting top music acts from the UK.
It certainly sparks with good vibes and makes for much enjoyment, albeit likely to prove even more enjoyable with some tweaking of the song list. More about that later.
This time around there is a comedy element to the show which, once again, highlights the huge talents and versatility of a team comprising lead and acoustic guitarist Barry Thomson, keyboard-player and musical director Dawn Selby, drummer Mali Sewell and bassist Trevor Donjeany. All also sing here, with Barry taking most of the vocal spotlight.
The comedy injection comes from showing, at intervals between songs, brief snippets from famous British series. Shown on video screens that flank the stage, these excerpts nod to Fawlty Towers, BlackAdder, Absolutely Fabulous, Monty Python and others.
I personally found this a little jarring, too much. Many in the audience clearly enjoyed them but, for my liking, there are too many videos. They detract from the music flow and also rob the audience of enjoying more tunes from a wealth of available material.
And so back to song choices. Certainly there are many highlights in this production, which has chit-chat at a minimum as the band nods to classic recording acts. But in spite of my always appreciating The Reals sneaking in less-familiar or less popular songs, to add some balance and extra interest, this show’s songsheet has too many of these moments, for my liking – especially with so much gold to mine from British hit-makers.
I winced and scratched my head at the inclusions, with Selby coincidentally on lead vocals for both, of the truly unremarkable When Tomorrow Comes as the song of choice to salute Euryhmics, and the average Running with the Pack to celebrate Bad Company. Soooooo many far better songs from which to choose for both acts.
Also odd is the sidestepping of any Dire Straits hit to instead salute Mark Knopfler with a so-so song, What It Is, from a solo album. Pink Floyd’s obvious classics are also avoided for a decidedly lesser moment in the band’s recording history.
While I am on a roll, why opt for Blinded By the Light (Donjeany on lead vocals) as a tribute to South African-born Manfred Mann when the man’s successes include such guaranteed audience-rousers as Doo Wah Diddy, Ha! Ha! Said the Clown, Pretty Flamingo and Mighty Quinn? Ah well, I suppose one can’t please everybody all the time.
But back to the positives. When it delivers what the crowd most expects, this show truly rocks. The infinitely better second half opens with The Beatles’ Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight, which had the audience merrily singing along, and then, after that Knopfler moment, truly excites with a flow of ’70s classics – Mott the Hoople’s All the Young Dudes (Sewell on lead vocals), David Bowie’s Starman and the catchy Pinball Wizard, a 1969 classic by The Who that was also a ’70s hit for both Elton John and The New Seekers.
More great ’70s fare crops up with The Sweet’s Ballroom Blitz, Rod Stewart’s Sailing (perhaps Barry’s highpoint in this show) and, albeit hardly British but thankfully hurled in for the fun of it, a spirited delivery of Santa Esmeralda’s feisty disco stomper, Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood. All these songs bring the house down and lend weight to my constant plea for The Reals to offer a show saluting only early-’70s music. Pretty please!
Opening with The Beatles’ Revolution, and also offering hits by The Hollies, The Kinks, The Moody Blues, The Shadows, Billy Idol and others, British Revolution will next be staged at the Umbilo Rhumbelow Theatre at 6.30pm on Friday and Saturday, October 8 and 9, and at 2pm on Sunday, October 10.
Performances are then planned for October 16,17, 22, 23 and 24 at the Rhumbelow’s branch at Tina’s Hotel in Beryldene Road, Kloof.
Tickets cost R180 each and booking is at Computicket or by phoning Roland Stansell on 082 499 8636.