Loads of fun to cure the blues

Members of the cast of Strictly No 1s, at Durban’s Barnyard Theatre at Suncoast Casino until December 31.

Stage: Strictly No 1s – Barnyard Theatre, Suncoast Casino, Durban

(until December 31)

IT’S always good to see theatres rising yet again to punch back against the harsh clobberings of Covid-19 restrictions, and it’s particularly satisfying to report that one of Durban’s most popular draws has now opened its festive season attraction with an all-local, eight-member cast that is raring to go.

Strictly No 1s may take a little liberty with its title, considering some song choices on the programme, but this is a show perfectly designed for year-end festivities, offering something for everyone. It’s a sure cure for the blues and constantly got many people up on their feet and singing along at Sunday’s matinee.

Although colourfully costumed, featuring some choreography and offering this venue’s customarily fine use of lighting and digital backdrop imagery, this is a largely informal compilation of party songs and hit ballads, with patter kept to a minimum.

It is performed by a cast backed by the crack team of resident musical director, keyboard-player and backing vocalist Calli Thomson and other regulars Dylan van der Linde on drums, Bongani Sokhela on bass and bearded Jason Kyle on guitar and occasional vocals.

Hosting the show is amiable and versatile charmer Themba January, star of several Barnyard successes, who is also among the team of vocalists that includes Barnyard favourite Kyle Matthews, petite blonde dynamo Savanah de Beer and feisty belter Kerry Cherry.

Kyle Matthews performs Rock Me Amadeus in Strictly No 1s.

Appearing as a group, solo or as varying duos, this team packs a lot of hits into the two-act programme, opening with a snippet of Bing Crosby’s White Christmas – still the world’s biggest selling single to date, we are told – and going right through the years, in no real chronological order, to get more up to date with offerings from the likes of Adele, Mango Groove, Diana Ross, Pink Floyd, J-Lo, Journey and many others.

The early part of the programme sees rock ‘n’ roll and pop dominating, with deliveries of Cliff Richard and Elvis Presley classics before January’s great version of Louis Armstrong’s Hello Dolly, followed by Kyle and Kerry teaming for two Starship hits, We Built This City and Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now.

Young Savanah first appears, in catsuit and black wig, for Cher’s Believe, going on to later impress with renditions of Belinda Carlisle’s Heaven is a Place on Earth and Camila Cabello’s sassy Havana.

Kerry, in a changing parade of wigs (love the slicked-back style, but could do without the curly cascade coupled with an unflattering side-slit outfit), is vocally on point throughout. She most delights, alongside Themba, in a lovely mash-up of Adele’s Someone Like You and Kings of Leon’s Use Somebody. She also wows alongside Themba with Endless Love, alongside Savanah with I Drove All Night, and on her own with Brenda Fassie’s Vulindlela and Diana Ross’s I’m Coming Out.

Kyle’s best moments include a tongue-in-cheek delivery of Falco’s Rock Me Amadeus, in full period costume; Bill Haley’s Rock Around the Clock; Johnny Clegg’s The Crossing and Pink Floyd’s Another Brick in the Wall.

Another standout moment in the show is a showcase for drums and guitar, featuring Dylan and Jason stringing together famous song intros, among them hits by Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple. Jason’s vocal and guitar talent in La Bamba is also a big crowd-pleaser.

The show also serves such hits as Dance Sum More, Let’s Get Loud, Kaptein, Forty Days, Blue Suede Shoes, Eye of the Tiger, Jump, Kung Fu Fighting (Themba in karate gear), Don’t Stop Believing, Let’s Twist Again and Party Rock Anthem.

Strictly No 1s is being presented Thursdays to Sundays at various times, until December 31. Ticket prices range from R165 to R220 a head. Corporate events are also being arranged for year-end. Discounts apply on certain days.

Under current lockdown restrictions the venue is allowed to accommodate about 250 people and sticks to all Covid-19 protocols. Contact the theatre at (031) 9400500 for bookings or any further details.

Savanah de Beer and Themba January in Strictly No 1s.

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