Delightful salute to Elton John

Marion Loudon and Evan Cullum in Crocodile Rock, a tribute to the music of Elton John, which has its final Umbilo Rhumbelow Theatre performance at 2pm today (May 8). Tickets cost R160 and are available at the door.

STAGE: Crocodile Rock (Marion Loudon & Evan Cullum) – Rhumbelow Theatre, Cunningham Road, Umbilo ( Final performance (at 2pm today)

THE innovative Eric Hutton and Evan Roberts-produced Elton John tribute staged in the ’80s at Durban’s now-defunct Playhouse Cellar supper theatre remains one of the longest running and most memorable tribute shows staged in the city, and it was with fond memories of that production that I attended the opening last night of this new tribute to the flamboyant showman.

Popular singer Marion Loudon and ebullient pianist-singer Evan Cullum’s show may not have the budget to be anywhere near as flashy as that early, classic Cellar production, which was of note for grand costumes and some dramatic tweakings of arrangements, but it is no less of a delight. It is a true treat for fans of the hit-maker whose longtime collaboration with lyricist Bernie Taupin has given the world some of its most magical songs.

Marion and Evan make a truly terrific team, both being talented, warm and confident performers, every bit as charming off stage as they are on, so one hopes this new partnership will be a long one, spawning many more shows. How about One Hit Wonders? Or a Barry Manilow tribute?

The duo’s tribute to Elton, its 20 song choices mostly sticking close to the original arrangements, is delivered with minimal fuss but a lot of fun, and unfolds on a stage dominated by a white baby grand piano. Backing tracks are also used as the twosome perform solo and together to salute timeless offerings from the now-75-year-old English performer who, in more recent years, has turned his talent to creating music for such stage and screen successes as The Lion King, Aida and Billy Elliot the Musical.

Sadly, no music from any of those musicals features in Crocodile Rock, but one hopes this show will spawn a sequel (or two) as there are loads more Elton John treasures still to mine. How about it, guys?

Opening with a banging delivery of Saturday Night’s Alright (For Fighting), the show has Evan and Marion linking the hits with casual, often amusing, banter and includes Evan donning some sparkly specs, sequins and some feathered finery, while Marion offers a parade of shimmering tops.

Evan’s voice is perfectly suited to Elton’s material and with each new show he grows as a performer, while ever-cheerful and versatile Marion makes a perfect foil.

Most of the Elton biggies are here, standouts including Evan’s vocal and piano deliveries of Candle in the Wind, Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me, Rocket Man, Something About the Way You Look Tonight and the catchy, doo-woppy Club At the End of the Street. Marion most impresses with Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, Nikita and a sassy Bennie and the Jets (although a more colourful, flashy, funky costume is called for here).

Also featured are Don’t Go Breaking my Heart, Sad Songs, Sacrifice, The Bitch is Back, Daniel, I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues,Your Song, I’m Still Standing and the lesser known, but jaunty, Looking Up from Elton’s 2016 album, Wonderful Crazy Night. Also a surprise is a fun finale item that one does not usually associate with Elton John but which went down a treat at last night’s performance and led to some giving a standing ovation.

Crocodile Rock has its final performance at the Umbilo Rhumbelow at 2pm today and one can buy tickets at the door. Treat yourself – and, today being Mother’s Day, take mom along too!

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