BILLY SUTER chats to exciting young Cape Town-based vocalist KALDEN BERG, who is winning rave reviews for his performance as Freddie Mercury in the latest Durban Barnyard Theatre production, Thank You For the Music, a nod to the hits of Queen, Bee Gees and Abba. The show is being staged at the theatre, at Suncoast Casino, until early October. To book, call the theatre at 031 940 0500.
WHY DO YOU NOT USE YOUR REAL NAME, RICHARD KALDENBERG? AND WHEN DID YOU START USING KALDEN BERG?
I first considered a stage name when I started doing live performances and realised how important it was to have a name that was easily recogniseable and memorable. I decided on Kalden Berg as a way to keep my real name in a simpler form.
HOW HAVE DURBAN AUDIENCES BEEN REACTING TO YOUR FREDDIE IN THE LATEST SUNCOAST BARNYARD SHOW?
The response has truly been overwhelmingly positive! This role has been a very daunting one for me, so to hear from so many audience members that my performance takes them back to when they watched Freddie Mercury himself live is incredibly rewarding.
WHERE ELSE, AND WHEN, HAVE YOU PERFORMED THANK YOU FOR THE MUSIC – AND WHAT PLANS FOR YOU AFTER THE DURBAN SEASON ENDS?
I’ve performed this and other versions of this show at Gold Reef City and Tygervalley for a long time. My first show run was in 2018, after finishing school.
But I’ve always taken on the secondary role, in which I’d sing a mixture of Abba songs, play acoustic guitar and do two solo Queen songs. So this really is my first time taking on Freddie Mercury for a full show!
I plan to travel back to Cape Town after this run. I will continue to work with The Barnyard Theatre as well as continue LiveStreaming and releasing original music.
WHERE AND WHEN WERE YOU BORN, AND WHERE WERE YOU EDUCATED.?
I was born in July of 1999 in Cape Town, where I started school and joined the choir in Table View Primary. My family later moved to Nelspruit and then Johannesburg, where I joined Rand Park High School and met the wonderful people that started my music career.
WHERE, WHEN AND HOW DID THE SHOWBIZ BUG FIRST BITE?
I started my music career when a wonderful extramural music tutor asked me to become part of the schools’ first band, which we named Basement8. We entered competitions, wrote original music, opened for MiCasa and even made it to the semi-finals of South Africa’s Got Talent in 2016.
It was around that time that the same music tutor asked me whether I’d ever consider doing music for a living. That one question is the whole reason I am a performer today.
WHAT VOCAL OR OTHER TRAINING HAVE YOU HAD – AND WHAT IS YOUR VOCAL RANGE?
I’ve always been a singer. Music runs in my family and I was in choirs, bands and acapella groups throughout my school career. I have never had any classic training, but did go for a few vocal coaching sessions when I did my first high-intensity show.
ARE YOU A FREDDIE MERCURY FAN AND HOW MUCH DO YOU ENJOY THIS SHOW?
When I was a kid we always used to have Queen’s Greatest Hits 3 in the car on road trips. I fell in love with those hits, but never went too much deeper. This show has really opened me up to the brilliance that Freddie and the band so smoothly commanded throughout their time.
I can confidently say that Thank You For The Music will be a show I will remember forever. Not only for the opportunity it gives me to stand in Freddie’s shoes, but also for this incredible team that I get to work with.
Every single person in this cast is striving to be their best out there and it is such a pleasure to work with such talent and passion.
APPARENTLY YOU WERE 17 WHEN YOU FIRST APPEARED IN A BARNYARD SHOW. HOW DID THAT COME TO BE?
In early 2017 I went to watch a show called Six of the Best at the Barnyard Theatre in Cresta. After the show I spoke with one of the performers and mentioned that I was a singer, at which point he took my number and helped arrange for an audition.
I don’t know why he believed me so easily, but I sure am grateful that he did. I ended up getting immediately cast in a Barnyard variety show, called Kidz Rock, that would start the following month. And the rest is history, as they say.
WHAT OTHER BARNYARD SHOWS HAVE YOU BEEN IN?
In the five years that I’ve been with the theatre, I’ve played in many different tribute shows. Some of my favourite character moments would be Elvis Presley in Rocking The Globe, AC/DC in ’80s vs ’90s and Billy Idol in ’80s Rewind.
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT ON A BARNYARD STAGE?
I got the chance to perform a song for my parents’ wedding anniversary during a New Year’s Eve show. It was Thinking Out Loud by Ed Sheeran.
HAVE THERE BEEN ANY FUNNY OR PERHAPS EMBARRASSING MOMENTS ON STAGE YOU CAN ELABORATE ON?
I’ve been quite lucky when it comes to embarrassing moments on stage! Of course, there was the odd lyric lost and wrong pair of shoes, but my worst moment was probably in 101 Hits in 2019.
I walked on stage with two other cast members, nailed the choreography for Come On Eileen and then, the moment I needed to sing, dropped my mic and had it roll across the stage, as if literally running away from me! I can still see myself bent over, chasing that microphone while the band kept playing.
WHAT ELSE HAVE YOU APPEARED IN AWAY FROM THE BARNYARD?
Outside of The Barnyard I haven’t yet joined the theatre scene. But a big musical theatre highlight in my career was taking on the role of Christian in our high school production of Moulin Rouge!, in my final year. I would love to dip my toes into the musical theatre scene!
HAVE YOU DONE ANY RECORDING?
I write, record and produce my own original music which gets released to all major streaming platforms, including YouTube. I also do LiveStreams on TwitchTV,
where I perform and Live Loop my originals, as well as a plethora of covers, to a wider international audience.
WHO ARE AMONG YOUR MUSICAL HEROES?
Freddie Mercury, Greta Van Fleet, Jacob Collier, James Blake and Matt Corby.
WHAT INSTRUMENTS CAN YOU PLAY?
Guitar is my first instrument, but I also play piano, ukulele and bass guitar. Also, the egg-shaker…
TELL US FIVE THINGS (HOWEVER TRIVIAL) ABOUT YOURSELF THAT MOST PEOPLE ARE UNLIKELY TO KNOW
I can do polyphonic overtone singing. I was the opening act at Huawei Joburgday 2017. I do origami, enjoy gardening and like hiking.
WHICH OF THE BARNYARD SHOWS THAT YOU HAVE BEEN IN IS YOUR FAVOURITE, AND WHY?
It’s usually whichever show is the freshest and most challenging. I can see that Thank You For The Music is going to be a favourite for a long time.
WHAT HAVE BEEN THREE CAREER HIGHLIGHTS TO DATE?
In 2016, my band and I made it to the semi-finals of South Africa’s Got Talent. I was the opening act at Huawei Joburgday 2017 with my original music… and when it comes to covers, Thank You For The Music currently takes the cake.
ANY UNFULFILLED GOALS?
I would love to perform in a musical theatre show at some point. I’m a huge fan of Phantom of the Opera and Moulin Rouge!.
WHAT VIEWS ON THE HORRORS OF COVID-19 AND ITS AFFECT ON THE ENTERTAINMENT WORLD?
Performers and the entertainment industry have always needed to be resilient, and although we lost some incredible performers and beautiful theatres along the way, the power of live music will forever be a universal reason for people coming together.
The best we can do is grab the new dawn of the industry by the horns and use our talents to bring people and our industry back together.
WHAT FIVE WORDS BEST DESCRIBE YOU?
Passionate. Positive. Resilient. Caring. Driven.
HOBBIES, PASTIMES AND FAVOURITE THINGS?
I enjoy hiking, gardening, origami, painting, reading, swimming and even a little gaming.
WHAT HAS BEEN THE HIGHLIGHT OF YOUR YEAR SO FAR?
I had my one year anniversary on Twitch and reached 2000 followers.
WHAT THINGS WOULD YOU LIST UNDER ‘ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS’? AND WHAT THINGS WOULD YOU LIST UNDER ABSOLUTE NO-NOS?
Fabulous: music, family, nature, friends and Woolworths’ MacNCheese. No-nos: Chewing loudly, tomatoes and country music.
FIVE OF YOUR ALL-TIME FAVOURITE SONGS?
Too Much Love Will Kill You (Queen), Heat Above (Greta Van Fleet), Go Easy, Kid (Monica Martin), Untitled (Matt Corby) and Mah’s Joint (Jon Bellion, featuring Quincy Jones)
THE BEST COMPLIMENT YOU EVER HAD? AND THE WORST?
Someone told me recently that Freddie Mercury would wake up and have an identity crisis, not knowing which one of us was the real one, which is just hilarious so it’s got to be that one. I can’t think of a worst compliment, but the worst advice I ever received was from a popular radio host who told me never to work with other performers, because to make it you have to go it alone. I ignored that very quickly.
WHAT ALTERNATIVE CAREER PATHS MIGHT YOU HAVE CONSIDERED?
I was originally planning to go into architecture!
WHERE CAN PEOPLE FIND YOU ON SOCIAL MEDIA?