Stage: The Good News Cabaret – Rhumbelow Theatre, Umbilo, Durban
Performances until December 31 (see end of review for schedule)
REVIEW BY BILLY SUTER
DURBAN’S Rhumbelow Theatre may be noted for showband entertainment, but every now and then the venue’s manager, Roland Stansell, schedules some very pleasant surprises. Not least among them is this latest offering from two uber-talented singer-pianists – Durban-based Roland Perold and Cape Town-based Godfrey Johnson.
Both these performers, also witty songwriters, always exude a certain level of sophistication while retaining a mischievous spark – and in the elegant yet informal The Good News Cabaret these attributes crackle and flare throughout.
Johnson is one of SA’s top cabaret artists and has often been seen solo at the Rhumbelow over the years, while Perold is a skilled producer and cabaret artist with 12 years of experience across revue, cabaret, plays, musicals and panto. He launched the celebrated CAB Festival in Durban which supports the development of new musical theatre composers, at the behest of UKZN’s Centre for Creative Arts, and was recently featured at the Hilton Arts Festival.
Perold first united with Johnson nearly 10 years ago for their sell-out success, Coward & Cole, and The Good News Cabaret marks their first collaboration since – and their first together at the Umbilo Rhumbelow Theatre.
Don’t expect any flash or frills – one keyboard is all that is on stage besides a chair and two tiny white Christmas trees. Perold and Johnson remain dressed in basic black throughout.
All the sparkle and glitter one needs comes from the men themselves, the two exuding a charming rapport, an easy confidence, and often cheerfully ad-libbing while displaying their deft keyboard work, vocal versatility, satirical wordplay and fun selection of songs.
Items on their unpredictable, two-act programme vary from quirky to risqué, plaintive to intentionally corny (a cheeseball medley of Christmas carols opening the second half). As the cabaret title implies, this is a feel-good show to blot out the blues of recent years. Now more than ever, reflects Johnson at one point in the proceedings, we South Africans need to learn to laugh at ourselves again.
So comedy hogs much of the limelight, smile-raisers including both original, reworked and borrowed tunes.
After opening with a reflection on Covid-19, the performers – solo or in duet, and constantly alternating on, or sharing, keyboard duties – go on to nod to Noel Coward, hits of the ’80s (a medley acknowledging Cyndi Lauper, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Soft Cell and others) and delight with a reworking of Victoria Wood’s delicious Let’s Do It (with Johnson in pink boa and specs).
There is also a fun story-telling ditty relating to a blow-up doll, another about a man of the cloth and a shady lady known as Demonic Sue, and yet others telling of shattered illusions, the power of influencers, the problems of short people and the essence of the modern man. Also a standout is a rendition of Bette Midler’s The Rose that incorporates nudge-winks at Andrew Lloyd-Webber successes. There’s lots more…
Performances of The Good News Cabaret are at 7pm today (Saturday, December 17) and 2pm tomorrow (Sunday, December 18). Then there are 7pm performances from December 21 to 23, and at 2pm on December 24, as well as at 7pm from December 29 to 31.
Note that the venue has seating at tables and opens 90 minutes before the show for drinks (which must be bought at the theatre pub). Light meals are on sale at the theatre, but patrons are permitted to take along their own picnic basket of snacks.
Tickets cost R180 each and booking is at Computicket or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org