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CALIFORNIA DREAMING (article first published : 2005-04-16)

Here we go with another music tribute show, I thought, as I headed for the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre last night for California Dreaming - not really expecting anything more than the normal string of music numbers with obligatory links which has become the norm with this genre in Durban of late.

How wrong I was. Taken from an original idea by Ricky MacGregor, the script is written by Aaron McIlroy who has also helped with characterisation. This puts the show into a different league from the start. Supported by guitarists Damien McIlroy and Glen Turrell with Bruce Baker on drums, Dawn Selby adds a touch of class as the musical director. Put Michael Broderick on lighting design for visual excitement and Jackie Cunniffe on sound for true clarity and balance and you know you’re in very safe hands.

Then add the extraordinary talent of David Gouldie - whose capacity to stretch boundaries never ceases to amaze me - as a director who can also choreograph and you’ve got a sure-fire winner.

Waft in on a hippie breeze, in an authentic and attractive range of clothing, the considerable individual talents of performers such Ricky MacGregor, Marion Loudon, Nothando Ngubane and Cobus Vos and the package is complete.

California Dreaming is set in “a fairground somewhere” and the set is skilfully created through drapes and lights to resemble a marquee. From this real cool space with its miniature revolve, Ban the Bomb sign and psychedelic effects, our singers aim to bring the message of peace, love and non-aggression to what they consider is an audience of hippie “wannabees”.

In this production which has a strong dramatic content, hippie guru Gandolf (Ricky MacGregor); passionate and hyperactive Dandi-Lion (Marion Loudon); dreamy earth-child Sunshine (Nothando Ngubane), and frustrated entrepreneur Spike (Cobus Vos) weave a credible atmosphere of the magic of the music and lifestyle of the 60’s.

Although each number was enjoyable, I singled out Marion’s What The World Needs Now, Nothando’s Dream a Little Dream of Me and Cobus’s If You’re Goin’ to San Francisco while Ricky’s hilarious send-up of Tom Jones’s Spanish Harlem brought the house down!

While David Gouldie has revealed the depth in the script, he has not allowed this to overshadow the humour. He has drawn strong and consistent performances from his cast and, using his choreographic skills, has ensured that the production is not static. The cast were extremely well-prepared and looked as if they’d been doing the show for weeks! If I have the smallest niggle, it’s that there was too much movement in the first half in numbers which would have been better presented with the power of stillness.

The brightly-coloured programme is a delight. Make sure you buy one – not only because every page will provide much amusement but you stand a chance of winning a lucky programme number which will put you in the draw at the end of the run for a Fender Strat sponsored by Coastal Music.

If you arrive at the performance in the best 60’s gear, you could also find yourself in the running for the prize for “best dressed man and woman”!

If you want to go with the groove, get real hip and spaced out with some highly talented performers in a lively, robust, tightly-directed and hugely enjoyable production, then don’t miss it!

The show runs until May 8. Booking is through Computicket with block bookings and all enquiries to 082 632 7966. – Caroline Smart




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