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NB: as of 23 September 2008, all new artSMart articles are being published on the site news.artsmart.co.za.

MUSHO FESTIVAL CLOSING CABARET (article first published : 2008-01-23)

It has become a tradition to end the Musho Theatre Festival with a closing cabaret, at no charge, at Zack's, Wilsonís Wharf, where a stage has been erected. This is a superb gesture by the organisers of the festival to thank all those who have attended the plays and the cream of Durban's talent is assembled to entertain the enthusiastic crowd and they certainly did.

The items are largely drawn from current shows in Durban or those the runs of which have just ended. They might serve as a bit of a publicity plug for the current shows but, on the contrary, they serve instead to whet the appetites of those present to book for the shows involved as they are top notch. The cabaret kicked off with songs by The Family Players, two talented drag artists who are great favourites at the Rhumbelow Theatre - and they actually sing the songs and don't mime to the backing tracks. Unfortunately these backing tracks were too loud and tended to drown out the words which was a pity. The sound problems were, however, rapidly rectified for the subsequent numbers.

The MC (Master of Ceremonies) for the show was T-Bone Hlahane, who had especially travelled from the Free State for the show, and with his appropriate humour and great stage presence he kept the ball rolling in great style. Lyle Buxton, who was a great hit as Sky Masterson in the recently produced Guys and Dolls at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre, reprised his Luck Be a Lady Tonight to great applause. Lauren Laing and Pume Zondi then raised the roof with several; songs from Divas on Deck, currently performing at The Upper Deck at uShaka Entertainment World. The always reliable and entertaining Darren King enthralled with Swing Me Now.

What many had then waited for followed, Emma Durden, the Festival Director, announcing the results of the voting by the various audiences, by means of slips of paper handed to them at each performance, of their choices of the Audience Favourite in the different categories and handing the prizes to the winners.

The Fringe Festival winner was Reality Bytes (Rowin Munsamy and Tessa Sessions) and the Runner-Up in the Main Festival was Mary Stewart for My CV: One Woman at Work with top honours going, most deservedly, to Kobus van Heerden for Felix and Fred. This was certainly my choice as well.

At last year's festival Dr & Rita Suliman and their daughter Fiona, who had seen all the shows, instituted the Suliman Award for their favourite. They again presented the award but, having had great difficulty in deciding on the second place, they awarded it to both My CV: One Woman at Work and Bombstyle (Liam Magner and Ian Ewok Robinson). The winner, and the recipient of the beautiful trophy, was Felix and Fred. Many people can learn a thing or two from Kobus van Heerden's modest "thank you" speeches on accepting each of the awards.

The cabaret continued with two further songs, Hey Big Spender and It Had to be You by The Family Players. The ever-popular and effervescent Lisa Bobbert then entertained magnificently by throwing a delightful jealous tantrum and tirade at the winners of the various awards, as only she could do, having been nominated so many times but never having won an award. In great form she sang I've Been to Paradise as Delphine from her Chronicles of a Car Guard. In a more serious vein, she then broached a subject very close to her heart, Theatre Against Poverty (TAP) and I'm sure we'll, hopefully, hear a great deal more about it.

A fitting finale to the evening, which lasted exactly an hour - always leave the audience wanting more - were songs, including Sweet Inspiration and Stop in the Name of Love by the Motown Ladies, Praline, Cindy and Portia from Motown For Ever which opens this week at the Catalina Theatre, Wilsonís Wharf. This show is sure to be a blockbuster from this small sample.

T-Bone ended by advising that more information can be obtained about the various artists and shows from the Web site www.theatresa.co.za , good advice indeed. - Maurice J Kort

The Musho! festival is presented by PANSA in association with Africalia. PANSA is grateful for additional support from the Ethekwini Municipality, The Royal Netherlands Embassy, the Embassy of Israel, Tararam and the KZN Department of Arts and Culture. The full programme and reviews of some of the shows can be viewed at www.mushofestival.co.za




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