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CADENZA X-TRAV - REVIEW (article first published : 1999-10-3)

The show opens with the dainty figure of one of Puccini’s most tragic operatic heroines, Madama Butterfly, seated on the floor patiently waiting for her dashing Lieutenant F B Pinkerton as she launches into her well-known aria. As the soprano voice soars through the beautiful well-known aria, you begin to doubt that you did, in fact, buy a ticket for Cadenza X-Trav. But, having seen the show’s forerunner Cadenza, you should be prepared for surprises.

Madama Butterfly moves to Gilbert and Sullivan’s Mikado with Three Little Maids and a hilarious use of balloons to provide the rest of the characters! Then, just as you’re beginning to think you’ve been conned, Madama Butterfly and Yum-Yum are revealed - as Rory Rootenberg, who explains that he’s dressed as a Ninja as he’s heavily into self-defence after having had his precious Fiat Uno stolen.

Eventually, the oriental garb is discarded to reveal khaki shorts, a sunflower top, long socks and red veldskoen (which he swears are not the popular shoes of David Kramer). He then launches into a send-up of Afrikaans musical culture with the theme song from the television programme Heidi, a demonstration of sakkie saakie (boeremusiek) and tikkiedraai (derived from Cape square dancing) while taking a look at pop stars of the past and present.

Rory Rootenberg, a former Drakensberg Choir boy, has an astounding range and knows how to use it to perfection. He’s also completely self-effacing about his appearance - “A stick insect wearing “Ouma se cordyne (grandmother’s curtains).” His training and musical knowledge provides him with a firm foundation as a diving board from whence to swoop to flights of musical fantasy and virtuosity. But, occasionally, we are allowed a glimpse of the true musical ability in numbers like Jacques Brel’s Marike Marike and Ave Maria sung as a castrato.

As in Cadenza, when he presented a ten-minute version of Carmen, Rory gives us another rapid fire coverage of a major opera. This time, it was Puccini’s Turandot whose heroine will only wed the man who can answer the three riddles she will present. A towering temple head-dress with horns provides character changes from Turandot herself (accompanied by a loud bovine bellow - well, have you ever seen a thin Turandot?) to Prince Calaf, the slave girl Liù, the Tartar King and the three officials Ping, Pang and Pong.

All congratulations to director Ian von Memerty for surpassing what seemed an unsurpassable Cadenza. Also an award for survival to the highly talented Craig McLennan for not only being able to keep up with the Rootenberg persona but for carving an identity for himself in this hilarious and extremely clever production.

Watch out for it at a theatre near you – it’s bound to be back soon.


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