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

CHRISTMAS WITH NAT KING COLE (article first published : 2001-12-10)

For about eight years, veteran entertainer Colin Penn has chosen to introduce a dramatic quality to his shows. Featuring sound-alike local singers, he has honoured legends of popular music such as Bing Crosby, George Gershwin and Cliff Richard. There was even a tribute to the entertainers of the war years in which yours truly appeared as Perla Siedle Gibson (Durban’s legendary Lady in White)!

This year, it’s Christmas with Nat King Cole where Colin has chosen to feature Nat King Cole, personified by Sean Bouchier who handles most of the crooner’s hits. He acquitted himself well in numbers such as Don’t Get Around Much Anymore, Mona Lisa and Rambling Rose but does have a tendency to change the lyrics – somewhat problematic when most members of the audience are familiar with the words.

Jazz singer Bobby Minter has worked extensively with Colin Penn over the years and she supports Sean Bouchier, presenting a number of old jazz favourites and performing with him as Natalie Cole in numbers such as the memorable Unforgettable.

The other two members of the cast are the engaging Eryl Raymond who leads a Petulia Clark medley and Kelly Fisher.

Only recently emerged from her school days, Kelly is definitely a name to watch. With a natural musicality, she is one of the few singers I’ve seen who knows what to do during the piano links – don’t pull focus, just enjoy the music and let the audience appreciate see that you are doing so!

Mind you, she comes from good stock. Dad is Danny Fisher who is a well-known member of the highly popular Blarney Brothers.

An evening with Colin Penn as host offers a comfortable and undemanding format. He engages in light-hearted banter with the audience, supported by his long-term backing musos – Berry Taylor on bass guitar and Mike Cameron on drums. Highlights of the programme were interludes of what Colin calls “snuggle music” – the kind that encourages couples to dance cheek to cheek, an unusual sight in recent decades!

The stage is very Christmassy with two massive trees full of decorations and fairy lights. As always in these “tribute” shows, there are comfortable easy chairs for the singers as they await their cues. In this show, there’s also a fireplace with Christmas stockings hanging from the mantelpiece. From an audience point of view, it’s like gently eavesdropping on a family Christmas party.

Christmas with Nat King Cole will have further performances from Friday night to Sunday next week (December 14 to 16) with a matinee on Saturday afternoon at 14h30 and a possible extension to the following week.

Colin is also appearing in a pantomime he produced with Garth Anderson called “Aladdin” which runs at the same venue every afternoon this week (December 10 to 15) at 14h30 with a Saturday show at 10h00)




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