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SIMPLY IRRESISTIBLE (article first published : 2002-10-16)

Remember the hugely successful The Piano Men and Concert Fever? Well, producers Jackie Cunniffe and Stephen Woodroffe have undoubtedly cracked the jackpot again with their latest show Simply Irresistible which has temporarily enticed popular stars Joseph Clark and Juanita Kruger back to Durban, away from their lucrative corporate theatre work in Gauteng.

Durban audiences first met Joseph (Joe) Clark when he came to the city to join the former NAPAC Dance Company as a principal and guest artist in 1993. His entry into the field of musicals came through the influence of the legendary Geoffrey Sutherland. He made audiences sit up and take notice of him in Sweeney Todd and Candide, two of the productions in Sutherland’s excellent Trilogy series. So began a love affair between Durban theatre-goers and this extremely multi-talented performer.

Durban-born and educated and back on the Elizabeth Sneddon stage after too-long an absence of nine years, Juanita also became a firm Durban favourite until she was lured away to Johannesburg’s more powerful theatre circuit. She also had Geoffrey Sutherland to thank for her launch into the professional world of musical theatre in 1987 with It’s Better with a Band. Juanita and Joe dedicate two numbers from Man of La Mancha to Geoffrey, emotional moments for all who knew and loved him.

In a sophisticated class of their own, Joe and Juanita work together beautifully - particularly in numbers such as Come What May and Beauty and the Beast. Endearing, generous and consummate performers, their voices blend well and they complement each other’s individual assets.

While Juanita presents a cool and elegant presence and sings well in other languages such as in a spirited Habanera, Joe’s dance skills allow him to take command of the stage space and showcase his talent for comedy. This was seen at its best in Simply Irresistible in which Elzette Maarschalk, the show’s director and also Joe’s wife, accompanied him as the sexy object of his attentions.

Beautifully sensitive highlights were Joe’s rendition of the Freddie Mercury number You take my Breath Away and Juanita’s It’s All Coming Back. Their choice of Time to Say Goodbye as a closing number seemed a little down tempo but it was a precursor to the real ending, Barcelona, which lifted the roof off. So make absolutely sure that you call for an encore!

The setting is simple with an imposing grand piano and a double rostrum being the only focal points. Stephen Woodroffe’s dramatic lighting plays a strong part and the performers fill the space with their vocal power. This power is considerable and was seen more in the second half than the first but I would have liked to have seen the programme a little better balanced.

Simply Irresistible runs at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre from October 15 to 27 and is a must-see. Book early! Tickets R65 Wednesday to Sunday (R55 on Tuesday and Saturday matinees). Book at Computicket or phone 011 340-8000.




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