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

HIS WAY (article first published : 2003-02-12)

Back at Gateway’s highly popular and successful Barnyard Theatre is the Jonny Cooper Big Band which performed to sell-out audiences last year. Riding high on the resurgence of the popularity of swing music, courtesy of stars such as Robbie Williams, Jonny Cooper has put together a highly entertaining and enjoyable programme.

Titled His Way, it is a tribute to the legendary Frank Sinatra and comprises most of the star’s top selling hits such as Come Fly With Me, I Get A Kick Out of You, Somethin’ Stupid, The Lady is a Tramp and New York, New York, to name just a few.

The nephew of the late Tommy Cooper, one of Britain’s top comedians, and no mean trumpeter himself, Jonny Cooper is a genial and easygoing host. He skilfully controls the linking narrative which touches on Sinatra’s life:- his early days in Hoboken, working with big bands before he went on his own, the Brat Pack and his connections with the late US President, JF Kennedy – not to mention the darker side of his life which involved the Mafia.

The prestigious 19-piece Jonny Cooper Big Band is based in Cape Town and has just released another CD which is on sale at the theatre.

What a luxury to see an array of highly experienced musicians, elegantly clad in tuxedos – most of them having forgotten more about music than others in their field have yet to learn. Mention must be made of Tuxedo Junction performed by the trombone line-up, their affinity with their instruments giving a new meaning to the title of the song. Among them was Durban’s Serge Filiatreault who often plays with the KZN Philharmonic.

Another top Durban musician playing in the Barnyard season is saxophonist Chris Luke, well-known to Barnyard audiences from his appearances in many previous shows.

In a succession of elegant gowns, Bev Scott-Brown introduces a touch of glamour and was a pleasure to watch and listen to, particularly in numbers such as the Marilyn Monroe take-off, I Wanna Be Loved By You. She leaves the show on February 23, to be replaced by Amanda Tiffin.

Surprise of the evening was Timothy Moloi and the production is worth seeing for him alone because I believe that this young man has the capacity to breeze right up to the top of the entertainment tree. Charming and good looking with a dazzling smile, he handles Sinatra’s music with aplomb and sincerity. All he needs is a bit more direction, attention to diction and presentation and he’ll be one of South Africa’s major singing stars before very long.

It was probably first night uncertainty but lighting cues were late and the soloists often disappeared into blackness as they stood aside when focus was placed on the orchestra. While I found the lighting in the first half a bit hectic and distracting, the second half was beautifully lit.

Adding to the cool sophistication of the evening was one of Picnic Fanatics’s beautifully presented picnic hamper containing pate, samoosas, chicken balls, sausages, cheesecake and date balls. These can be ordered for any function – and there’s a KZNPO Valentine’s Day concert coming up on Friday at Botanic Gardens – simply phone 031 701 0036.

Tickets R70 (Buy One Get One Free on Tuesday night and Sunday matinees. Bookings and enquiries on 031 566 3045/6, e-mail barngate@mweb.co.za or visit www.barnyardtheatre.co.za

The Jonny Cooper Big Band will stage an extra matinee show on March 8 at 14h00. This will pay tribute to the music of Glenn Miller and the big bands of the era. Tickets R50 and booking is essential on the above contact number. - Caroline Smart




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