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4 GUYS NAMED JOSE (article first published : 2003-12-13)

Last night the Catalina Theatre at Wilson’s Wharf had a triple celebration. Theatre personality Themi Venturas celebrated the official opening of the Catalina’s three festive season shows and the marking of the theatre’s successful first year of operation as well as the 10th anniversary of Themi Venturas Productions. And all this, Themi proudly adds, without any funding from government or provincial arts bodies.

What more fitting celebration then, that the wild and wonderful Gonzalez family from Themi’s former smash-hit Cantina Tequila should take to the stage in their new adventure, Four Guys Named Josè? An added bonus was the guest appearance (on drums and vocals) of long-time TVP stalwart Hughie Louw whose Bamboleo was a highlight. Now living in Johannesburg, Hughie appeared in Cantina Tequila and as far back as Themi’s runaway success Good Vibrations. He appears in the show for two weeks.

Billed as "an Hilarious Hysterical Hispanic Musical Comedy Romp!" it features two other Cantina Tequila members, the laid-back and smooth-voiced Arnie Field and the deliciously irrepressible Clinton Philander who invoked much laughter with his performance in a song about Durban Poison. Playing two of the Josè’s (Jos’A and Jos’B – say “Josè” aloud if you’re lost!), they are joined by talented newcomer Lwazi Mkize as Jos’C (the slow-on-the-uptake Speedy) who performed Santana’s Nothing at All beautifully. Guitarist and bassist Alan Bowen is the fourth Josè as Jos’D.

Easy on the eye, Marion Loudon is a performer we should see more often on stage. As the guys’ sister Josita, she’s spunky and compelling to watch. Spanish guitar maestro, Demi Fernandes is part of the excellent backing combo.

No show with a Hispanic flavour would be complete without Spanish dance and The House of the Rising Sun was dramatic and exciting. Durban’s own Flamenco Queen Linda Vargas has created the choreography. A highly professional performer, she is accompanied by members of her dance company – with three different dancers appearing at each performance. Opening night featured Theresa and Enriques (otherwise known to those in the theatre world as Lesley Maherry who often appears with the Flatfoot Dance Company and jointly runs the Square Space Theatre).

Good to see Themi’s son, Matthew, following in his father’s footsteps and moving into the professional theatre arena as one of the show’s stage managers.

One cannot help being carried along and infected by the show’s amusing and frenetic chaos. There is much audience participation with good-humoured patrons being hauled onto stage to act in the movie the family is trying to make, make margheritas or serenade Josita! Much of the music comes from the Gypsy Kings with numbers such as Bem Bem Maria, Ai Mi Manera, Un Amor and Eschucha Me as well as the well-known favourite Volare. Felis Navidad reminds us of the festive season and there’s a whole new meaning to The 12 Days of Christmas!

I did have a problem with the lighting as there were patches that were underlit and the spotlight tended to be a bit erratic.

Bookings on 031 305 6889. – Caroline Smart




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