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PLAYHOUSE FESTIVE EXTRAVAGANZA (article first published : 2004-12-18)

Tonight’s opening of the Playhouse Company’s Festive Season Extravaganza was a very fulfilling experience. It was extremely rewarding to see the beautifully-equipped Opera theatre being used to its fullest extent in a programme that celebrates the best of the past ten years.

Now this might sound like a glorified variety show … but what a variety show! Hosted by the articulate and passionate Pamela Nomvete-Marimbe, the production reminds audiences of the fine productions that have graced The Playhouse and introduces new talent of a high standard which bodes well for the future.

Soloists are Karen Van Pletsen, Sam Marais (exactly 10 years on, what a delight to see him back on the Opera stage); Duncan Royce and Timothy Moloi.

The Fantastic Flying Fish Dance Company members are supported by Linda Vargas, the Lions of Zululand, SAB Indlamu, Phuze’khemisi, SA Latin-American Dance Champions Rafique Hoosain and Janine Roach, and the Nateshwar Dance Company. The show marks the return of another Durban favourite, the sublime dancer Mary Ann de Wet, impeccably partnered by Timothy le Roux. Adding dramatic input are Pat Pillai in an amusing excerpt from Ronnie Govender’s At the Edge and Garth Anderson who reminded audiences of the vagaries of working in theatre with Noel Coward’s Don’t put your daughter on the stage, Mrs Worthington.

Richard Parker’s lighting design is truly magnificent and he has expertly handled the various moods which range from sensitivity to all-out power plus! Jackie Cunniffe’s sound design is well balanced and Neil Stuart-Harris’s sure hand can be seen in the costume design. Add David Gouldie as choreographer, Greg King as set designer (cleverly using pieces from former productions) and Mark Hawkins as the artistic director and you have a winning team who know the venue well and understand its impressive capacity.

A round of applause is also rightly due to the Opera itself for proving that it’s still one of the finest theatres in the country!

Conducted by Lykele Temmingh, the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra is seated on the stage and its powerful sound - combined with the East Coast Choristers - contribute to the excellence of the evening. Melvin Peters accompanies the glorious Gloria Bosman in a showstopping sequence, backed by well-known Durban musos, Bongani Sokhela, Rowan Stuart and Ayanda Sikade.

Ballet lovers will enjoy the snow scene (complete with sparkling snowflakes) from The Nutcracker but the undeniable highlight of the show was the section devoted to the musical Queen at the Opera. The spirit of the late Geoffrey Sutherland must surely have been smiling down on these fine renditions from his groundbreaking creation.

With no less than 250 performers on stage, the Playhouse Company has certainly pulled out all the stops for excellence and blasted back into the Durban theatrical stratosphere to take up its rightful place!

A welcome no-nonsense approach was noticeable from the ushers and front of house management who swiftly dealt with certain unruly elements and stopped people from using cellphones – either for talking or to take pictures!

If I have any gripes at all, it would be that the splendid glossy programme would be a lot more effective if it wasn’t white printed on black – lovely for graphic work but a real mission to read in an auditorium!

The Festive Season Extravaganza runs from December 17 to 31 in the Playhouse Opera. Tickets R25 to R60 Wednesday to Sunday performances (R20 Tuesday shows/R35 bonus performances). Performances are generally at 19h30 (including Christmas Eve) with 14h30 matinees on Saturdays and Wednesdays. There is a performance at 18h00 on December 19 and the New Year’s Eve Special will feature Linda Bukhosini and Duncan Royce in a peformance of the spectacular Barcelona. Book at Computicket or call 031 369 9444. – Caroline Smart




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