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SONGS MY LOVER FORGOT TO SING ME (article first published : 2007-03-3)

Cape Town based singer / composer / performer, Godfrey Johnson, performs a sophisticated one-man show of astonishing love songs intriguingly entitled Songs My Lover Forgot to Sing Me at the Rhumbelow theatre in Umbilo this weekend.

This gentle introspective cabaret is a real treat. Devoid of any sing-along show-tunes or obligatory audience participation numbers – and thankfully not an Abba number in sight -Johnson invites you to sit back and listen. He has chosen an eclectic mix of disparate love songs which talk to man or woman, gay or straight, young or old, cynic or romantic.

This gentle introspective cabaret is a real treat. Devoid of any sing-along show-tunes or obligatory audience participation numbers – and thankfully not an Abba number in sight -Johnson invites you to sit back and listen. He has chosen an eclectic mix of disparate love songs which talk to man or woman, gay or straight, young or old, cynic or romantic.

Johnson presents an inspired choice of music – mostly seldom-presented acoustic renditions of love songs by magnificent composers including Stephen Sondheim, Cole Porter and Noel Coward, interspersing well-known pieces with his own compositions and some less well-known tunes. Particularly noteworthy is his interpretation of Brel which is both tender and passionate. His Amsterdam and If You Go Away were two of the evening’s many highlights and his finale of the dizzy-making Carousel had the audience on their feet. My favourite was the delicate Song for Old Lovers which was weepingly beautiful.

Johnston moves through the myriad of emotions associated with love: passion, anger, hurt, betrayal, loss, lust and confusion - without ever over-playing any one aspect. One minute performing for laughs, the next transfixing the audience into a respectful reverie. The audience was enthralled – they remained totally silent throughout. You could hear a pin drop.

His programme includes Tori Amos’ haunting and barely-recognisable Winter swiftly followed by Kurt Weill’s Stranger Here Myself and Nature Boy by Ahbez – where you cant help but see Ewan McGregor at his typewriter about to have a life-changing experience at the Moulin Rouge. He continues this image later on in the show with a Jim Broadbent-like deadpan rendition of Madonna’s Like a Virgin. He shares two of his own compositions – Nude and Most Beautiful – both sublime pieces.

The pace and energy changes completely with a very camp and deliciously naughty drag character opening the second act chatting breezily - Cape Town style - about her show, Air on a G String, at the about-to-be opened Ecstasy Club on the Bluff. She is rude, outrageous and very, very funny. She could (at the drop of a hat) develop a whole show and persona of her own and could quite easily push poor Godfrey off the piano stool and totally take over.

…. and her wig is worth the price of the ticket alone. It has to be seen to be believed!

Johnson performs the whole programme (25 songs) with no sheet music and without hardly looking at fingers on the piano keys. He sits – somewhat strangely – sideways onto the piano, facing the audience with his fingers moving ferociously across the keyboard to his left and, at times, almost behind him.

He has worked as musical director, director, actor, singer and composer for film and stage for more than 12 years in South African and abroad. He is equally comfortable appearing in his own shows as he is accompanying others. He has played for a host of musical luminaries (South African and international) including Irit Noble, Julian Clarey and Judy Page. He has enjoyed a long professional relationship with living legend Pieter-Dirk Uys. Johnson managed Uys’ theatre in Darling, Evita se Perron from 1997 – 2002. He directed Uys in Carnival and accompanied many of Pieter-Dirk Uys’s characters in reviews.

I am thrilled that Godfrey has finally made it to Durban with his solo show, and hope he returns regularly with similar material and more of his own work. Songs My Lover Forgot to Sing Me is one of the most interesting, sophisticated, intelligent cabarets to have graced our Durban stages for a while. His music is so beautiful, I could quite easily re-book to catch him again this weekend. Whether you are in love, out of love, aching for love or broken-hearted, it will remind you how complicated, beautiful and profound love is. Articulate and moving, it is not to be missed.

There are two more performances: March 3 at 20h00 and March 4 at 18h30. The venue opens 90 minutes before show for picnic dinner. Phone or email Roland for bookings on 031 205 7602 or 082 499 8636 or email - roland@stansell.za.net – Illa Thompson




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