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THE BEST OF IAN & RORY (article first published : 2007-12-5)

Unless you're from another planet, you'll know that the title of this show refers to Ian von Memerty and Rory Rootenberg, two of this country's well known, most loved, respected and very versatile performers. They have been brought to Durban for a very limited season of only four nights - one has already passed and the last night is sold out, but you have an opportunity to book for one of the two remaining performances. As the title implies, the highlights of their previous performances are showcased and even if you've seen some of the acts before, they are well worth seeing again. They are so polished and professional and are obviously enjoying themselves so that their enthusiasm cannot help but be passed on to the audience.

They have a wonderful sense of humour and the show is riddled with their clever and funny comments, asides and lyrics, starting with their opening duet. They have been colleagues and friends for 18 years and it shows in their rapport and synergy. Rory Rootenberg then launches into two of the songs from his highly successful role in The Phantom of the Opera which unfortunately, like so many other great blockbusters, never reached Durban. We can see what we missed.

Ian von Memerty then has a chance to reprise his most humorous and spot-on takeoff of the Elton John singing at the piano with sparkling lyrics from A Handful of Keys which has been playing to packed houses for over a decade and is scheduled to return to the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre in 2008. He also plays and sings a Billy Joel hit.

Rory Rootenberg shows his prowess in his portrayal of a little Afrikaans boy auditioning for the Drakensberg Boys Choir (of which he was a member) and sings snatches of many old, familiar Afrikaans "liedjies" - songs to the uninformed. His vocal range from baritone to coloratura is remarkable and adds a dimension to the vignette.

It is then the turn of Ian von Memerty to entertain, with All that Jazz from Big Band Blast with is wife Viv providing the very talented, sexy, accompanying dancer. The family affair continues with daddy singing his version of Old MacDonald Had a Farm where his young son and daughter join the act - he must by careful, his son could well steal the show, but then, a father would never be jealous. This is the child who survived the rare form of leukemia via a bone marrow transplant. The trauma in Ian von Memerty's life is not skirted but is given as an "update" which is most sincerely done without any attempt to gain sympathy but to uplift the spirit, which it does, and a great cue for a perfect rendition of Climb Every Mountain by the duo later in the show.

It is then the turn of the Red Sea Pedestrians, in Ian von Memerty's words, for Hebrew songs (get the connection?) by Rory Rootenberg, i.e. Jerusalem of Gold and the religious song Kol Nidrei, sung magnificently, after which the two sing Adon Olam (Master of the World) in a typical modern jazzed up version with pianist Jeremy Quickfall joining in. Jeremy, by the way, contributes enormously to the success and professionalism of the show.

During the interval the dessert of ice cream and chocolate sauce are served and the show continues with another song from The Phantom of the Opera, the beautiful Past the Point of No Return. Rory Rootenberg then delights with his take on audition, after audition, after audition as a struggling young actor, always with Andrew Lloyd Webber show songs (what else with which to audition?) and once again he shows his amazing versatility. This piece was from Cadenza: Chaos in the Classics, directed by Ian von Memerty and for which Rory Rootenberg is probably best remembered. This show also had Carmen, the Opera (in 10 Minutes) - what else can a 35-year old Afrikaans-speaking circumcised soprano have as a pre-interval finale? - quips the equally irrepressible von Memerty. The roles of Carmen, Michaela, Don Jose and Escamillo are acted and sung with lightning speed with only a large red scarf/skirt/head-dress, a long stemmed flower and an oversized ear/nose ring as props - most imaginative and superb acting and singing.

Not to be outdone, it is then the turn of Ian von Memerty to shine, and shine he does in Sunny South Africa, giving a potted 350 year history of the country, from the landing of Jan van Riebeeck to the present Rainbow Nation with few aspects omitted. Expect to learn of the Bushmen, the Hottentots, the many original, and current, African groups, the French and 1820 British settlers, the African National Congress, the Communist Party and the curry-loving Indians. Included are many individuals, such as Winnie Mandela, Madiba, Hendrik Verwoerd, Jacob Zuma, P W Botha to name a few.

It is no wonder that Mr von Memerty is labelled "Captain Entertainment" and Rory Rootenberg landed the plumb role of the Phantom and that both have such a following. They provide an evening filled with heart, great harmony, mutual enjoyment and some of the finest moments from their acclaimed careers in the newly beautifully decorated and air conditioned DLI Hall. Rhumbelow has pulled out all the stops, with a raised stage, grand piano, full lighting rig and great sound. The large stage looked incongruous for a two-man show but they used it to full effect.

Rush to book for any remaining seats for the performances on Wednesday and Thursday (December 5 and 6). Dinner is at 19h00 with the show at 20h30. Tickets R185 for the show and a three course dinner (R170 pp for block bookings of tables of 10) via Roland on 031 205 7602 (h), 082 499 8636, or e-mail roland@stansell.za.net (booking and banking are essential). A bar is available and note that alcohol may not be brought on to the premises. Maurice Kort




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