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SHOO-BOP SHOO-BOP (article first published : 2008-03-29; last edited : [an error occurred while processing this directive])

How can a show that was first performed in 1989 and deals with the 50’s be attractive to audiences today? Simple answer. The music. Rock ‘n Roll music, to be more precise. The solid-gold songs made famous by such legendary figures as Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley, Bobby Darren, The Platters and the like that still have a huge following in the new millennium.

I’m talking about Shoo-Bop Shoo-Bop, currently running at the Catalina Theatre on Wilson’s Wharf. Created by Themi Venturas, it first saw the light of day in the now-defunct Cellar supper theatre venue at the Playhouse in 1989. It returned for a further season and then went on to O’Hagan’s – another venue lost to Durban audiences – and was the forerunner of what was to become the highly popular music revue genre so loved by local supper theatre-goers.

In its time, Shoo-Bop Shoo-Bop hosted many of Durban’s now long-established and respected male performers as members of the Ducktails group. These included Aaron McIlroy, Arnie Field, Gary McKenzie, John Didlick, Daryl Evan Fuchs, James Ngcobo, Clinton Philander, Luciano Zupa, the late Nelson Ngwenya and Themi himself. The part of Suzie Johnson has been performed by Lisa Bobbert, Natasha Sutherland and Judith Silinsky.

That’s a tough act to follow but from the moment Grant Jacobs starts the show with Sentimental Journey, the audience moves willingly and enthusiastically into a musical timewarp. While Ricky McGregor may have been around in the 50’s, there’s no doubt that Marc Kay, Rory Booth, Grant Jacobs and Samantha Kaye weren’t even born at the time! They confidently recreate the story of Suzie who tells her diary everything and into her dreams and fantasies slink four members of the opposite sex. Nattily dressed with shades and a smooth attitude, they carry the storyline of the decade through song, although their movements and focus in the tight formation numbers that the style decrees need to be far more controlled.

I wasn’t in town for the opening so tonight was able to see the response of a paid audience – all you valuable people out there on whom the survival of theatre so desperately relies! – and I spent as much time observing the younger people in the audience as I did watching the show. I didn’t need to watch the people of my age group because I expected their animated response. What surprised me was the sheer delight of those who weren’t even thought of in the 50’s who knew the songs word for word!

My favourites were Heartbreak Hotel, Jailhouse Rock, Blue Moon and Johnny Be Good. Ahab the Arab was a delight and I particularly enjoyed The Platters sequence. In amongst amusing moments such as the adverts for the non-stick Teflon saucepan and Jeremiah Peabody’s purple and green pills, there were chilling reminders of the invention of nuclear power, the McCarthy witch-hunt for supposed Communists in America.

The simple yet effective set is designed by Themi and built by Catalina stalwarts Themba Twala and Jimmy Alberts (who also handled choreography with Daisy Spencer). Its chrome frame structure provides good reflection for lighting and the centre flat doubles as a video screen on which are played images of the music stars and news items of the time.

Shoo-Bop Shoo-Bop is suitable for the whole family and runs at Catalina Theatre until April 13 from Tuesday to Saturday at 20h00. Tickets R75 (R45 pensioners and students). Shows on Tuesday and Sunday at 18h00 offer “Buy one get one free”. For more information or to book, contact the Catalina Theatre on 031 305 6889. – Caroline Smart




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