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A HANDFUL OF KEYS (article first published : 2008-06-13; last edited : [an error occurred while processing this directive])

It is no wonder that A Handful of Keys, which originated in June 1994 starring Bryan Schimmel and Ian von Memerty, has enjoyed three subsequent versions; in July 2001 (again with Ian von Memerty but this time with Roelof Colyn), 2005-2006 (Roelof Colyn now with Jeremy Quickfall) and currently at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre where Roelof Colyn reprises his virtuosity, with young newcomer to the theatre scene, Jonathan Roxmouth.

Jonathan has been seen in Durban by the lucky ones who attended the Johannesburg-based Northcliff High School touring productions over the past nine years, having acted in three of them (The Pirates of Penzance, Me and My Girl and The Mikado) to great acclaim as well as in Grease (Teen Angel, and subsequently as Vince Fontaine). He played the Fender guitar as Buddy in The Buddy Holly Story and now shows his ability on the piano - will his talent never end?

Originally directed by Alan Swerdlow, this new version is directed by the highly talented award-winning Ian von Memerty who has kept the very clever and witty show as topical as before and the show is really a laugh a minute, due to the clever script, and polished performances and antics of the two performers who top each act by another unexpected action or event. Much is made of the youthfulness of the one as opposed to its lack in the other, who has other qualities, as a running gag, and the rapid, appropriate costume changes, the co-ordination of which is credited to Charmaine Strutt and Anne Hanaford, add to the fun. The excellent setting and lighting designs, by Denis Hutchinson, deserve special mention and indeed even the sumptuous set comes in for delightful, humorous comment, viz. in "a set change".

The opening numbers of each of the two acts, Ragtime and Rhapsody in Blue display the talent and virtuosity of Roelof Colyn and Jonathan Roxmouth at the grand pianos. In the next number in the first act, the two illustrate how The Beatles song Yesterday would be played by Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Chopin, Liszt, Debussy, Bartok, and finally The Beatles in the style of each of the composers and "in character" (fortunately they cannot be sued by them) with a very funny script.

Their piano playing continues in the style of various women (Mrs Mills, Alicia Keys and Nina Simone amongst others) and then various men with amazing spot-on impersonations. Amongst others, Victor Borge, Richard Clayderman, Fats Domino, Nat King Cole and Billy Joel are impersonated and parodied. Topping them all are Jonathan Roxmouth as Elton John and Roelof Colyn as Liberace and Stevie Wonder (his "I just crawled to say where are you" parody of "I just called to say I love you" is a gem).

There is a patriotic South African medley (The Click Song, Pata Pata and Mama Tembu's Getting Married), the instrumental Funeral for a Friend and a Queen Rhapsody.

They work well together with great synergy leading to a very funny number Nothing Without You where Roelof Colyn accompanies Jonathan Roxmouth's singing and then their roles are reversed. Their enjoyment shows and is very infectious to the audience. A tour de force is their History of Broadway in which 96 years of Broadway are performed in 12 minutes with 117 shows being covered.

Their energy is amazing, coming to a climax in the last number Rock 'n Roll before the finale, in which even the end of a show is parodied in a most amusing manner. The show is a laugh and supreme entertainment from beginning to end. It is no wonder it has enjoyed the success it has and the long and extended opening night ovation was well deserved.

The show is produced by Award Theatre Productions with the association of Roland Stansell of the Rhumbelow Theatre in KwaZulu-Natal and runs at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre from June 10 to 22 with booking at Computicket or on 082-499-8636. Maurice Kort




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