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THE PIANO MEN (article first published : 2000-05-21)

The Piano Men is a highly acclaimed musical tribute that received rave reviews and enjoyed full houses when it opened in Durban in 1994. The show went on to break box-office records in Pietermaritzburg and receive standing ovations at the Grahamstown Festival and in Stellenbosch.

Originally conceived and produced by Jackie Cunniffe, The Piano Men was written by Wendy Watson and directed by Kenlynn Ashby. It was first staged at the now-defunct Billboard Dinner Theatre which had limited space and technical facilities but despite these shortcomings, was a resounding success. This has prompted Jackie Cunniffe to re-stage the show at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre. The cast features Tim Wells (currently appearing in Popcorn at the Kwasuka Theatre), Brendan Jury (from the popular band Ohm) and well-known entertainer De Wet Wraight. Music direction will be by Chris Letcher who leads a three-piece band.

All three singers take turns at a grand piano, with Brendan also offering a glimpse of his talent as a classically trained viola player. Together the performers provide an excellent showcase of piano-based chart-toppers, ranging from songs by Nat King Cole, George Gershwin and Fats Waller to contemporary pop artists such as Freddie Mercury, Billy Joel, Bruce Hornsby & the Range, Elton John, Paul McCartney and Phil Collins.

Hit tunes include My Baby Grand, Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me, Unforgettable, As Time Goes By, Ebony & Ivory and Great Balls of Fire, to name but a few. Wells, Jury and Letcher, each a recording artist in his own right, will also perform original compositions from recently released albums.

Dean Bennewith has added a fresh look to the show with new choreography. Set and lighting design is by Stephen Woodroffe of Gearhouse, who also collaborated with Jackie on the musical Concert Fever staged at the Sneddon in 1998. All told, the re-staging of The Piano Men promises to be technically superior to the original production, whilst still retaining its charm and universal appeal.

The Piano Men runs at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre from June 13 to 25. Tickets available through TicketWeb and at the theatre. More details from (031) 260-2296




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