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CALIFORNIA DREAMING (article first published : 2006-10-14)

Ricky MacGregor’s California Dreaming was first produced in April last year when it had a highly successful season at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre.

This light-hearted and enjoyable tribute to the Mamas and the Papas is hosted by amiable hippie guru Gandolf (Ricky MacGregor) dressed in some enviable jackets; whose aim is to bring back the philosophy of peace not war, not to mention a healthy addiction to the green stuff. Cobus Vos is back in his role as the frustrated entrepreneur, desperately trying to get across new ideas which don’t receive the response he earnestly seeks.

Original member of the cast, Nothando Ngubane, had to withdraw for medical reasons. However, help was at hand. Having just finished MacBob Production’s Abbamaniacs last week, Shelley McLean stepped into her shoes with her usual professionalism in the role of Dandi-Lion, the part previously taken by Marion Loudon.

Perhaps due to a reshuffle of vocal numbers to suit Shelley’s voice, Marion is now playing Nothando’s role of Sunshine and connecting with it with as much exuberance as she did with Dandi-Lion. This highly competent actress/dancer just gets better and better. She presents Sunshine as a hyperactive ditzy doll who is always spouting homespun philosophies although one doubts whether Sunshine’s dreamy head actually grasps the meaning or what she says!

The show has strong support from the band Abacuss featuring Heritage stalwarts Dawn Selby, Barry Thomson, Mali Sewell and Mark Freel. They’re all dressed in hippie gear and Barry does a good impersonation of a spaced out guitarist!

All the popular numbers are there - from What The World Needs Now, California Girl, Dream a Little Dream of Me, and If You’re Goin’ to San Francisco to Barry’s Everybody’s Talking and and Ricky’s hilarious send-up of Tom Jones’s Spanish Harlem. On opening night, I had serious problems with the sound. There wasn’t a single performer who wasn’t popping (explosive sound on the mike which can be corrected either by the performer or the sound engineer). Hopefully this has been corrected by now.

I first reviewed California Dreaming on April 16, 2005, (see Music Archives) when I admitted at the start that I had approached the show with some trepidation, expecting another music tribute show. What director David Gouldie created for the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre production was a charming and beguiling experience which captured the interest of numerous theatregoers and garnered the show no less than 10 nominations for the Durban Theatre Awards.

Whether deliberately or not, the original spirit of the production has not transferred to the Heritage Theatre and it has become – as was my original concern – another music tribute show albeit with some amusing dialogue. The original script was written by Aaron McIlroy from an original idea by Ricky MacGregor.

Due to space restrictions, it was obviously not possible to transfer the original “fairground” styled set with its miniature revolve from the Sneddon to the Heritage but what has been created in this versatile space is a highly effective draped set with some psychedelic lighting images and I loved the use of the little stringed lights.

Bottom line is that if you enjoyed it at the Sneddon, you may be disappointed at the Heritage. But if you didn’t see it then – then, hey – stay cool – head for Hillcrest and chill out for a great vibe and some awesome music!

California Dreaming runs until November 12 in the Heritage Theatre at the Heritage Market in Hillcrest. Performances Wednesday to Saturday at 19h00 (R165 including a two-course meal). Tickets R140 for Tuesday shows at 19h00 and Saturday shows at 12h30.

It’s a well-balanced menu with Spicy Chicken Drumettes, Soup of the Day and Antipasto Misto as starters. I chose the latter, always a pleasant light introduction to the main course. My husband usually avoids vegetables like the plague but enjoyed the soup of the day. On the main course menu he had the Chicken Cordon Bleu but pronounced the chicken a bit dry. I chose and enjoyed the Tepanyaki Calamari and the other options were Springbok Shank and Triangoli (Mascarpone Cheese and Beetroot Pasta Pockets). There’s no truth to the rumour that the Minister of Health has personally endorsed the Triangoli! A separate dessert menu is available. Bookings on 031 765 4197.

Don’t forget to take a ticket in the draw which may put you in line to win a R10,000 Fender Stratocaster guitar sponsored by Coastal Music. – Caroline Smart




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