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ROCK ME AMADEUS (article first published : 2007-02-11)

Can it really be five years since Durban acquired what has become surely its most popular theatre venue? Surprisingly, yes, and to celebrate the occasion, management is charging only R70 a head for its latest party show - which is what tickets there cost in December 2001

Hats off to owner-manager Debbie Davidson for that. And applause for her, too, for starting the Barnyard's sixth year with a R1,5million venue revamp (a kitchen offering gourmet pizzas, platters and picnic baskets opens in mid-March) and an energetic, feel-good production that's a clear winner.

Like Roll Over Beethoven, the Durban Barnyard's very first show, Rock Me Amadeus has the flamboyant ghost of a great classical composer arriving on stage to deliver corny cracks, tickle the ivories, revisit some of his and others' classics and also experience the classics of modern pop and rock.

And, also like that first show, Rock Me Amadeus re-teams vocalists Shelley McLean and Granville Michaels. They are joined now by impressive Shaun V, formerly of SA boy band Hi-5 and the understudy for the lead role of Galileo in the recent local touring production of the West End musical, We Will Rock You.

All are on good form, performing in varying combinations with a tight band that includes Barnyard favourite Josh Thatcher on lead guitar, Calli Thomson on keyboards, Shaun Reyneke on drums, Mark Freel on bass, Dave Holland on sax and Anton Cawthorn-Blazeby on electric violin.

The star of this show, however, is the title character, played with aplomb and a surprising display of nimble, playful piano talent, by young Jonathan Roxmouth, last seen here as Vince Fontaine in Grease. He was in Rock Me Amadeus for only a week, having originated the role during the show's Menlyn Park Barnyard season, and had his final performance on Sunday, as he is now off to rehearse for his title role in the Barnyard's musical biggie, The Buddy Holly Story, visiting Durban from May 29 to August 12.

Replacing him from tonight until the season ends on March 11 is Roelof Colyn, of A Handful of Keys fame, who is sure to be every bit as good.

Scripted and directed by Ian Von Memerty and featuring great lighting by the ever-dependable Michael Broderick, Rock Me Amadeus is presented against two giant, face-to-face blow-up sketches of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in profile, one of which has the composer in Kiss-like black eye make-up.

The production opens dramatically with Rick Wakeman's War of the Worlds theme, after which the Amadeus character minces on stage, in powdered wig and full dandy gear, to a rendition of the title song, an 80s dancefloor smash for one-hit-wonder Falco.

The hits then keep on coming, including Shaun V's standout Daydream Believer/I'm a Believer and a well-received rendition of Bon Jovi's You Give Love a Bad Name; Michaels's Nights In White Satin and Isn't She Lovely/I Just Called To Say I Love You; and McLean's delivery of Vanessa Carlton's A Thousand Miles and a medley of recent Shakira successes.

The first half ends with a popular Queen medley that has a nice surprise in a delivery of the bloated, but brilliant, Barcelona.

The production's second half is even better, the most memorable moments being Shaun V's terrific delivery of Pink Floyd's Another Brick In the Wall, magically lit with shafts of orange and silver; and Michaels's slices of Meat Loaf - Bat Out Of Hell and Anything For Love.

Other highlights are Amadeus pounding the ivories and singing through Great Balls of Fire, having a ball with sax man Holland with Variations, playing Happy Birthday in the styles of three different classical composers and raising smiles with a tribute to turkeys and a joke about Prince Charles in a fox-fur hat.

Also featuring hits by, among others, Shania Twain, Mariah Carey and ELO, Rock Me Amadeus is ideal unwind-and-jol entertainment that should keep Barnyard regulars more than satisified. To make a booking, contact the theatre at 031 566 3045. Billy Suter




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