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TONIGHT'S THE NIGHT (article first published : 2007-04-28)

One can't please all the people all the time, for sure, but it comes as a bit of a surprise to find obvious icons such as Michael Jackson and Elvis Presley missing from a tribute show that claims to salute the greatest male vocalists of all time.

Be fair, one can't accommodate everyone's favourite in a single production, you might say. And all well and good. But why, then, include on the programme one-hit wonders Barry (Eloise) Ryan and Daniel (Bad Day) Powter, however enjoyable they may be?

One could quibble on but, putting all that debate aside, it has to be readily acknowledged that Tonight the Night still easily adds up to a fun, most pleasant entertainment. It's an unpretentious, low-fuss showband entertainment; an obvious crowd-pleaser that had a packed, appreciative audience stomping and yelling for more the night I attended.

Devised and cast by Duck Chowles and co-directed by him and Durban favourite Clinton Philander, the show shimmers with some particularly good highlights and, perhaps best of all, introduces to this venue some fresh new talent, most notably 21-year-old Donny Osmond-lookalike Kyle Grant.

One of the production's lead vocalists, Kyle might be remembered for his stint on SABC2's Noot Vir Noot or as aspiring singer Duncan on e.tv's Backstage. Others might recognise him for his standout performance as a schoolboy lead, playing Nanki-Poo in the excellent touring Northcliff High School musical, The Mikado, seen at the Playhouse Drama a few years ago.

Tonight's the Night marks Kyle Grant's first professional appearance in Durban and, judging by audience reaction, he's sure to be back. He has an easy charm and good voice, best suited to the elegant nostalgia of Have You Met Miss Jones?, Sway and New York, New York, all of which he performs with aplomb. His other solo stints in Tonight the Night are George Michael's Faith and Robbie Williams's Rock DJ, both of which get the crowd bopping.

The spotlight shines brighter, however, on the seasoned Clinton Philander, jovial narrator and star of the show. He is a little dynamo with a voice by turns sweet and powerful, and who has a gift for comedy that makes his novel interpretation of Chris de Burgh's Patricia the Stripper a standout. His versatility has him belting through Eloise, rasping a la Rod Stewart through You're In My Heart and Do You Think I'm Sexy? and deftly slicing through such mouldy cheese as Delilah, Spanish Eyes and Quando, Quando.

Lit by Michael Broderick and presented on a stage glitzed up to reflect a Vegas setting, Tonight's the Night deserves another gold star for the constant showcasing of the versatility of its two keyboardist-singers, Sean Butler and the impressively versatile James Dobson. Butler soars with Phil Collins's In the Air Tonight and in duet with Dobson on Elton John's Don't Let the Sun Go Down On Me while Dobson delights with Roy Orbison's You Got It and Chris de Burgh's Lonely Sky. He even manages to win the crowd with his decidedly wooden Mick Jagger tribute.

Others in the line-up include bassist Ringo Nduzo (who needs to be a lot more animated), drummer Colin Heaney, attractive saxophonist Rike Coetzer, trumpeter Michael Magner and ace guitarist-vocalist Adrian Beecham (who steals the show's second half, vocally and with nifty guitarwork, delivering Prince's Purple Rain).

Also featuring songs by Billy Joel, Ray Charles, Cliff Richard and Robert Palmer, Tonight's the Night runs until May 27. Tickets R100 booked by calling the theatre at 031 566 3045. Billy Suter




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