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SWOONERS & CROONERS 2 (article first published : 2000-08-5)

GeeJays Gary McKenzie, John Didlick and Grant Bell have been making music together for 15 years and it shows. Looking back at my review of their first run with Swooners and Crooners at the Langoustine Theatre by the Sea in January this year, I wrote that they slip comfortably into close harmonies as one would don a much-loved pair of slippers.

They had their first public performance in August 1985 in the now-defunct Hermit Restaurant, a highly popular venue which offered a wide variety of interesting supper theatre shows back in the 1980’s where many top performers cut their teeth in what was then, for Durban, a comparatively new performance genre.

They hold no surprises for each other either in a personal or performance capacity and despite their disparate characters - mercurial Gary, robust John and tall, suave Grant – they work extremely well together and their various vocal ranges blend easily.

Swooners and Crooners was originally commissioned for a private function. The response was so great that the GeeJays decided to turn it into a full-length supper theatre programme. The accent is on good music from musical stars that gave the world some wonderful melodies. If you want an enjoyable evening’s entertainment of smooth sophisticated favourites made famous by past and present top swooners and crooners, you can’t do better than this one.

You’ll hear the music of Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole, Louis Armstrong, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Tony Bennett and The Platters not to mention Elivs Presley. Neil Diamond, Billy Joel, Roy Orbison, The Beatles, Barry Manilow, Lionel Richie, Wet Wet Wet and Boyzone.

While they mainly sing together, the three guys get a chance to do their own thing. Most notable solos are John’s Wonderful World, Grant’s Not Unusual and Gary’s The Way You Were.

As the catalyst to this sophisticated presentation, John plays a Platteland boykie who chips in occasionally with bits of useless information such as the fact that “the ou from Sha Na Na was the first ou on the Internet.” (Bowzer/Broswer … get it?). In sunglasses, a ghastly wig, leopard print pants and a white shirt which could not be said to flatter his midriff, he delivers an Elvis medley with great gusto.

One of the finest songs of the evening was Boyzone’s No Matter What and their rendition of the Platters’ Smoke Gets in Your Eyes was highly successful. However, there were sound problems. A good presentation of A Wonderful World was sadly marred by overpowering backing tracks as was San Francisco, Let It Be and My Way.

The show runs at the Langoustine Theatre by the Sea until August 19. Tickets at R110 include a three-course meal. For starters, there are Homemade Chicken Liver Pate with Melba Toast; Homemade Minestrone Soup and a Theatre Medley which features a selection of Chef Bertold’s garden salads. Main courses are a tangy Singapore Beef (stir-fried in a barbeque sauce); Chicken Al-Berto (chicken strips pan-fried in a white wine and mushroom sauce) or Vegetable Lasagne. For dessert, there’s Cape Brandy Tart, which I found a bit dry, or Apple Strudel.

Tuesday nights are ladies nights (with or without gents!) at R69 which includes the above meal minus the starters. Book through the Langoustine on (031) 563-7324 (ask for Yash), e-mail langos@iafricacom or via Computicket or its website http://www.computicket.com




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