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NB: as of 23 September 2008, all new artSMart articles are being published on the site news.artsmart.co.za.

THE CONVENT GIRLS (article first published : 2008-02-21)

Lisa Bobbert and Tonya Koenderman have been friends for 27 years – a relationship which has lasted longer than most marriages these days! – ever since they attended convent school in Rosebank, Johannesburg. Now more mature – we won’t give the ages away – the two powerhouse cabaret stars decided that the time had come to pool their resources and celebrate this friendship by doing a show that features their favourite numbers.

The result is The Convent Girls which had a season at Rhumbelow Theatre a month or so back. It has just opened at Heritage Theatre in Hillcrest to run until Sunday. Set on a wisely narrowed and glitzy stage, it’s an amusing and entertaining show that highlights their individual talents and features some good numbers with lots of banter in between. You know you’re in for a fun evening when a sepulchral Aaron McIlroy voice-over offers a warning that the show has not been sanctioned by the Vatican!

The exuberant Lisa and the more contained Tonya are good foils for each other and while they do relate incidents in their early days, I would have liked them to have shared their relationship a bit more. What was it that sparked the friendship? What threatened it at any time? How do they resolve arguments – we’re told they resolve longwinded telephone calls by going “1, 2, 3 – Walkies!” Weird, but true! They’ve both had their share of heartache – so what is it they value most about each other in times of trouble? Some of us in the audience might be inspired to take a closer look at people we take for granted far too often and remember that friendships in this fast-moving and stressful society need to be respected and protected.

The highlight for me was the Chicago sequence with Tonya giving a torchy All That Jazz followed by a vampish When You’re Good to Mama from Lisa after which they both hit He Had It Coming with full force! Other highlights were Tonya’s Jazz Hot Baby and Lisa as the stroppy Chantal in an extract from her Bobbert Uncut. Bette Midler's Otto Titsling went way too fast for those in the audience not familiar with its fun lyrics but Mack The Knife put us back on track. I think Tonya’s Tina Turner sequence became too much of a good thing – would have been better with fewer numbers or else a song with Tonya doing Tina Turner her own way.

The Heritage offers a good meal as part of the ticket package: For starters, there’s Springbok Carpaccio with Gorgonzola Cheese; Mushroom Thermidor which offered an interesting blend of mushroom, sweet potato and Parmesan cheese, and Peach Salad. The latter was my choice and it was a nice clean opening to the meal. For main course, I chose the Grilled Chicken Fillet on Linguini topped with a pink prawn bacon sauce which I enjoyed. Other options are Thai Red Vegetable Curry, Oven Baked Line Fish and Prime Roasted Strip Loin of Beef. All the dishes are attractively served and offer generous helpings.

The Convent Girls runs at the Heritage Supper Theatre in Hillcrest until Sunday. Bookings on 031 765 4197. – Caroline Smart




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