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A-MEN! (article first published : 2008-02-23; last edited : [an error occurred while processing this directive])

After appearing in the adult pantomime Robin Hood which ran over the last festive season at Seabrooke’s Theatre in Durban, Anthony Stonier, Rowan Bartlett and Sean de Klerk were inspired by a suggestion from Mercury Arts Editor Billy Suter to expand on a scene in Robin Hood where Rowan and Sean performed as part of an “all girl” singing group.

The result is A-Men, currently on a short season at the Rhumbelow Theatre, where Rowan and Sean have joined forces with Anthony Stonier (who also directed Robin Hood) to build a show around three performers from Atlanta, Georgia, in the deep south of America. The garrulous and bitchy singers have come to perform in Africa to “explore their roots”.

As the trio noisily burst through the doors, much humour is created at the expense of “deepest darkest Umbilo”, the unpredictability of Eskom, their producer – one Themi McGibbon (work it out, you old theatre buffs!) - and a “dusty” venue with “old photographs” and “old curtains”! Unfortunately, much of the humour is lost here through over-amplification which renders the dialogue undecipherable but things eventually settle down as they launch into their reminiscences and favourite songs.

“Madcap musical comedy” is how the publicity describes it and it certainly fits the bill. This is frothy naughty nonsense not to be taken seriously. No deep meanings or relevant social issues here! The garrulous “singing sisters” – Miss Blanche (Anthony), Miss Sophie (Rowan) and Miss Dorothy (Sean) – are all individuals in their own right. Dressed in an assortment of outfits, ranging from quasi-chic Afro design to glitzy sequins, they offer a resounding “Amen” to anything that fits the bill!

The ever-controlled, professional and elegant Anthony is well-balanced by tall, well-built and genial Rowan who refuses to let his size interfere with any form of choreography and slender irrepressible Sean whose expressive face and movements need to be toned down a bit to match the other two.

The newly revamped Rhumbelow Theatre now boasts a covered verandah area, air conditioning, new bar area and a more extensive lighting rig. While the latter now offers some clever effects, there were too many instances where scenes were underlit. No matter how atmospheric and beautiful the lighting, the audience should always be able to see the faces of the performers.

Expect to hear much-loved numbers such as Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered; Let’s Misbehave, I Only Want to be With You, Me and My Shadow; How Do You Stop the Music Playing?; New York State of Mind and Miss Subway 1952 (updated to 1982).

Directed by Julia Clarence, A-Men! is a perfect travelling production as one car could carry cast, plus costumes plus stage manager/lighting/sound technician. The show has two more performances at Rhumbelow: tomorrow (February 23) at 20h00 and Sunday (February 24) at 18h30. The venue opens 90 minutes before show for picnic dinner.

Tickets R70. Take along food picnic baskets and braais will be available. There is limited secure parking and booking is essential. A cash bar is available (no alcohol may be brought on to the premises). Rhumbelow Theatre is situated in Cunningham Avenue off Bartle Road. To book contact Roland on 031 205 7602 (h) or 082 499 8636, email roland@stansell.za.net or visit www.rhumbelow.za.net – Caroline Smart




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