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

IN THE SUMMERTIME (article first published : 2008-03-2; last edited : [an error occurred while processing this directive])

Durban is going through its usual start of the year sweltering heat and humidity but if you can’t beat the summer heat, then join it! Heritage Theatre in Hillcrest is offering In the Summertime, a high voltage show of super-charged energy featuring all-time favourite “summer type” songs.

We’re at Coco Mo’s. In the background is a splendid vista of sea, palm trees and distant islands. The band is set back from the stage to allow for a cane-covered beach bar topped with some dried palm fronds. Birds perch on microphone stands and a lobster climbs determinedly up a fishing net towards the drum kit. On the side walls are splendid fibreglass images of two fish whose vocal interaction as Nemo and Flounder form an amusing sector to the show. Nice idea, this one!

As the show explodes into the sounds of The Heat Is On, we meet the three characters who make up the scenario of the first half: Yvette Barnard as the sultry sexbomb; Clare McIlroy as the prissy inexperienced office worker, and Jonothan Didlick Jnr who slides easily into the role of the handsome pilot of Coconut Airways which is about to fly them both to Barbados. On the sidelines is Dave Birch playing a mean guitar and aiding and abetting the humour! No sitting around to languid crooner numbers here, it’s all go from the start! And it’s not every show that presents a striptease (ok, not all the way!) in the first couple of minutes!

If you’re looking for a plot – but who needs one in this show? – then it’s about a male character who is being pursued by two females and his light-hearted inability to choose one or the other.

After interval, the scene changes and the bar becomes The Love Shack (an appropriate background for the B52’s number) with the focus now mainly on the songs themselves.

The show is directed by Grant Bell with attractive costuming by Megan McKenzie. Strong musical direction is by Dawn Selby (keyboards), with Malli Sewell and Mark Whittaker on drums and Mark Freel on bass. I enjoyed Montego Bay, Summer Lovin' from Grease (with Dawn Selby and Dave Birch throwing the question: “Tell me more!”); Light My Fire; a good Gypsy Kings Medley in which Yvette dances Jonothan to the floor (literally) and a sizzling Carlos Santana tribute in which Dave Birch comes into his own and takes centre stage. I also enjoyed Funky Cold Medina from Jonothan and Dave who allowed us to slide out of the fast line into a more relaxed mood with Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman?

The Beach Boys Medley was great but it should have been placed earlier in the programme because of its lighter musical content. Also Clare McIlroy’s character has grown considerably more sexy by this part of the show and it seems an illogical move to place her – and Yvette – in crisp flowery two-piece bathing costumes when they’ve been vamping it up for the past half hour.

This is a highly enjoyable production and it’s good to see new faces at the Heritage Theatre.

Tickets include a two-course meal with desserts an optional extra. The menu stays with the “hot” theme, with starters being Chicken Livers in spicy Chakalaka; Roquefort Salad or Chicken Salad, the latter being our choice but my other half found the Cajun spicing too hot to handle. The Roasted Loin of Beef on the main menu, which we both chose, was an enjoyable combination of Rosti Potato and seasonal vegetable. It was well presented but the large flowing accompaniment of Mild Brandy Pepper Sauce was a bit too much of a good thing. Other main course choices are Roasted Vegetables, Natal Chicken Curry and Linguini Pescatori.

In The Summertime runs until March 31. Tickets R185 Wednesday to Saturday evenings (R160 Tuesday evenings and Sunday lunch) for a two-course meal and show. Show times are Tuesday to Saturday at 19h00 (meal) for 20h30 (show) and Sunday lunchtime specials at 12h30 (lunch) for 14h00 (show). Bookings on 031 765 4197. – Caroline Smart




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