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

NEW YORK CITY BEAT (article first published : 2008-04-27)

In New York City Beat, his latest show for the Dockyard Supper Theatre in Musgrave Centre, producer Stuart Mey has teamed with musician Wallace Nock to weave an interesting and entertaining production around the music that emanated from the Brill Building in Brooklyn, New York.

Therefore expect to hear smash hits from artists such as Barry Manilow, Neil Diamond, Barbra Streisand, Carole King, Bette Midler, Carly Simon, Burt Bacharach and Neil Sedaka. All the featured stars – bar one – are Jewish. So with a hefty dollop of artistic licence, Stuart has taken on the persona of Papa Avi Diamond who links the numbers and offers interesting snippets of information such as the fact that Barry Manilow wrote jingles for Kentucky Fried Chicken, Pepsi-Cola and MacDonald’s.

While many are familiar with the singers and their music, they are perhaps not aware that the Brill Building was a kind of one-stop-music-shop, as it were, for singer/songwriters. Located at 1619 Broadway in the heart of New York's music district, it was originally owned by the Brill brothers who were in the rag trade.

During the great depression in the 1930’s, many of their tenants closed their doors so the Brill building filled their empty office space with people from the then thriving music industry. Within the building’s confines, songwriters could write and arrange their songs, do a demo recording and then hawk them round the floors to the recording companies, publishers, artists’ managers or the artists themselves.

The Brill Building was the one of the primary set locations for the Wesley Snipes and David Spade black comedy Brillow's Pad in 2007.

In Dockyard’s New York City Beat, Stuart Mey’s experience and musical expertise comes to the fore in numbers like the poignant Mandy, a toe-tapping Copacabana, the cheery Raindrops keep falling on my head and, his best, Leroy Brown. Staying with the Jewish theme, he led a rousing rendering of Hava Negela.

Neil Sedaka and Neil Diamond’s music is perfect for Wallace Nock’s voice and although he looks a little uncomfortable when he isn’t holding an instrument, his stage personality overrides this. One of the most enjoyable numbers for me was You don’t bring me flowers which he sang with Nicky Mey who has acquired a new vocal maturity and this material suits her voice as well. Tall and slender, Claire de Beer is a welcome new face on the supper theatre circuit and her From a Distance was well-presented.

The setting is simple with a New York skyline, some skeletal trees and a bench. This means that the band members have more space to work in than usual and it’s a strong line-up with Bruce Boome on guitar, Carol Dillon on keyboard, Benoit Grigaut on bass and some fine sympathetic drumming from Qhawe Ngcobo. Good to see the Dockyard’s genial and efficient manager Russell Scott on stage playing trumpet. The sound balance was generally good, other than the band overpowering the vocalists in The way we were and I’m a Believer.

With all the various price hikes, load shedding and general consumer-battering, theatre in Durban is facing a very serious threat. The Dockyard has instituted a number of extra features to attract patrons and these include Late Night Live on a Friday and Saturday which means that after the show there will be live band or comedy performances from 10h30 until around 01h00.

Dockyard also offers the venue free for CD launches and Rowan Stuart’s launch last month attracted a capacity crowd. He will perform at Dockyard on May 9 in a Late Night Live event. The venue beats load shedding in the area on Wednesday evenings by opening a Dockyard Grill on the terrace and beer garden where gourmet burgers and wors rolls are cooked on gas.

New York City Beat runs until June 8 from Wednesdays to Sundays at R180 pp for a two-course meal and show (R140pp Sunday special for one-course roast dinner and show). Dockyard offers a good menu with Chicken Livers Peri-Peri, Long Island Shrimp Cakes (my choice) and Potato Skins. Mains include Grilled Sirloin Steak (which passed muster from my fussy other half), Chicken Mont Blanc (another good choice for me), Pesce el Greco and Stuffed Butternut Special. Desserts at R25 and side orders are an optional extra. Tickets available at the box office on 031 201 9147 or visit www.dockyardtheatre.co.za – Caroline Smart




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