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LONG TRAIN RUNNING (article first published : 2008-08-6)

In the theatre business, anyone with a modicum of talent can get on a stage and perform but it’s only when things go wrong that the true professional emerges.

Such was the case tonight at Heritage Theatre when Barry Thomson carried alone the major burden of Long Train Running, a show written and compiled by Barry Thomson, Dawn Selby and Gary McKenzie.

Barry Thomson and John Ellis of Tree63 share the billing for this high-energy foot-stomping tribute to the music of the Eagles, The Doobie Brothers, Bread, Three Dog Night, Tom Petty, James Taylor, Crosby Stills and Nash and many others.

However, this evening saw Barry carrying the show on his own as John Ellis was not able to take part, due to unexplained “unforeseen circumstances”. Whatever these were, it left what presumably is a tightly-knit ensemble production on a knife edge without one of its two leads. For the uninitiated, this means that other members of the group have to fill in with solos, harmonies and lyrics. It takes some very skilful manoeuvring (both musical and physical) to pull this kind of hat-trick off without the audience feeling as if something’s missing.

John Ellis will be back on stage on Friday and those who enjoy numbers like Horse with No Name, Sister Golden Hair, China Grove, Can’t Get Enough of Your Love, Love the One You’re With and Free Falling should book immediately for this show which is currently running at the Heritage Theatre.

The set is a mildly hectic visual mix of glitzy curtains with tiny lights echoing the stars in two American flags. Lighting effects stay with the blues and reds which also mirror the colours of the Stars and Stripes. Even the eyes of the realistic wolf’s head on Barry’s t-shirt seemed to gleam!

Long-term Heritage favourites, musical director Dawn Selby and drummer Mali Sewell, ensure a solid backing. They are supported by Andy Turrell who, as Barry acknowledges “should be 30 years older to be playing the pedal steel guitar” the way he does. A welcome face at the Heritage is that of bassist Lloyd de Gier who is an interactive and cheerful member of the group.

The songs have been chosen for what they mean and Barry includes some interesting patter to introduce most of them. My knowledge of this music is not extensive and many of the songs in the first half were unfamiliar. However, the pace hots up in the second half with those I could relate to, like Teach Your Children, Born to be Wild, Running Down a Dream and the number that inspired the show’s title: the Doobies’ Long Train Running. Personal favourites were Sweet Hitchhiker and Guitar Man.

Long Train Running runs at the Heritage Theatre in Hillcrest until August 31. Tickets R185 pp Wednesday to Saturdays for two-course meal and show (R160 Tuesday evenings and Sunday lunchtime).

As always, a good menu on offer and we chose soup of the day (not served ”piping hot” as described in the menu!) and Heritage Antipasto for starters. The other option is Breaded Risotto Salad. On the main course, there’s Vegetable Chow Mein, Chicken Pizzaioli and Seafood Pasta but we both took the fourth option, Beef Fillet Medallions, which was served with a tasty mild brandy-pepper sauce. However, I couldn’t find any “seasonal vegetables” as stated on the menu among the peppers and onion accompaniment.

Bookings can be made on 031 765 4197 or online at www.heritagetheatre.co.za – Caroline Smart




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