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ROUGE PULP (article first published : 2000-11-3)

Featuring singer and dancer Amra-Faye Wright and multi-instrumentalist Christopher Luke, Rouge Pulp is the current show in the Royal Hotel’s Backstage venue. The odd title comes from the brand name of a lipstick. It’s also Amra’s nickname.

With the hotel’s new more-relaxed image, this supper theatre production is everything the Royal stands for: sophistication without being starchy, elegant but not pretentious - and all delivered with 100% expertise. There’s not a swear word in sight, but loads of innuendo. It’s sassy without being coarse and Amra-Faye has a stunning and very sexy body which she knows how to use and dress to perfection!

Amra-Faye and Christopher worked together in Elvis Las Vegas Extravaganza. Seen in Durban last year, it won Amra-Faye an FNB Vita award for best performance in a musical. The idea of creating a show together blossomed into Rouge Pulp which makes its debut in Durban. The duo have brought in extra sound and lighting equipment to Backstage to achieve the sophisticated effects they require.

Rouge Pulp is a first for Christopher as a solo singer. Amra is a tough act to follow, with her years of experience (difficult to believe she’s 40!) on the cabaret and cruise ship circuit around the world, but he holds his own and proves to have a pleasing voice and nice comedy timing.

However, he shines best as an instrumentalist – in this show using saxophones or bass guitar - and one of his best solos was Roxanne. The early numbers produce an electrifying rapport between the two performers, giving the impression that there are three dancers on stage – one of them a sax.

Performed with an interval, Rouge Pulp comprises a variety of songs in various styles ranging from a spunky Mustang Sally and powerful Queen Bee to the more gentle Dream a Little Dream of Me and the beautifully poignant Quiet Love. Amra’s good dramatic comedy skills come to the fore with Guess who I Saw Today and An Englishman Needs Time. However, many of her songs rely heavily on the sense of the words and sometimes these were over-shadowed by backing tracks.

There are tributes to Charles Aznavour, Marlene Dietrich and Edith Piaf and one of the most memorable numbers was Amra’s Mein Herr (from Cabaret). Complete with black fishnet stockings, boots, hotpants and halter-neck – and chair - there were a few heart-stopping moments when high kicks from those long legs looked as if they would barely clear the roof! Amra-Faye can offer more with an expressive twist of her ankle than many cabaret singers get to achieve in a lifetime.

My only reservation with the show is a small one. The linking narrative was a little disjointed – I would like to have seen more continuity and balance of style. Most of the between-song chat takes place in the second half when Amra talks about her experiences. These include amusing anecdotes about having to be weighed every week as a showgirl in the Sun City Extravaganzas.

On Backstage’s restaurant side, where service has been somewhat wanting of late, there’s been a dramatic change. Warren Kay, recently moved in as venue manager for Rouge Pulp, is committed to quiet, controlled efficiency and consequently the evening was calm and relaxed.

The three-course meal includes two starters: a creamy asparagus soup with a grated cheddar topping giving it a sharp tang or a dill-scented smoked trout and prawn mouse nicely offset with a lemon, caper dressing. Main course choices are sliced roast leg of lamb on garlic-buttered potato mash with tomato relish and honey jus or Green Thai Chicken Curry. Both are delicious and the helpings generous. Throw diet to the wind and enjoy the dessert, which is a duo of chocolate mousse with strawberry coulis and crushed pistachio.

Tickets R110 include the meal and performances take place Wednesdays to Saturdays. Book through Royal Hotel Reservations on (031) 304-0331.




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