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

BOOK CLUB (article first published : 2001-02-2)

If you’ve got a winning formula, why change it? For 15 years, the popular Gee Jays - Grant Bell, John Didlick and Gary McKenzie - have been performing their close harmony, madcap, slightly risqué brand of entertainment at numerous venues in KZN and further afield. They have a major following of dedicated fans who loyally support them with each new show.

So, what prompted them to change the status quo for their new show Book Club and include the multi-talented Liesl Coppin? No problem there, she’s an asset to any production, but the real reason was that Book Club is all about the culture of women’s book clubs. And for that, a member of the opposite sex was kind of important.

The show starts off a little shakily - the opening itself needs to be stronger - and the four performers appear at odds with themselves for a while. But midway through the first half the production gels and takes off from there.

While the GeeJays merrily do their thing – with John Didlick continuing the slightly “doff” character full of malapropisms last seen in Swooners and Crooners, Liesl plays a series of women all headed for Book Club night. There’s the kugel with a mop of blonde curls and cellphone plastered to the ear; the sozzled red-head with long unruly locks; the trusting bathrobe-clad housewife; a butch saxophonist and the power-dressed sales manager from hell in black Pulp Fiction type bob.

The show puts forward the suggestion that the last thing women do at book clubs is discuss books. If the GeeJays are to be believed, women use these gatherings to discuss and compare their men in minutest detail, watch sex aid demonstrations by inept salesmen and throw bras onto the stage at male strippers - hilariously performed by the GeeJays to Man I Feel like a Woman. Special mention must be made here of John Didlick’s impressive nimbleness in this number which involved the use of chairs! The heaviest of the three, he doesn’t allow his weight to get in the way!

Other notable moments were Gary Mackenzie’s wild-haired pop band leader in Mustang Sally and Grant Bell’s Standing on the Outside.

Highlight of the evening for me was definitely Liesl’s You Needed Me sung with passion and depth. She took command of the stage in Movin’ On Up, reaffirming my view that she is one of South Africa’s most exciting up and coming cabaret singers

Greg King has produced an attractive set in black and white featuring cartoon images of the five female characters in the show. Direction is by Belinda Harward.

I had no complaints with the meal. For starters there’s Savoury Pancake, Mussel Soup or Smoked Salmon Terrine followed by a choice of Chicken Breast Madras Style, Hungarian Goulash with Mushrooms or two choices of Penne dishes. The dessert, Pear Hellene, was simply delicious. And there is a choice wine list at a range of prices.

Book Club runs until March 3 with a possible extension of another week. Tickets R100 (includes a three-course meal) Wednesday to Saturday performances and R79 (two-course meal) on Tuesdays and Sundays.

Book through The Langoustine or Computicket. Credit cards call (031) 304-2753 or on the Internet on http//www.computicket.com




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