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I FEEL A SONG COMING ON (article first published : 2001-03-1)

Working for the first time as a duo Vanessa Skaer and Darren King have put together a pleasing evening’s entertainment with I Feel a Song Coming On currently running in the Royal Hotel’s Backstage supper theatre venue.

Faultlessly accompanied by Ashley Roberts on the baby grand with the occasional help of backing tracks this intimate musical revue is classy, easy-going and gently amusing. For the first time in this venue, the sound mix – balance of singers and backing tracks - was spot-on although the singers’ individual microphones were occasionally shallow.

The programme is a strange mix including music of the 1930’s and 40’s; songs associated with the war era; Fats Waller’s Feets Too Big; Steven Sondheim numbers, and The Best of Times from La Cage Aux Folles. Don’t look for the logic in the line-up, I don’t believe there is any. The two have simply taken the opportunity to present songs of a distinct style and flavour worked around some light-hearted dialogue. Highlights were Come Rain or Come Shine, Mister Sandman linked to You made me love you and Blue Moon linked to Glory of Love.

The nature of Sondheim’s music demands that his words are heard and in this aspect, there was no faulting either Vanessa or Darren. Both with British backgrounds and good theatre training, their diction is impeccable although Darren could loosen up a little as he comes dangerously close to being too precise.

Songs were sung rather than belted – a nice change on the supper theatre circuit - and Vanessa is a natural-born, disciplined and focused dancer. One wished for a larger stage so that the pair could have hoofed it up a bit more.

Ashley Roberts is a delight – and he can play real piano, as he proved by launching into all-too-short sections of works by Grieg, Chopin and Schubert. Personally, I would have preferred him to have provided the sole accompaniment and done away with the backing tracks. He also proved he has a good sense of comedy and perhaps more use could be made of this aspect of his talent in the show.

After Themi Venturas’s The War Years in 1997 at what was then the thriving St Thomas Hall supper theatre venue, Vanessa put aside her performing career to have her two children and this is her first stage appearance since then. For someone who’s been concentrating on motherhood fairly assiduously, she’s looking stunning. It’s a bit unnerving treading the boards again after a three-and-a-bit year absence and perhaps this accounted for an occasional shrillness in the voice and a lack of support for high notes.

The pair don’t always make the material their own and Darren’s levels are erratic while Vanessa puts in a rock-solid performance. The dialogue is a bit contrived and I think an audience singalong is inappropriate. Also, serious attention needs to be given to better lighting stage left.

However, I firmly believe these problems to be attributable to first night glitches and nerves and by the end of this week, there should be no reason why they’re not sailing on an even keel and pulling in the audiences.

The show runs until March 24 with a possible extension. Performances are Wednesday to Saturday at 19h00 for dinner with the show starting around 20h00. Tickets at R120 include a three course meal in true Royal Hotel style. For starters there’s a Trio of Vegetable Timbale suitably spiced with a Pepperdew dressing or Smoked Peppered Mackerel Paté. Be warned with the latter, it’s a fairly strong taste if you’re not familiar with mackerel. Main course includes a Rolled Leg of Lamb which was very tender but as red wine and I aren’t compatible, I wasn’t able to enjoy what looked like its very tasty Vintage Red Wine gravy. The other choice is Wok-fried Chicken strips served with Apricot cream sauce. For dessert, the Royal have dressed up their famed Crème Caramel with a Rum and Raisin Syrup.

Book through the hotel’s restaurant reservations on (031) 304-0331.




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