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A DAME, A DOG & A DEAD GUY (article first published : 2001-04-26)

As I sat in the darkened supper theatre area of Langoustine Theatre by the Sea watching A Dame, A Dog & A Dead Guy (a title to be reckoned with!), I couldn’t help thinking that if Geoffrey Sutherland was still alive, he would have approved heartily. What acting skills I may or may not posses are attributable to him, as he was one of my main teachers at the Anne Freed Theatre School way back when. Geoffrey made a major contribution to musical theatre in South Africa, his most challenging and powerful production being the Freddie Mercury smash-hit Queen at the Opera which made its debut at the Playhouse right here in Durban.

Geoffrey would have approved of this production – the slickest and cleverest piece of musical theatre seen on the local theatre circuit in a long while. But most of all, he would approved of the musical content – three top class singers performing songs honestly and with a dutiful respect to the composers and lyricists, while adding their own individual stamp.

Even more impressive is the fact that this production was put together in a comparatively short space of time to replace a show that was taken off early.

A Dame, A Dog & A Dead Guy has been written by Catherine Mace (with apologies to Dead men don’t wear Plaid and The Zucker Brothers) who impressed with her Cabaret Sauvignon which played the Royal Hotel’s Backstage in March last year and for her “wicked queen” in last year’s Playhouse Cellar panto Snow White and Several Dwarfs. This is a writing and performing force to be reckoned with. In that slight all-embracing musical frame is lodged a powerful voice and a good sense of comedy. She performs alongside Tim Wells, another one of Durban’s best musical and acting talents who has a command of mimicry and accents that is astonishing.

It is Belinda Henwood that was the surprise of the evening, a time when all the frustrations of putting together two arts publications and the attendant stresses and deadlines all become worthwhile. A time when one has the immense satisfaction of seeing a talented actress finally realise the latent ability and power that has been growing over the years. In her show-stopping Pussy Cat Moan she could stand alongside any of today’s major international pop singers.

The show is a spunky spoof of murder mysteries and “whodunnit”s. It deals with down-at-heel private eye (Tim Wells à la Hammer and Dick Tracey) into whose seedy rooms wafts the elegant Julie Umbridge (Catherine Mace looking for all the world like Marlene Dietrich). She wants him to find her sister Samantha Devine (Belinda Henwood) ostensibly to “protect her from herself” but more devious plans are afoot.

Using 12 bumper stickers acquired off the Internet as hot one-liners, Catherine has created a smart and snappy script interwoven with well-known songs like Moon Over Bourbon Street, Putting on The Ritz, You Can Leave Your Hat On, Luck Be a Lady and Is You is Or Is You Aint, to name a few. Michael Broderick’s lighting design is atmospheric and unfanciful and – joy of joys! – the backing tracks by Tim Pullen are simple and effective, giving you the feeling that somewhere in the back is a small jazz combo suitable for the size of the venue.

Tickets R110 for performances Wednesday to Saturday include a three course meal. For starters, there’s Homemade Minestrone Soup, Calamari al Greco (on this occasion particularly succulent) or Peri Peri Chicken Livers. Lambshank, a Langoustine regular, was also delicious but a colleague pronounced the Tai Green Chicken Curry too tart for her taste. The other main course option is Stir Fry Vegetables. For dessert, there’s Ice Cream topped with Bananas, Bar-One Chocolate Sauce and sprinkled with Nuts. Bananas and I are not good friends so I opted for plain ice cream.

There are discounted performances on Tuesdays and Sundays when the ticket price is R79 which includes a two-course meal.

Book through the Lango on (031) 563-7324 or Computicket outlets or online at www.computicket.com




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