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

SWOON (article first published : 2001-08-9)

One moment he’s purring an Eartha Kitt number. The next, all pursed lips and languid eyes, he’s a crooning Nina Simone.

In his show Swoon currently running in the Playhouse Cellar, engaging entertainer de Wet Wraight makes the most of his talent for mimicry. With a vocal range far extending his natural baritone, this generous performer explores what makes superstars sexy and seductive. Not all of them are dealt with in a flattering light as he takes the mickey out of their foibles and less-endearing characteristics.

An overly-enthusiastic Britney Spears clumsily pokes herself in the face, Ricky Martin overdoes the pelvic thrust, Mick – “the only man capable of French-kissing a moose” – Jagger struts around in flapping shirtsleeves and Enya sings phrases over and over … and over again.

Don’t be misled into thinking that Swoon is a drag show – the female impersonations are there to illustrate his theme. Some of the numbers we’ve seen before in de Wet’s previous show Show Off – like the Tina Turner and Cher songs, as well as Barcelona in which he sings both Freddie Mercury and Montserrat Caballe with the help of a cleverly-designed cloak.

De Wet’s impersonations are accurate and often hilarious. His best interpretation of the evening was that of Macy Gray while Beautiful Noise, the more respectful tribute to Neil Diamond, was a showstopper. But he’s also pretty hot at Tom Jones and, of course, as his “alter ego” Elvis Presley. At one point, mid-song, he quips: “It’s me”, lest the audience forget that under all the disguises there’s someone who can handle a song perfectly naturally in his own right.

Costume designer Gareth Kenna has again used his tried and tested method of creating different garments by fashioning them apron-style so they can be slipped on or off easily without holding up the action. This show sees the introduction of puppet characters – Bette Midler has two “sidekick” hand puppets for Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy, de Wet sings Julio Iglesias to a delightful Rick Nelson puppet and the pièce de resistance was the Village People. But no give-away secrets here. See the show!

Providing the accompaniment and backing vocals on stage at the piano is one of Durban’s most talented and experienced musicians, Dawn Selby. The name behind numerous backing tracks and arrangements used on the local entertainment circuit. Naturally self-effacing, I look forward to the day when she can be persuaded to take more of an active role in the limelight. It would be nice if the upright piano in this show could be exchanged for a baby grand so that the instrument could be turned around and audience can see Dawn’s face as she works.

Directed by Peter Court and performing to a vibrant lush red curtained backdrop with the show’s title featured in knee-high letters, de Wet and Dawn present an entertaining evening filled with gentle sardonic fun, a touch of glitz and good music.

Tickets R100 from Wednesdays to Saturdays include a three-course meal. The starters are Spinach & Feta Phyllo Triangle or Chunky Tomato Soup. I had the former but found that the spicy relish overshadowed the delicate taste of the feta. However, all was forgiven when the excellent Peppered Prime Fillet Steak arrived. Served with coriander and peanut pesto, it was done to perfection. My companion pronounced the other choice, Fried Fillet of Fish topped with zesty tzatziki, just as good. He also approved of the Banana, Rum & Raisin home-made bread-and-butter pud while I opted for Le Chocolat Pot. Utterly decadent and extremely rich, it’s a chocolate mousse spiked with coffee liqueur.

Bonus performances are on Tuesdays and Sundays at R75 (two-course meal). Cocktail shows on Fridays at 17h15 are R30 (no meal). Book through TicketWeb on 8061-400-500 or Dial-a-Seat on (031) 360-0444 – Caroline Smart




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