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

NEXT STOP (article first published : 2002-03-15)

Undeniably talented and versatile is Anne-Marie Clulow, currently appearing in Next Stop at the Royal Hotel’s Backstage. A true and skilfully used voice is her major attribute. She looks good in a variety of slinky and glitzy costumes. Blonde and bubbly, she is a generous and engaging performer.

So why didn’t Next Stop work for me as well as it could have done? Perhaps it was the whistle stop train tour via the recorded voice of a guide taking his tour/audience around various Broadway nightspots, with a Central Park jazz venue thrown in for good measure.

Nice idea but it got a bit frenetic and one longed for some moments of quiet to enjoy her singing some gentler numbers and breathe awhile. Let the train passengers do a bit of travelling, as it were.

Apart from her musical training, Anne-Marie has trained in classical ballet as well as jazz dance which is why she moves well. She’s also trained in drama, tap and puppetry with stage management thrown into the bargain. She’s worked in children’s theatre and musicals, done a stint on the Symphony cruise liner, and worked in many night spots – some in the Middle East.

The name doesn’t ring a bell? Perhaps it will when you’re reminded that for four years in the mid 1990’s, she was the lead vocalist for the band Ballyhoo. In Next Stop we get to see first hand her ability as a saxophonist.

The programme opens dramatically with Phantom of the Opera and continues with other well-known numbers from Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals and songs made famous by Sarah Brightman such as Time to Say Goodbye. She has a good sense of vocal mimicry, seen to advantage in her presentations of Tina Turner hits. Her Bond medley was most enjoyable. I wasn’t happy with her handling of Memory and Pie Jesu but that’s a personal opinion.

She tries to pack too much into a show which runs without interval. Next Stop has the capacity to extend its running time, incorporate more moods and displaying Anne-Marie’s other skills. On the sound desk is her husband Tim who generally provides sympathetic backup but there are occasions when he lets rip and drowns her with the backing tracks.

Next Stop is, however, an entertaining programme and gives audience a chance to see a multi-talented new face on the supper theatre scene.

The ticket price includes a three course-meal and Chef Shaun has chosen items that suit the American feel of the show. For starters, there’s a delicious Boston Clam Chowder or a Mexican Stack of avocado, tomato and cream cheese. Main course offers Chicken Maryland or a Gumbo Ya Ya but I didn’t think the ingredients mixed amicably in this Cajun spiced mixed Seafood and Sausage Stew. For dessert there’s Pecan Nut Pie with Vanilla Custard.

Booking via Royal Hotel Reservations on 031 333-6000 – Caroline Smart




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