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

STRAPLESS (article first published : 2002-07-12)

Remember the nightclub setting in the movie Cabaret? The buzz, brittle satire, the slightly forced performances, languid dancers and smoke – lots of it?

This is the exact style captured by Very Very Big Productions in the opening sequences of their highly entertaining show Strapless running at the Lango’s Theatre in Durban North. Again separated from his piano (see review for Bloody Mary), Evan Roberts dons greatcoat, jackboots and cap and, right arm sending up the Hitler salute, sings Springtime for Hitler. He is surrounded by the two stars of the show, Lili and Marlene played by Belinda Henwood and Catherine Mace with sequinned swastikas on their khaki shirts and painted moustaches. They are supported by attractive dancers Ingrid Weerheim and Candice Crowther.

Providing the backing with well-known – and so good-looking, he should be on the stage itself - double bass player Bongani Sokhela, Evan Roberts then remains at the piano for the rest of the show in his character as Rudolf Snoze.

The storyline revolves around two singers, supposedly top German cabaret artistes of the day. Despite their constant bickering and oneup(wo)manship, they reminisce about the good times before the war : “Those were the days … and nights!” they sigh melodramatically.

Highlights for me were Catherine’s beautifully lit and sexy Love for Sale and Belinda’s Honeysuckle Rose. Each contributing their individual talents – Catherine with a Dietrich style growl and tiger-like pacing while Belinda has a softer and sultrier approach – the two singers keep the show moving with humour and song. Lounging on the piano, they parody a well-known song with My Heart Belongs to Hymie.

A strong accolade of the evening must go to the set. Having draped the entire restaurant in lush red curtains, Very Very Big Productions have gone all out to produce a really theatrical set. A fascinating feature was a series of spangle curtains which generated spontaneous blazes of light on their own.

There’s always something going on as if we are truly backstage in a nightclub. “Performers” wander across the back of the stage, sit at the mirrors or sprawl on the chairs. In various stages of underwear, sponsored by Wonderbra & Gossard, the four women present an appealing sight. Catherine’s slinky red dress is a winner and Michael Broderick’s lighting is stunning. It’s a good looking show all round!

Nick Warren’s script is crisp and amusing. However, occasionally the delivery tends to be too fast and good lines are lost but no doubt this will settle down as the run progresses. David Gouldie’s choreography is slick and stylish, as always. Still not too sure why it was called Strapless because there was more underwear with straps attached than without!

Strapless, which runs without an interval, has performances until August 4. Shows on Tuesday and Sunday R100 pp (includes two-course meal) and from Wednesday to Saturday at R130 (includes three course meal). For starters, there’s Cajun Chicken Salad, a fairly sweet Creamy Butternut Soup (and for some inexplicable reason there were no soup spoons available) and Grilled Black Mushroom topped with Lango’s standard Cheese Sauce. We both chose the Arabian-style marinated Beef for main course which I found very succulent and tasy. The other options are Chicken Breast Cordon Bleau and Vegetable Lasagne. For dessert, there’s a delicious Peach Melba.

Booking is at the Lango’s Theatre directly on 031 563-7324.




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