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

THE GREAT PRETENDERS (article first published : 2002-08-21)

In the dark days of apartheid, among the many restrictions for people of colour was exclusion from the major places of entertainment that hosted performances from visiting pop stars.

Always resilient, the creative forces of the coloured community in Cape Town refused to be cowed and excluded and decided to “do their own thing”. Particularly, innovative entertainer Jayson King. Then living in the famed District Six, he launched the concept of The Great Pretenders whereby local singers faithfully imitated the musical styles, personalities and costumes of the international stars of their choice.

Another source of inspiration was Springbok Radio and its popular albums, the Springbok Hits.

Currently running at The Barnyard Theatre at Gateway until September 8 is Jayson King’s The Great Pretenders which plays nostalgic tribute to top international singers both past and present in a programme that visits music as far back as the 1940’s. Now running into its tenth year, the show has appeared successfully on various stages throughout South Africa and has received major television coverage.

The set features a very attractive silver-curtained arch studded with the black and white notes of a keyboard. However, the gentle pastels of the backdrop don’t complement it well and it would have been better served with something darker and more dramatic.

Fronted by rubber-legged Jayson King who delighted the audience in numbers such as Quando, Quando, Quando and the Elvis Presley Medley, the cast numbers eight. They are Adam Rush (who started in showbiz at the age of 14), Dennis Maart, Heidi Goodman, Ricky Rudolf, Ruth Marley, Sharon Rhoda and Terry Smith.

Although the full cast didn’t perform all together that often, they injected an infectious enthusiasm into the show. Group harmonies were good and enjoyable numbers included The Platters medley, Unchained Melody, My Girl and the title song. However, in many cases, the backing tracks were unfriendly to the singers and allowed little extension of individual talents.

Also the show needed tighter direction. Diction wasn’t always clear and I have a big problem with broken phrasing which often makes nonsense of the lyrics text.

On the whole a fun and nostalgic evening’s entertainment, the show also covers impersonations of Righteous Brothers, Engelbert Humperdinck, Tom Jones, The Drifters, Shirley Bassey, Gloria Gaynor, Chuck Berry, Neil Sedaka and Sammy Davis Jnr.

Tickets R65 for shows Wednesday to Saturday, with the popular “Buy One Get One Free” promotion applicable on the Tuesday night and Sunday lunchtime shows. Take your own picnic basket but no alcohol may be taken into the complex. A full cash bar is available. Bookings from The Barnyard Theatre on 031 566-3045/6, e-mail barngate@mweb.co.za or visit www.barnyardtheatre.co.za – Caroline Smart




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