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

ROCK ME AMADEUS (article first published : 2002-10-20)

If you’re expecting to see a show that takes Mozart’s music and turns it into a classic rock concert style then you won’t see very much of this in Rock Me Amadeus which runs at The Barnyard Theatre at Gateway until early in the new year.

It’s mainly a supper theatre party in a rock concert setting, the kind of production that attracts audiences in their thousands to this popular venue. Rock Me Amadeus is based on the concept that the long-dead classical composer finds today’s rock beat so groovy that he hops out of his coffin to join in the fun. This is the same format used by the highly successful Roll Over Beethoven which also played the Barnyard Theatre.

The show is jointly directed by Duck Chowles who produced Roll Over Beethoven and was more recently seen in Mick & Tina at the Barnyard, and Paul du Toit who made such an impression on Durban audiences in Offbeat Broadway at the Royal Hotel’s Backstage venue and also appeared as Wally in Glory Days at the Barnyard.

While the show is entertaining and goes along at a cracking pace, what bothered me about Rock Me Amadeus is that so much more could have been done with such an interesting concept, particularly with a performer of the calibre of Paul du Toit playing the role of Mozart.

The other lead vocalists Liesl Coppin and Glenn Swart also have considerable acting and comedic talents and these weren’t allowed to reach their full potential. The show is under-directed and at times the vocalists are dressed so casually that they could be audience members who have popped onto the show to “join the party”.

Alright, there are a couple of jazzed up-Mozart numbers such as Eine Kleine Nachtmuzik. Other classical composers such as Offenbach and Orff get to see their music “rocked up” and if that urges people to explore their music further, I couldn’t be happier.

I should worry? The theatre is full and the audiences love it. I just feel that it could have been cleverer and involved more dramatic content without disturbing the rock concert nature of the show.

The show’s worth seeing for Paul du Toit’s Freddie Mercury tribute alone. Temporarily freed from the Mozart costume and cod German accent and the fairly inane linking sections, we see his true talents in this powerful sequence.

Other highlights were Crocodile Rock, All Coming Back to Me, Another Brick in the Wall and Alright Now

There’s a great band and crowd favourites were the sexy Kate O’Hanlan on violin, Christopher Luke on hot sax and the dynamic Barry Thomson on lead guitar. Calli Housdon is on keyboards and backing vocals with Joe van der Linden on bass guitar and Mali Sewell on drums. The latter gets to showcase his percussive talents in a solo spot.

Declan Randal’s lighting design is dramatic and highly effective and for once the sound levels were generally better balanced.

Cedric Vandenschrik who was seen as Beethoven in the Barnyard Theatre’s inaugural production of Roll over Beethoven takes over from Paul du Toit from October 26 and popular dazzling Durban redhead Shelley McLean will take over from Liesl Coppin from November 19.

Tickets R70 Wednesdays to Saturdays ("Buy One Get One Free" promotion on Tuesday nights and Sunday lunchtimes). There are specials over the festive season. For more information or to book contact 031 566-3045/6, e-mail barngate@mweb.co.za or visit http://www.barnyardtheatre.co.za – Caroline Smart




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