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ONE VOICE - REVIEW (article first published : 1999-10-28)

The first thing you notice when you walk into the upmarket Backstage venue at the Royal Hotel is the transformation to the stage. Designed by Greg King for the current production One Voice, it features purple drapes, pillars, and a blown-up piece of the score of O Mio Babbino Caro in a Baroque style frame. A baby grand piano graces the stage in front of a gold embossed black backdrop.

And it is to the piano that one’s eyes are drawn continually during this entertaining production because pianist John Edwards (a striking Donald Sutherland look-a-like) is just as much a star as fellow cast members Janene van Pletsen and Clinton Philander. He’s not just a fine pianist and a sympathetic accompanist comfortable in any style from opera to jazz, he has a good sense of musical humour. I look forward to the day when he may have a show of his own.

While the arrangements and harmonies are sometimes a bit questionable and jarring, on the whole it’s a jam-pack musical review that’s classy, amusing and highly enjoyable. Eric Hutton and Anthony Stonier have put together this tongue-in-cheek light-hearted musical look at singing stars from the 20s to the 90s to showcase the vocal dexterity of Janene and Clinton. And vocal dexterity there is in abundance as they whip through a dizzying selection of music which sometimes includes no more than a phrase or two of a well-known number. All kudos to the singers for what must have been an absolutely nightmare to memorise.

Although cleverly arranged, the medleys are sometimes a bit too frantic, and it’s a delight to relax with the rendition of a full number. Particularly notable were Clinton’s I Believe I Can Fly and Janene’s Cry Me a River although I felt that her O Mio Babbino Caro was a little leaden.

A natural born comic, the irrepressible Clinton has the main slice of comedy material. A send-up of Pavarotti sees him flourishing what turns out not to be a handkerchief! He introduces a song as a kind of “karate chop suey” and goes on to do a brilliant impersonation of Willie Nelson and Elvis Presley singing the same number. He’ll probably also have fanatical Elvis fans after his blood with his drunken “Elvis after a party” rendition of Blueberry Hill.

Operated by Derek Pearce who also handled the lights, the new sound system is a great improvement.

Tickets at R95 includes a meal prepared in the distinctive `Royal’ style. Starter choices are Creamy Apple and Potato Soup flavoured with Roquefort cheese and served with crispy croûtons which had a crisp clean taste or Marinated Mussels and Shrimps amongst Market Greens with a Peppered Lemon Dressing which was enjoyable and the mussels were a good size but, apart from cutting them into strips, how do you eat several whole lettuce leaves with decorum?

One of the main course dishes is Mild Chicken and Shrimp Cream Curry finished with Coconut Milk and Fresh Coriander. While I’m not a fan of chicken breast particularly when cubed as I find it tough and chewy, the seasoning of this dish was delectable. The other option, Grilled Fillet of Kingklip with Tomato, Olives and Feta served on Grilled Baby Marrow Strips, was pronounced delicious by my usually highly critical partner. Both desserts are charmingly decorated with a chocolate lyre shape and diners have a choice of a fair-sized portion of Sliced Strawberry Cheesecake served with Fresh Cream and piped Chocolate or Crème Caramel served with Orange Segments and fresh Mint. The venue is manned by students and hotel trainees and the service is efficient and unobtrusive.

One Voice runs until December 15. Dinner is at 19h00 with the show at 20h00 To book phone 304-0331.




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