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

BEAUTIFUL NOISE (article first published : 2003-05-10)

Beautiful Noise running at the Royal Hotel Backstage features two new faces on the Durban supper theatre scene – that of the show’s creator, singer Wallace Nock who also plays guitar and sax, and pianist Rodney Chapman. They have inspanned the considerable talents of Vanessa Skaer and Darren King to produce a tribute to Neil Diamond and Barry Manilow.

Superstars Diamond and Manilow are among the topmost exports from New York City which is why Darren King has designed a NYC skyline as a backdrop. Early in the show, some of the smaller skyscrapers move and it is discovered that they have been cleverly designed as stools for Vanessa and Darren to sit on.

All four performers are highly proficient in what they do. Rodney Chapman keeps a low profile, barely lifting his head from the keyboard but his influence on the show is strong and consistent.

Although he has a rather disconcerting way of staring at the ceiling every so often, Wallace Nock proves that he’s at his best in numbers such as Desiree, Red Red Wine, Cracklin’ Rosie, Long Fellow Serenade and Love on the Rocks.

Well-known for their immaculate song and dance showgirl-type routines, a throwback to the years of experience they had in British musicals, Vanessa and Darren are appearing together for what is probably the last time for a while as Vanessa heads back to England soon. This will be a loss to Durban audiences as their professional relationship has brought much enjoyment to the local scene over the years. I have to admit that their stage farewell to each other, Hello Again, brought a distinctive response from the tear ducts.

The show gets off to rather an abrupt start. Although, in fairness, it’s quite difficult to create a dramatic opening at Backstage. There’s only one entrance onto the stage and not much room in which to move. The performers suddenly appear without much build-up but the show settles down after that into a well-placed programme of songs that create an atmosphere mixing moods and rhythms – all long favourites of Diamond and Manilow fans.

I enjoyed Vanessa’s September Morn and I made it through the rain. Darren’s Mandy and I write the Songs were good but I felt that a rather pedantic backing track marred his Can’t Smile Without You. Their You don’t bring me flowers was a delight! Darren’s Song Sung Blue with Wallace was another highlight and rousing ensemble numbers were I’m a Believer and Sweet Caroline - well, I would enjoy that one, wouldn’t I? The song has a certain narcissistic element!

In the first half, the men wear shirts of highly attractive material – if they’re missing from the dressing room rail one evening, you’ll know where to find them!

The lighting and sound system at Backstage is seriously in need of an overhaul as their limitations are beginning to impact on performances. There’s little point in the five-star hotel putting on stylish, sophisticated and top class reviews when the performers are occasionally in the dark or the sound balance is such that you can’t hear what they’re singing for noise – ie overpowering backing tracks.

All told, however, the average audience member won’t be able to identify these shortcomings too clearly and will simply enjoy Neil Diamon and Barry Manilow’s music presented with respect, faithfully and in an extremely comfortable atmosphere by four proficient performers.

Tickets R120 include a three-course meal. Starters are a beautifully smooth Chicken Liver Pate or Cream of Mushroom Soup with Blue Cheese which was highly praised by our companion. The Roast Sirloin of Beef also received accolades while I was very happy with my choice of Seafood Symphony. Dessert is a delicious – but very rich Marbled Chocolate Mousse. Bookings through the Royal Hotel on 031 333 6000. – Caroline Smart




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