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LA VIDA (article first published : 2003-06-15)

The Barnyard Theatre has a brand new stage setting and an extra powerhouse of sound. This is all highly beneficial to La Vida, the show currently running at this popular supper venue at the Gateway shopping complex.

The ultra-professional Shelley McLean with lead male vocalists Jason Ralph and Bruce Taljaard take audiences on a joyous and exuberant ride of Latin music in which they pay tribute to songs by such stars as Ricky Martin, Shakira, Madonna, Santana, Gloria Estefan, Toni Braxton and Gypsy Kings.

For the first time, The Barnyard has included two dancers – Dany Lea Ribbink and Anneline Potgieter - who make good use of the limited space available to showcase their movement skills. For the first time, also, The Barnyard has presented a show that is neat and compact and focuses on a single theme, rather than a party piece with music taken from various sources.

In an array of flattering costumes by Gareth Kenna, Shelley McLean won the audience over from the start and they responded with delight to her numbers. As the more-than-somewhat inebriated Sanchez, Jason Ralph impresses with the quality of his voice and the disarming Bruce Taljaard is an energetic foil as his counterpart.

It’s a great band with flamboyant Jorge Bastos on drums and percussion, popular drumming circle organiser Richard Ellis (nice to see him in a show, for a change) also on percussion with Mark Freel on guitar and Calli Thomson on keyboards. On trumpet and trombone were George Mari and Ross Butcher (alternating with Alistair McDonald and Mario Monteregge respectively).

A firm favourite at Barnyard is saxophonist Chris Luke who makes his debut as a vocalist in an interesting version of Cantelope Island. Another Barnyard favourite is guitarist Barry Thomson, the show’s music director, who handles some of the Santana numbers to delirious audience response.

A goodlooking line-up of soloists, tall leggy dancers, a hot band and Michael Broderick’s vibrant lighting design together with a well designed set makes for Barnyard’s most visually exciting production to date. Expect to hear good renditions of numbers like Copacabana, Living La Vida Loca, Spanish Guitar, Samba Pati, Maria, Quando Quando, La Bamba and Hot Hot Hot, to name just a few.

Take a picnic meal to Gateway – but no alcohol as there is a cash bar. We opted for a highly enjoyable meal from Mugg and Bean which consisted of humus and bagel chips, quartered smoked baby chicken and freshly baked garlic and cheese baps with salad, finished off with a Maxwell Brownie.

Directed by Clive Allardyce, La Vida runs until July 27. Tickets R70 with Buy One Get One Free promotions running on Tuesday night and Sunday matinee shows. Booking and inquiries on 031 566 3045, e-mail barngate@mweb.co.za or visit www.barnyardtheatre.co.za – Caroline Smart




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