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

BRUTAL TUNES (article first published : 2003-08-11)

Popular music today is characterised by the effect, or the sound, rather than the words or lyrics.

Director Caroline Smart and her talented team have set out to change all that with Brutal Tunes which opened on Friday at the Royal Hotel’s Backstage. The show comprises a pot-pourri of songs with meaningful words from, among others, Stephen Sondheim, Tom Lehrer, and Noel Coward.

These three composers represent some of the most talented lyricists of the past 60 years.

Although tunes are not ignored - witness the title - it is the words which matter most to singers Lisa Bobbert and Anthony Stonier, with Andrew Warburton on piano, in this sparkling new show. Bobbert, vivacious singer and comedienne, has teamed up with the multi -talented Stonier for the first time in 13 years. And what a creative partnership it is!

They sail through the opening two numbers, Lehrer's Poisoning Pigeons In The Park, and Coward's prophetic What's Going To Happen To The Tots? with breezy aplomb. Then it is Bobbert's turn in the morbid and biting Irish Ballad. She is also remarkably good in the rollicking Master of the House from the musical hit Les Misérables. Warburton provides solid support throughout the performance and his chance to really shine occurs in the Brutal Concerto, which he executes with consummate ease. The versatile Stonier proves that he, too, is no slouch at the keyboard and he fills in elegantly at the piano from time to time.

The legendary Eartha Kitt is recalled in her classic number, An Englishman Needs Time, and Bobbert performs Coward's Bar on the Piccola Marina with tipsy abandon. The Seven Deadly Virtues exhibits a different, cynical side of the composers Lerner and Loewe while Sondhem's Getting Married Today is also "brutal" and unnervingly on target.

Stonier is wickedly funny as The Gay Eskimo written by Adam Sandler and Bobbert positively shines in I've Been To A Marvellous Party, another Coward classic. In a production laden with good things, this scintillating performance represents the high point.

Two rather gory Lehrer offerings - I Hold Your Hand In Mine and The Masochism Tango - end the entertaining 70-minute show with a parody of Downtown relevant to Durban as an encore.

The Royal cuisine is first-rate as always, with the starter choice being between a tasty smoked chicken and pasta shells creation and a nourishing minestrone soup. The main course is an option either of deliciously-prepared linefish or succulent Karoo lamb. Milk tart served with an orange whipped cream completes the three-course menu.

Altogether, Brutal Tunes is polished and well-directed and deserves full houses until the end of its run on September 13. Lighting is by Kerry De Witt and sound by Janet Walsh.

Tickets R120 include dinner, booked through the Royal on 031 333 6000. More details on 082 882 9869 - Patrick Leeman.




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