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

THE BLUES BROTHERS (article first published : 1999-12-10)

Tell any director that you want to dress performers for a music/dance revue in black hats, black suits and sunglasses and they’ll probably throw up their hands in horror. Audiences usually focus on performers’ faces and, particularly, on their eyes. Therefore, it’s difficult to appreciate to the full whatever expression is given out by a performer when his eyes are covered up with black glasses, the face is further obscured by the shadow of a hat and movement is restricted by loose fitting suits.

No problem for Dale Venter and Richard Smith, currently appearing in The Blues Brothers at the Langoustine Theatre by the Sea. Resembling a mix of Laurel and Hardy and the Men in Black, their wacky partnership sizzles and the body language belts out power with energy plus. Dale Venter, who is fairly solid, even did a couple of cartwheels to prove it! And anyone who can get a group of grown people to flap their hands in the air like agitated baby birds deserves credit!

Dale Venter and Richard Smith triumph as the legendary Rock ‘n Roll and R&B characters Jake and Elwood Blues, originally created and performed by John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd. They shot to fame after an appearance in 1978 on the late night American TV show Saturday Night Live which prompted an offer of a live recording contract from Atlantic Records. A Briefcase Full of Blues, released later that year, still ranks as Atlantic’s fastest selling record. John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd went on to make The Blues Brothers movie which was later released on video.

Back to the Langoustine. Supporting Dale and Richard are Crystal Tryon, always charming, spunky and glamorous as well as welcome newcomer to the Durban theatre scene, good-looking and versatile Teboho “T-Bone” Hlahane. Nice to see Francis Gavin (last seen in Robin’s A Cruise Ou holding his own with more experienced performers. Dressed in standard City Police gear, he spends most of the time operating the follow spot but takes part in the action every so often, belting back and forth from his position next to the sound desk. He also gives a delightful impersonation of a sax player. During these moments, the spotlight goes onto automatic pilot!!

The backing tracks are good, the Langoustine sound mix is much improved and the song list includes popular numbers such as In the Midnight Hour, Hey Bartender, Hold On, Soulman, Minnie the Moocher, Raw Hide and Jailhouse Rock. There’s also a delightful arrangement of Two Little Boys and a particularly fine performance by Chrystal Tryon of Stand by your Man. Under the Board Walk was a showstopper.

You’ll find no glitzy costumes and riotous colour in this show. Crystal and Teboho remain in under-played tones while Dale and Richard turn black suits normally associated with funerals or dominees into quirky fashion statements. Their images are made even more offbeat by wild sidekicks and wacky movements.

The set is good and stage is originally covered with a “safety curtain”, an innovative idea but without any visual clue as to what it’s about, the offstage banging and clattering aimed to get the audience in the mood just before the show only serves to distract.

“Non-Stop Serious Party” says the publicity blurb and, for once, you can believe it. Duncan Royce (Mercury Rising) has proved yet again that he is a director to watch. Catherine Royce has skilfully re-staged for the Langoustine stage this production which has achieved major success in South Africa over the past two years and won numerous FNB Vita awards. Under Richard Smith’s controlled musical direction, it’s a show not to be missed.

Tickets are R100 and the show runs nightly from Tuesday to Saturday at 20h30 with Sunday performances at 18h00. There are Sunday afternoon shows (no meal) on December 12 and 19 at 14h30 (tickets at R25). The evening shows offer a three-course meal and starters include Calamari Salad, Seafood Ragout, Duo of Homemade Pastrami Terrine and Chicken Terrine with Liver Centre served with Mustard Pickles or Goats Milk Cheese and Potato Terrine served with Avocado Dip. On the main course menu are Roast Gammon garnished with Pineapple and Apple Sauce, Lamb Shank (a Langoustine tried and tested favourite), Chicken and Prawn Curry or Vegetable Lasagne. For dessert, there’s Traditional Christmas Pudding with Custard or Strawberries with Ice Cream.

Presented by Venture Capital, The Blues Brothers is expected to run until early January. Book via Lisa on (031) 563-7324 or at Computicket.




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