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

ROLL OVER BEETHOVEN (article first published : 2004-04-20)

Durban audiences are currently enjoying a return visit of this lively and rollicking show which opened at the popular Barnyard venue at Gateway more than three years ago. It represents thoroughly enjoyable entertainment marred, however, by the completely unnecessary intrusion of Cedric Vandenshrik as Ludwig van Beethoven.

Reminding the audience of the ostensible lack of modern musical tunes and praising the work of the classical composers such as himself, Tchaikovsky and Bach, his constant appearances on stage represent not only an annoyance but also an embarrassment. The fake German accent and the cheesy script do not help either.

The music should have been left to speak (or sing) for itself. This is really a shame because the actor/singer concerned is immensely talented. He is quite splendid as Michael Jackson, exiting to the plaintive line “Will you all just leave me alone?” He excels in the Queen medley and as the spaced-out Jim Morrison in numbers made famous by The Doors such as Riders On The Storm and Light My Fire.

Percy Smith, the other male vocalist, gives a most accomplished performance in Beatles’ evergreens such as Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds and All You Need is Love as well as in several other high-quality appearances.

Shelley McLean, as female vocalist, was very effective in the first half in numbers such as Natural Woman, Billie Jean and I Will Survive. Her role will be taken over by alternate performer Cherise Roberts between April 20 and May 16.

The instrumental work in this show is of a very high standard – Adri Naude demonstrated her versatility both on the violin and keyboards from the very outset. Judy Brown excels on both saxophone and keyboards. Donovan Hattingh is a solid artist on guitar while Joe van der Linden on bass guitar and Colin Heaney on drums contribute their considerable combined talents to produce a very satisfactory – if over-loud – sound. Healey really comes into his own at the end of the show with a dazzling display of versatility on the drums.

The production, devised and directed by Duck Chowles, contains memorable songs that young, middle-aged and even old people can identify with tunes such as A Whiter Shade of Pale, the Henry Mancini theme from The Pink Panther; My Heart Will Go On, the theme tune from Titanic; Elton John’s Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me; Walking on Sunshine, and Oh What a Night.

In spite of “lugubrious Ludwig”, Roll Over Beethoven can be recommended as pleasant, undemanding entertainment. The show runs at the Barnyard Theatre until May 16. Book through the theatre on 031 566 3045. – Patrick Leeman.




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