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BOOGIE WONDERLAND (article first published : 2004-10-16)

The Barnard at Gateway has come up with a good choice with their new production, Boogie Wonderland, which is to run into the first week of January next year. A fast-moving compilation of well-known hits, the show will appeal to those who grew up with 70’s music, as well as their parents who became familiar with the numbers by default! The younger generation will enjoy the energy and vitality of the show, even if they don’t know the songs. All-told, a good family show.

Boogie Wonderland is scripted and directed by Catherine Mace and Duck Chowles with Ian von Memerty as Associate Director. As the narrator, Frank Graham generated much humour with his usual robust repartee incorporated into his role as the owner of a 70’s disco club, the upmarket Boogie Wonderland.

I was a little surprised at the device of presenting his character in a format so similar to the narrator of the Rocky Horror Picture Show, played by David Sherwood in both presentations of the musical at The Barnyard - the last season being as recent as three months ago. In both Rocky Horror Picture Show and Boogie Wonderland, the narrator gets steadily more inebriated as the action progresses. The setting of a disco club would, I have thought, offered marvellous scope for a different type of character.

Vocalists, who appear in a range of striking costumes and some seriously high platform shoes, are Petro de Villiers, Claire Rowlett, Clinton Philander and Duane van der Linde. Memorable numbers include Bad Moon Rising, Bette Davis Eyes, Staying Alive, a neat improvisation by the inimitable George Mari on trumpet and Rike Coetzer on sax and an enjoyable Neil Diamond tribute from guitarist Johan Liebenberg. When Clinton Philander and Duane van der Linde launched The Bee Gees medley, it was a poignant reminder that only two of the famous brothers are left – those harmonies will never be the same again.

The undeniable star of the show is Clinton Philander, who is well-known to Durban audiences. Always an engaging and delightful performer, he has been working further afield lately and has benefited considerably from the experience. There is a new-found style, sophistication and focus to his work, seen to particularly good advantage in Kung Fu Fighting.

Lighting designer Michael Broderick has pulled out all the stops for this one and the introduction of a mat under-lit with coloured discs makes for an attractive dimension. I liked the giant mirror balls either side above the stage which again offered flashes of colour through their reflective surfaces.

The show moves along at a good pace although the choice of numbers in the final section didn’t bring the same response from the audience as the earlier Grease Medley. The band under musical director Dawn Selby is strong, with Mark Freel on bass guitar and Mali Sewell on drums. It is placed either side of a wide staircase where the steps also offer areas for interesting lighting.

Don’t forget that you take your own food to Barnyard (no alcohol as there is a cash bar). Tonight members of the media were lucky enough to enjoy hampers from Picnic Fanatics and these are well worth the cost of R190 (for two people). Beautifully presented, tonight’s menu included a hummus and orange dip, tuna paté and angels on horseback accompanied by crudités, seed bread and breadsticks. For main course there was sweet chilli chicken pieces, slivers of beef fillet, pineapple and tomato salsa, smoked salmon and lemon wedges and chickpea and roasted vegetable salad. There’s even dessert – peanut and coffee biscotti, rum and chocolate truffles and famous brownies. A vegetarian hamper is also available. Contact 031 701 0036, e-mail picnicfanatics@iafrica.com or visit www.picnicfanatics.co.za

Boogie Wonderland runs right through the festive season to January 9, 2005, at The Barnyard Theatre at Gateway. Tickets R85 (Buy One Get One Free on Tuesday night and Sunday matinees). Bookings and enquiries on 031 566 3045, e-mail gateway@barnyardtheatre.co.za or visit www.barnyardtheatre.co.za – Caroline Smart




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