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RAISING THE STANDARDS (article first published : 2005-02-12)

You canít help enjoying a GeeJays production Ė okay, they sing the same old songs most of the time and their routine is pretty much of a muchness but itís presented in an entertaining package by three completely different entertainers whose energy and joy at what they do is so infectious that it transfers to their audiences. Itís small wonder that they are now entering their 20th year together.

Raising the Standards is the second show in the recently revamped Royal Hotel Grill Room and I expect that it will be highly successful.

The previous show, Aladdin Trouble, was an excellent production but it was a fair mission for cast and designers to make use of the imposing width of the stage. The two lofty palm trees rising from front of stage are part of the Grill Roomís dťcor. They worked extremely well with Aladdinís Eastern theme but they could easily upstage any production. With Raising the Standards, however, they form a useful purpose Ė that of narrowing the audienceís focus to centre stage which, in fact, is all the GeeJays use.

Thereís very little in the way of set dressing, apart from lights on the backcloth, and itís not needed. However, I would have liked something on the two extreme curtained areas Ė tiny lights or the odd twinkling sequin just to break the solid black.

Donít look for a plot Ė there isnít one! Or, rather thereís a somewhat flimsy structure thatís all about raising standards in the new South Africa, on a range of subjects from education to sport. John Didlickís character natters on about upgrading his bar area but thatís before his much-loved use of malapropisms lands him in hot water with the other two performers. Gary McKenzie camps up his backing singer roles and Grant Bell oozes a suave charm.

Producing the closest sound to the Beatles I have yet to hear and playing guitars ďunpluggedĒ (in the widest possible sense), the trio break up into solos occasionally. I liked Grantís Falling in Love and Walking in Memphis; Garyís Oh, Mandy and Georgia (in a sequence paying tribute to the late great Ray Charles), and Johnís Iím a Believer and Old Man River although I would have preferred to hear the original arrangement of the song. I am never comfortable about the tendency (also happening in The Barnyardís current show) to turn Piano Man into a wild swaying number Ė itís completely at odds with the songís mood.

I think this is one of the Gee Jaysí most successful shows where they do what they do best Ė sing well together, act well together and fool around exceptionally well together. John Didlick did an amusing send-up of Archbishop Desmond Tutu talking about Adam and Eve. The material can be risque but it is certainly not offensive. Make sure you ask for an encore, although youíll probably get one, anyway!

Tickets R150 include the show and a three-course meal to be enjoyed in comfort in one of the most gracious restaurant venues in town. On offer is a plate of assorted hot snacks to start with followed by a choice of Rosemary Herb-Crusted Leg of Lamb, Coconut Poached Kingklip with a Chilli and Lime Crust or Crumbed Black Mushroom. We had the lamb and the fish and both were very good. Sweets are served from the Royal Grill Roomís legendary delectable range of desserts. Service was excellent tonight and the restaurant management is always present without being officious.

Shows are held from Wednesdays to Saturdays. Times are 19h00 for the meal with curtain up at 20h30. Bookings on 031 333 6000 or Computicket. For corporate or block bookings phone Gary on 082 459 2804. Ė Caroline Smart

On Tuesdays there will be a "show only" special at R60 pp, where patrons who only wish to see the show without the dining option can do so. There will still be a bar service. Patrons should arrive for seating at 20h00.




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