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JOHNNY PLAYS GUITAR (article first published : 2005-03-23)

The Barnyard Theatre has paid tribute to influential composers and vocalists and even the history of South African music, but things take an electrifying turn with Johnny Plays Guitar. It runs from March 15 to May 8 and, while it salutes musicians, it is dedicated to that essential rock ‘n roll instrument - the guitar.

Johnny Plays Guitar is a not-to-be-missed showdown that highlights the immense talent of Barry Thomson and Donovan Hattingh on guitar and vocals.

Songs featured in the show are classic hits that draw from an amazing range of music genres from rock to blues and rock ‘n roll. “You have never seen anything like this on a Barnyard stage before,” says Barry Thomson, who also co-devised and co-wrote the show with Duck Chowles. “Johnny Plays Guitar is a rock drama with the perfect synthesis between the story of a boy’s struggle for success in the music world and a unique selection of music from emotional, thought-provoking songs to foot-tapping favourites. Audiences are delighted with the characters and mesmerised by the guitar playing.”

The show tells the story of guitarist Johnny Lightning who meets an agent called Willie Brown and expresses the age-old desire for fame and fortune. Willie summonses Johnny to meet at the crossroads at midnight where he is introduced to the Damien, the devil’s advocate of rock ‘n roll.

Johnny signs an ominous deal with the dubious character, takes Willie on as his manager and learns to play the guitar like never before. He achieves overnight success and, as it goes to his head, Johnny steals Damien’s woman. Damien vows to take revenge and does it by poisoning him with rock and roll’s vices. The excess of late nights and too much tequila causes Johnny to collapse on stage and be cast under Damien’s contract for eternity.

Compassionate Willie Brown comes to the rescue and manages to negotiate a deal whereby Johnny and Damien will face each other in an emotionally-charged guitar duel and, should Johnny win, he’ll be set free from Damien’s clutches.

The story is held together with some of the greatest guitar hits. The influence of the guitar on the musical world is diverse and is indicated with songs like Thunderstruck which shows off speed playing and Show Me The Way where Barry uses a talkbox, a method which made the song famous. Other hits include Rocking in the Free World – an official anthem for the World Air Guitar competition – and Little Wing which was written and performed by Jimi Hendrix but has also been covered by Toto, Sting and The Corrs. A moving unplugged section covers Tears From Heaven, Sting’s haunting Fragile and Hotel California. The recent Evanescence hit, My Immortal, was added due to popular demand.

The story unfolds through an awesome cast with Barnyard regular Barry Thomson playing the lead role as Johnny Lightning and Donovan Hattingh that of Damien. Lebo Mochudi is the blues man and agent Willie Brown, and Desire Henning takes on female lead vocals as Damien’s girlfriend Lucy. The rest of the band comprises Calli Thomson on keyboards, Mali Sewell on drums and Durbanite Andy Turrell on bass guitar.

An extra show will be staged on Family Day over the Easter weekend on March 28 at 20h00.

Tickets are R85 per person, with Buy One Get One Free promotions on Tuesday and Sunday. For bookings and enquiries, phone The Barnyard Theatre at Gateway on 031 566 3045, e-mail gateway@barnyardtheatre.co.za or visit www.barnyardtheatre.co.za for more information.




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