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THOSE WERE THE DAYS (article first published : 2005-10-23)

A spaced-out Awesome Powers (well-played by Kieran Rennie) hosts the latest show at the Barnyard Theatre at Gateway. Due to run over the festive season until early January, Those Were the Days is a musical tribute to the songs, singers and groups of the 60’s, a decade that embraced major social changes which in turn impacted on the style of lyrics and compositions.

There was war (Vietnam), flower power (Woodstock), the FAB Four (The Beatles) and 007 (James Bond); not to mention the Profumo scandal in Britain as well as the Great Train Robbery, the launch of Concord, fashion designer Mary Quant and the slender model Twiggy. Sir Francis Chichester sailed single-handed around the world, the Royal Shakespeare Company was formed and The Beatles received MBE’s.

The initial censorship of the Lord Chamberlain of Hair was overthrown and the hippie musical went on to take London and the world by storm. The Barnyard show incorporates a medley from Hair including the title song, Age of Aquarius and Let the Sun Shine.

Also expect to hear songs like California Dreaming, You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling, Mustang Sally, and Hey Jude alongside medleys of songs made famous by Tom Jones, Simon & Garfunkel, Neil Diamond and the Beach Boys.

It’s good to see former Durban actor Joel Zuma back in town. Always impressive vocally, he has gained considerable maturity of performance and breezed through numbers such as My Girl and He Ain’t Heavy. Kieran and Joel are supported by good-looking female vocalists, brunette Monique Steyn and blonde Adri Britz.

The backing is excellent with musical director Calli Thomson on keyboards, Josh Thatcher on lead guitar – particularly good in Wipe Out, Joe van der Linden on bass guitar and Mali Sewell on drums. Judy Brown on saxophone brought much humour to Yakety Sax and Gavin Knox-Grant is a trumpeter of considerable ability. I also enjoyed I’m a Believer, Sounds of Silence and You’re My World.

Michael Broderick’s lighting design is splendid, capturing the wild imagery of those psychedelic years. The set works well with the Bleeding Heart pub on one side opposite the Sherlock Holmes on the other – across the street, as it were. The costumes by Tracy Gielink and Trevor McClymont are very attractive, ranging from elegant outfits to colourful hippie gear.

The visual mood is all there with Ban the Bomb T-shirts, knee-high boots and mini skirts and the music is generally sound although there were occasional real lulu’s in the harmonies. I really wasn’t happy with mixing the 007 theme with the show title – it didn’t work.

More than anything, the show cries out for more imaginative direction and far greater dramatic impact to lift it from its “concert” status. A good choreographer to create better placing and to ensure consistency and accuracy of movement style would make a big difference. For a change, I am happy to say that I had no problem with the sound!

Those Were The Days runs from October 4 to January 8. Tickets R90 pp (Buy One Get One Free promotions on all Tuesday night and Sunday matinee shows). Bookings and enquiries on 031 566 3045.

There will be no shows on Christmas and New Year’s Day but Buy One Get One Free evening shows will be staged on December 26 and January 2. There will be additional lunchtime shows on three consecutive Fridays: November 25 as well as December 2 and 9. – Caroline Smart

”Those Were The Days” should not be confused with the show of the same name that had several sell-out seasons at Kwasuka Theatre and the Royal Backstage a few years ago.




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