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ROCK AROUND THE CLOCK (article first published : 2006-02-15)

Today was, of course, Valentine’s Day and so Rock Around the Clock, the new show at the Barnyard, was a popular choice for an evening’s entertainment – especially those of an age to remember when the original artists made it to the hit parade. However, this did not mean that the audience was restricted to the over 50’s – far from it, there was a strong younger contingent who obviously have the capacity to recognise good pop tunes when they hear them.

The show is placed in a recording studio. Talking of which, I enjoyed the two-tone set with its drawings and images and Michael Broderick’s lighting is highly effective. It’s 1959 and the time is 8 pm. Perched high above the stage in a recording booth, a radio presenter launches into his programme, The 2 Tone Zone. David Sherwood’s long experience in theatre, particularly comedy, as well as his many years on Springbok Radio come to the fore in his pithy presentation of an amusing script by Bronwyn Evans who also directed the show.

I was uncomfortable with the interpretation of the opening numbers – the Cliff Richard Medley, Wanna Dance and Mac The Knife - as they were too pedantic and failed to capture the essence of the originals, particularly the Cliff Richard numbers. Cliff’s early songs were characteristic for their lightness and ingenuous feel.

However things improved considerably as the evening progressed and the vocalists – Carl Erasmus, Joel Zuma, Ruth Brown and David Chevers - did justice to some of the finest rock ‘n roll songs ever written. They are supported by dancers Candice van Rensburg and Sue Groenewald and backed by Tory du Plessis (keyboards), Josh Thatcher (lead guitar), Donovan Thatcher (bass guitar), Mark Whittaker (drums) and Colin Mairs (sax).

Joel is a former Durban actor, having done his training at the Department of Drama Studies at Technikon Natal, while David Chevers was seen here towards the end of last year in KickstArt’s production of Dracula.

Highlight of the show for me – and for many in the audience – was Ruth Brown’s beautifully controlled and impressive performance of Crazy. Other numbers I particularly enjoyed were Carl Erasmus’ Unchained Melody, Joel Zuma’s Only You and David Chevers’ That’ll Be The Day, although the latter needs to work on his breath control for Smoke Gets in Your Eyes.

No programme of this nature would be complete without the inimitable Elvis and this is where Carl Erasmus came into his own, although I missed the smouldering sensuality that the lyrics of Presley’s songs demand. Always good to see Colin Mairs on stage. Move over all the blonde bombshells who have played the sax at the Barnyard – Colin is pure class! His accompaniment to Ruth’s Raining in My Heart was sensitive and poignant. Lead guitarist Josh Thatcher gave an excellent performance of Johnny B Goode. In fact, he is much under-utilised, we should see more of him.

Rock Around the Clock is set to be a winner at The Barnyard but there are certain problems which I can’t in all conscience pass over. While still erratic, the sound is better than it has been. However, the show needs much stronger direction and choreography. Members of the audience were producing more accurate versions of the Twist than were happening on stage! The costumes are attractive but in one number the men looked as if they were dressed in pyjamas and towards the end, the dancers wear outfits more suited to the Moulin Rouge. I also thought that Chantilly Lace would have sparked more imaginative garments. However, it’s the music that counts. The numbers have stood the test of time and the programme selection is rock solid (pun intended!). So book early – I predict tickets will sell fast.

Rock Around the Clock runs at The Barnyard until March 26. Tickets R90 pp (Buy One Get One Free promotions on Tuesday nights and Sunday matinees). Bookings and enquiries on 031 566 3045, e-mail gateway@barnyardtheatre.co.za For more information, visit www.barnyardtheatre.co.za – Caroline Smart




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