national Arts Festival Banner

Saturday, November 22, 2008


The splendid Playhouse Opera proves it still has the capacity to host a musically exciting and visually stunning “unforgettable” festive season show! (Review by Caroline Smart)

Last night, the splendid Playhouse Opera theatre proved that it still had the operational technical capacity to host a musically exciting and visually stunning production … with all the stops full out!

Director Mark Hawkins’s association with the venue is long-standing both as producer, dancer and choreographer. He knows every last fly bar, stage lift level and performance space. Working with a great team of designer Dicky Longhurst (sets and costumes) and choreographer Desiré Davids, he has put together a superb top-of-the range production that is bound to draw sell-out audiences for the festive season. The musical component is impressive with Lyk Temmingh conducting the KwaZulu-Natal Philharmonic and Melvin Peters in charge of a contemporary band.

Unforgettable goes way back – Mark Hawkins has already directed two such productions for the Playhouse Dance Company. In the programme notes, he describes this production as being “a really fresh and new look” that features what he calls “the magic of theatre”.

Theatrical magic there is aplenty as the Opera Theatre responds to the guiding inspiration of those who know her well. As far as my knowledge of the venues, I think they have used virtually every aspect of technology available! I won’t spoil some of the most exhilarating moments by description but I can promise that audiences will be transported by some of the effects

The highlight of the production for me, personally, is the return of Sam Marais to the Durban stage. A stalwart of Durban musical productions for many years – including Geoffrey Sutherland’s groundbreaking Queen at the Opera - we’ve missed that distinctive mischievous grin, those hunched shoulders and that effortless footwork! The response from tonight’s audience to his first appearance on stage reinforced the general feeling that “It’s good to see you back home, Sam!”

Appearing alongside Sam are Gina Shmukler and Pume Zondi – both ladies with a powerhouse energy – as well as Renee whose velvet-voiced charm won him audience acclaim. Heading the vocal ensemble were Lauren Dasappa (not giving the secret of her stunning appearance away!) and Zenneth Cibane supported by Bongi Simelane, Krystle Temmerman, Robert Petersen, Lubabalo Nteyi, Bandile Hlophe and Rory Booth.

Of course, Unforgettable is mainly about dance and featured dancers Melloney de Beer and Alain Rijnvis kept the pace going with Zinhle Gumede, Sifiso Khumalo, Liselle Sproull, Sifiso Majola, Thuli Khumalo and Karabo Maithufi. Choreographer Desire Davids also dances in the show as does her partner, the inimitable Boyzie Cekwana.

If you arrive late – and if I had my way, latecomers wouldn’t be allowed to disrupt those audience members who are better disciplined– you’ll miss an important part of the show. This is the opportunity to see the full extent of the Opera Stage in its bare state with all the danger features clearly marked as well as the lighting rigs and ladders. As the cast move in to the strains of Sondheim’s Putting it Together, that’s exactly what happens as the theatre space transforms “bit by bit” into a stunning, sophisticated and sassy performance whole.

Unforgettable is filled with high energy and sassy up-tempo movement as well as wry humour and gentle pathos – in other words, there’s something for all. The scenes flow seamlessly into each other so that the songs and dances with different performers, different rhythms and different styles slide comfortably into a highly entertaining whole.

Expect to hear numbers such as the title song as well as Maybe This Time, Sooner or Later, Love The One You’re With, Roxanne, Crazy Little Thing Called Love, Winter Light, Hit Me With A Hot Note, Diamonds Are Forever, Heatwave, Special Star, Stand By Your Man, Sisters Are Doing It for Themselves, Simply Irresistible, It’s Raining Men, Moving On Up, We Are Family and Shout.

Unforgettable runs in the Playhouse Opera until December 19. Tickets from R80 to R100 (pre-bookings) and R100 to R120 (door sales). Early booking advised through Computicket on 083 915 8000, or call Playhouse Box Office on 031 369 9540 (office hours). Believe me, this production lives up to its promotional hype. See if it you want a great evening’s entertainment – Caroline Smart

Why not buy a theatre ticket as a Christmas/festive season/end of year/whatever present for the special people in your life? Watch artSMart for reviews of what’s coming up or else email