national Arts Festival Banner

Sunday, December 14, 2008


Another professional offering from one of the oldest surviving “amdrams” in South Africa. (Review by Maurice Kort)

The Westville Theatre Club may be an amateur dramatic society, but their shows continue to be very professional. No wonder they are possibly one of the oldest surviving "Amdrams" in the country, certainly in KwaZulu-Natal.

This is once more evident in their latest offering by first-time director Jerryn Fosteras. He has compiled a show using a cast of 11 singers, some being Club stalwarts and others bright new talent, worthy additions to the club. The eight ladies and three men of the cast perform the well compiled programme in various combinations or in solo numbers starting with I Need a Hero by all the ladies which gives a taste of the polished performances to come.

The Clubhouse has extended the stage with a wide walkway into the auditorium with great effect and the beautiful backdrop by the artistic Jill Sysum sets a very classy scene. She also performs Crazy which was one of my favourite numbers, as she did it so beautifully. It is, however, unfair to single out individual singers or songs as the whole cast have such wonderful voices. In magnificent voice was Sylvia Tempest (River Deep, Mountain High, I'm Outta Love and Because of You) and very popular was Michelle Ostler with Dream a Little Dream"If I Could Turn Back Time, Angel, and Take a Bow.

What a find the Club has in Christian D'Ahl and his strong operatic voice whose Hero and especially the final number You Raise Me Up showed his talents to the full. Very popular with a great stage presence is long standing member Rashid Fataar, enjoyed in many previous productions, who thrilled the audience with No Promises, Faith, Mustang Sally and Oh What a Night. Completing the male solo numbers was Your Song by Charles Gray. Further solo numbers, by the ladies, were Hurt by Susan Watt, Honey Honey by Claire Hallett, Underneath Your Clothes by Sarah Joubert and Left Outside Alone by Danielle Cook.

Completing the cast was Barbara McMillan. Other numbers performed by various combinations of the singers, who blended magnificently, were I Believe in You, Chain Reaction, I Love Rock and Roll, Unbreak My Heart, Beautiful Liar, Believe, Tell Him and Taking Chances in the very well balanced programme.

The backing tracks, thanks to Carole Brown, were superb and the sound was at a perfect level, not being too loud, full credit to Kevin Hillier, the Sound Engineer, and Musical Direction by Jerryn Fosteras and Heather Dix so that every word of every song could be heard perfectly with no over-amplification and no distortion. So many professional companies could learn well from this Amdram society.

A very small quibble is the short delay with a bare stage between the numbers. This by no means caused the show to drag but it is a cardinal rule of theatre not to have a bare stage. Admittedly, time was required to set up the backing tracks but the next artists could perhaps have entered the stage more promptly. The Club has over the years accumulated excellent sound and lighting equipment and these are used to full effect, adding tremendously to the polish of the production. With Jerryn Fosteros also being responsible for the Lighting Design and Operation he is becoming a Jack of All Trades.

A Touch of Class certainly lives up to its title, from so many aspects. Besides the clever choice of programme and top class singers, so much is added to the classiness of the production by the costumes (Jerryn Fosteros again, Kevin Hillier and Lynda Hoddinott), jewellery (thanks to Barbara McMillan) and hair styles, not omitting the backdrop already mentioned.

Another aspect of this show from which several professional music review/compilation shows could learn is the inevitable final audience applause and request for an encore. Instead of the performers giving new numbers, which are obviously pre-scripted and are not "more" but part of the show, A Touch of Class rewards the enthusiastic audience with a true encore, albeit properly prepared, by briefly reprising several of the hit numbers from the show. Class indeed.

A Touch of Class ran at the Westville Theatre Club from December 5 to 13 . – Maurice Kort