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Sunday, November 15, 2009


(Pic: Londiwe Dhlomo, Denya Maslen and Victor Samsanov)

Music cruise around the world makes for one of Upper Deck’s best productions to date. (Review by Caroline Smart)

Don’t have the time or the money to go on a cruise ship and sail to exotic destinations? Never fear, producer Wayne Scott has the answer with his latest production running at the Upper Deck of the Phantom Ship at uShaka Marine World.

Celebration offers an –albeit geographically illogical – trip to UK, Russia, Saudi Arabia, India and then Australia. After interval, it’s off to New Orleans, Texas, Jamaica, Rio and then home. This offers an excellent music cruise around the world with two amiable actors, some beautiful ladies, a hot band and a splendid range of costumes.

It’s also hats off to the Upper Deck for listening to suggestions and absorbing criticism over the years and continually improving the standard of presentation, particularly regards stage setting. For Celebration, the side flats are hung with brightly coloured material panels with draping over the band which gives a feeling of an exotic proscenium arch.

We’re on the MS uShaka, leaving Durban Harbour to a vibey rendering of the title number. Soon we encounter two stowaways – young Indian men out for a jol – who find they’ve landed themselves in something bigger than they expected.

Rory Booth who holds the show together with energy and focus plays Prakash, the brains behind the pair.He decides that in order to survive – and get some chow – they must pretend to be part of the entertainment group and so they sign up to audition. I loved his Ahab the Arab complete with camel noises.

His sidekick is Granville played by Brendan Mendez. Confident and amiable, he gives no indication that this is his first professional production. The genial butt of Prakash’s nonsense, he sings well and has a good falsetto. Hopefully we’ll see more of him in the future.

The ship’s dance team is headed by the ever-glamorous Londiwe Dhlomo who gets to handle some sultry vocals. She is supported by Danielle Mann and Denya Maslen who is in charge of the choreography.

Providing strong vocal backing from the band position is Krystle Temmerman with musical director Shem Mahabeer pulling good performances from his musicians who are now far more comfortable with the odd humorous gesture. Among them is the man with the looks, Mr uShaka - Victor Samsonov, who is as much at home on indigenous drums as he is on the violin, with a nice rendering of Danny Boy. He also provides his own didgeridoo noises! Hopefully, we’ll see more of him as well. Young Siyanda Zulu is another one to watch – charming and good-looking, he can act (as in Sun Arise) as well as play a cool trumpet.

Celebration is a fast-paced romp taking in a number of music styles from boisterous English pub songs, Irish River Dance themes and plaintive Russian melodies to stompin’ Country & Western, extravagant Bollywood, exotic Arabian dance, laid-back Jamaican rhythms, the hype of Rio and good ol’ South African numbers.

Director Charon Williams Ros has kept the pace nice and tight and Kevin Ellis’s costumes are a delight. However, I would still like to hear more clarity of sound so that the singers’ diction is more apparent and Siyanda Zulu should be miked up when he moves away from the band.

This is one of the Upper Deck’s best productions to date and, apart from offering highly entertaining fare for the average theatre-goer, would make an excellent choice for corporate end-of-year functions.

Celebration runs at the Upper Deck on the Phantom Ship at uShaka Marine World until January 16 from Thursday to Saturday nights at 20h00 (dinner starts at 19h00). Tickets R175 include the show and a three-course meal. Booking is at Computicket. For more information call 031 328 8000. – Caroline Smart