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Saturday, July 13, 2013


(Jonathan Roxmouth as Liberace)
Jonathan Roxmouth pays tribute to Liberace in a production not to be missed! (Review by Caroline Smart)

Any show featuring multi-award winning theatre star Jonathan Roxmouth is always a pleasure and his new piano show Call Me Lee is no exception.

Known as "Lee" to his friends, Liberace was a worldwide and much loved pianist – generally dubbed “Mr Showmanship”. Born of an Italian mother and a Polish father, he played most of the world’s top performance venues and had his own television show.

The major part of his career spanned four decades from the 1950s to the 1970s during which time he was the highest-paid entertainer in the world. Extravagantly dressed in splendid spangled outfits, his hands adorned with numerous large jewelled rings, he always played with his trademark candelabra placed on top of the piano.

At Rhumbelow, the continued changing versions of the candelabra from the first simple version to the final ornate one chart the journey of Liberace’s life as Roxmouth entrances audiences with the musician’s famous style of wit. This also included Liberace’s way of engaging with his audience, inviting them to touch his clothes or inspect his jewellery up close.

Roxmouth has a powerful voice which the public was introduced to through his roles as Gaston in Beauty and the Beast and as the Phantom in Phantom of the Opera. He has successfully subdued this natural resonance and depth to emulate Liberace’s speech and singing style accurately without making him sound camp.

He’s also an extremely talented and dexterous pianist (he’s an integral member of Ian von Memerty’s A Handful of Keys) which adds more accuracy to Call Me Lee. A camera focused on the keyboard shows every note he plays. Dizzy Fingers had me stunned as did a virtuoso rendition of Chopsticks!

Expect to hear Liberace’s signature I'll Be Seeing You and I'm Always Chasing Rainbows as well as Tiger Rag, Boogie Woogie to the Beer Barrel Polka and The Blue Danube with Chopin, Rachmaninoff and Tchaikovsky thrown in for good measure. There’s even a medley of audience requests. Don’t be shy in asking, the result is worth it!

Such an array of splendid glittering costumes by award-winning designer Lena Olivier have never been seen before at Rhumbelow. For a short while, we were transported back into history.

Unfortunately, last night it seemed that every technological gremlin within sight or sound of Rhumbelow Theatre decided to zoom in, which nearly derailed the first half of the show.

Any competent actor or actress can hold their own on stage with minor technical hitches, but it takes a true professional to get out of trouble without allowing the audience to be aware that there is a problem. However, when the problem does becomes obvious, more fancy footwork is required to keep the audience relaxed .

During interval, the problems were ironed out and the second act continued without glitches and this will be the quality of the production that audiences will see from now on. However, last night’s audience was privileged to watch an ultra-professional, totally controlled and fast-thinking performer at work. Jonathan Roxmouth, I take my hat off to you!

Call Me Lee runs until July 20 with evening performances on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at 19h30, Fridays and Saturdays at 20h00 and Sunday (July 14) at 18h30. There are matinee shows on Sunday (July 14) and next Saturday (July 20) at 14h00. The venue opens 90 minutes before show for picnic dinner.

Tickets R100 (less 25% pensioners and tables of eight or more). Take along food picnic baskets and braais will be available. There is limited secure parking and booking is essential. A cash bar is available (no alcohol may be brought on to the premises). Rhumbelow Theatre is situated in Cunningham Avenue off Bartle Road. Booking is through Computicket or contact Roland on 031 205 7602 (h) or 082 499 8636, email or visit – Caroline Smart