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Tuesday, September 3, 2013

80’S VS 90’S

 A victory all round! (Review by John Harley)

Reviewing a production of the nature of Barnyard Theatre’s latest show, 80’s vs 90’s - ie a clash of two music eras - made me a little uneasy; I mean, how could one actually do this? I needn't have been concerned ... the concept actually worked! I do have a few suggestions, but it all pretty much came together nicely.

The opening number was stunning, followed by a list of top hits a mile long - all presented in a professional, dynamic and creative fashion. The director, Duck Chowles, definitely deserves a huge pat on the back (I give him a 9.5 as well). As usual, he had the audience dancing in the aisles and on the tables, hand-clapping and singing along during most of the numbers and even doing the Mexican wave? (Go figure!)

Scripting in two silly characters (caricatures) was a clever move in establishing a clearer concept and at the same time linking the songs together. I believe this could have been explored even deeper. The level of interaction began fragmenting and urging the audience to scream louder and louder, became distracting and somewhat 'schoolish'.

If you are a true music lover (as am I) it all became rather irritating. BUT ... it worked; they screamed their lungs out and that's what counts!

The musicians, dancers, singers are all very talented and adept in their craft, so I am not going to comment on every one of them. They were all "victorious" in my opinion!

Three performers stood out for me a little higher than the others. Firstly, Jason Guile on guitar - what he did with that instrument verges on the impossible. What a thrill it was to watch (and hear) him play, quite stunning! Then there was Zakariyah Toerien. Doing his Michael Jackson bit - the roof was nearly blown apart when he did his moon walk - the crowd went manic as he captured the very essence of this pop icon. Quite dazzling! Thirdly is Elizca Coetzer, what a dynamic and powerful force she is, completely dominating her space with her energy and almost uncanny stage presence and beautiful vocals (and dance) qualities.

At last, a ballad section. I always miss these from productions such as this where the emphasis is mostly focused on a sense of attack .Which is all very well, yet your audience needs moments of rest; they need time to sit back and allow the soothing, gentler sounds to infiltrate them and feed their souls on different levels - in order to gather their energies for the next "big bang" number.

This unfortunately leads me to my biggest criticism of otherwise an excellent show - the sound levels. It appeared at times as if the singers where in competition with the band for prominence - but came horribly short.

On many occasions, from where I sat upstairs, I could hardly hear some of the lyrics; eg, the Whitney Houston number was drowned out by a most vigorous band. No need, this particular song needed a delicate touch to allow the SONG to speak for itself, as it always does. The band must ease off and allow the audience to experience a different set of moods and a different atmosphere. Theatre is essentially about contrasts, surprises and some shocks in order to create the right balance throughout.

In total, though, the show is an absolute blast with great singing, great dancing (good choreography from Drew Mathie and the dancers were at long last in sync, YAY!), lovely costumes, good lighting (except for the follow spot wandering off on occasion) and a functional, unpretentious set.

Now, be pro-active and book now for this show. You will have great fun. It is a never-ending juke box that will take you on a ride through two decades of non-stop hits. A show that definitely has a huge "WOW" factor.

80’s vs 90’s runs at the Barnard Theatre at Gateway until October 13. Tickets R140pp Wednesdays to Saturdays (R105 Tuesdays and R95 Sunday matinees). Bookings on 031 566 3045 or visit - John Harley