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Sunday, December 20, 2015


(Bongani Thembe)

Varied programme comes together magnificently. The dance alone is worth the price of the ticket. (Review by Keith Millar)

Attending the Playhouse Company’s production A Christmas Celebration is a bit like opening your presents on Christmas morning. You are not sure what you are going to get but there are sure to be some very pleasant surprises.

The special surprise this year is the dance component of the programme. There is plenty of it and it is all first-rate and very entertaining. The choreographer for the production this year is the award-winning Sean Bovim, founder and artistic director of Bovim Ballet. He certainly has brought to the party something fresh, new and innovative.

Appearing courtesy of Bovim Ballet are Michéle La Trobe and Alex Ishchenko. They gave a breathtaking display of acrobatic dance to the strains of Bach’s haunting Air (on the G String). Their strength, grace and athletic ability need to be seen to be believed. Later in the programme they performed an equally graceful and poetic dance to the music of Johannes Brahms.

One of South Africa’s leading concert pianists, Christopher Duigan, performed Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue in a playful and seductive piece by the Playhouse Dance Residency. Duigan and - believe it or not, the piano - were also involved in the dance as the mischievous dancers kept on wheeling the instrument, mounted on a special trolley, away from the pianist as he tried to play.

The Playhouse Dance Residency along with guest dancers from Bovim Ballet and a troupe of young ballet dancers performed an abridged version of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite. It was magnificent. Beautifully and stylishly performed, the dancers took “cute” to a whole new level. Later in the programme they also danced a ballet to Blue Danube by Johann Strauss II.

Singing stars, both classical and contemporary abound in the programme. The headline act was popular Judith Sephuma who sang You Raise Me Up, in a duo with much-loved Bongani Thembe, as well as My Redeemer Liveth. Thembe also sang Oh Holy Night and the Lord’s Prayer.

Attractive and smiling soprano Filipa Van Eck provided Glory to God in the Highest, Silent Night and Joy to the World. Also on the programme were Raphael Vilakazi and Nozuko Teto as well as two gospel singers, Andile KaMajola and Neville D.

The massed choir consisting of singers from the Playhouse Company Chorale, The SA Singers and the Assembly of God Choir are magnificent. They sang several Christmas carols and provided uplifting backing for the singers.

The KwaZulu–Natal Philharmonic under the baton of Lykele Temmingh provided their usual accomplished performance, despite at times having to battle against a sometimes noisy and restless audience.

As an ex-sound man, it always gives me great pleasure to compliment the sound crew on a production. A Christmas Celebration is a multi-microphone show. It is a huge undertaking, but one which led to an excellent and well-balanced sound overall.

A Christmas Celebration provides a wide variety of entertainment which is played out against a backdrop of colourful and glittering sets, costumes and lighting. There is even a mass drop of balloons and streamers at the end of the production. With Ralph Lawson’s firm and inventive directorial hand on the tiller, it all comes together magnificently. Everyone should find something they would enjoy in this production’s varied programme. In my opinion the dance alone is worth the price of the ticket.

A Christmas Celebration runs until December 24. Tickets range from R100 to R200 depending on seat position, available from Computicket on or from the Playhouse Box Office on 031 369 9596/9540. Substantial discounts on group bookings can be obtained by calling Dawn on 031 369 9407. – Keith Millar

Playhouse Company patrons also receive discounted parking at the Royal Hotel Parking and at the Albany Grove Parkade. The Playhouse coffee shop offers a variety of light meals and drinks, while the Playhouse bar will be open for every performance.