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Friday, November 10, 2017


(Roelof Colyn & James Smith)

If you like brilliant and masterful piano playing mixed with a glorious send-up of the piano stars, don’t miss this! (Review by Caroline Smart)

I wonder if Ian von Memerty and Bryan Schimmel had any idea how hugely popular and highly acclaimed their show, A Handful of Keys, would turn out to be when they launched it in 1994? Over the last 23 years, it has played to more than 420,000 people in over 1,450 performances around South Africa and it is back in KZN in response to public demand.

So KZN fans should be happy and waste no time in booking for the show which is running at Sibaya Casino until November 19!

Ian von Memerty, who has been appearing in the show for many years now takes a back seat, making way for younger performers. Although he’s not in the show, we hear him in the opening voice-over telling the audiences that they’d better not use their cellphones “otherwise they will be shot!”

Roelof Colyn – a long time member of the show - is back with his laidback charm and easy-going nature. This time he is joined by tall (6ft 6”!) James Smith with a generous head of hair who, at 19, is the youngest performer to have appeared in A Handful of Keys. Young he may be but his talent is considerable and he has a beautiful singing voice with an impressive range. They complement each other perfectly – the one highly energetic and the other more restrained but when their four hands hit their two pianos, they create double magic.

Expect dazzling virtuosity, astonishing versatility, flying fingers, fooling around by scooting between instruments on wheeled stools, and in one scene, actually getting undressed which still playing!

There’s lots of banter and send-up of composers and piano legends: Bach – precise, Beethoven – passionate and frustrated by his deafness; Chopin contemplative and consumptive; Mozart – (child prodigy) seen on his knees sporting a dummy); Debussy – drawing on a joint, Liszt – musical virility; Bartok – tortured and schizophrenic. The ladies don’t escape and fun is made of Adele, Norah Jones, Vanessa Carter, Lady Gaga, Alycia Keyes and Nina Simone. The send-up of Richard Clayderman is hilarious and Liberace is portrayed to be-ringed perfection. Figaro’s aria from The Barber of Seville sees Smith in full operatic flight!

Amid the fun and nonsense, with some highly amusing costumes, are beautifully performed numbers. The content is rich with the music of Paul McCartney, Fats Domino, Nat King Cole, John Legend and Stevie Wonder, Billy Joel, Barry Manilow, and Elton John. Hits from a couple of South African musicals also make the programme.

The most brilliant part of the show is The Complete History of The Broadway Musical in 12 Minutes which starts off in 1917 and goes from year to year covering 148 musicals – sometimes with a number of lyrics – and occasionally with one word.

As has been the case with this tour of A Handful of Keys, the show features a local guest performer who gets to play a couple of numbers and is then expected to take part in a hilariously funny sequence without skipping a note. The Sibaya season sees Durban pianist David Langley holding his own with this madcap duo. Most impressive, particularly as he only had three days rehearsal to handle the madcap bit!

If you like brilliant and masterful piano playing mixed with a glorious send-up of the piano stars, don’t miss this!

Present by Sibaya Casino and Entertainment Kingdom, A Handful of Keys runs at the iZulu Theatre at Sibaya until November 19, 2017. Tickets R100, R130 and R160 at Computicket and the Sibaya Box office. For more information visit or follow Sibaya on or on Twitter @SibayaCasino – Caroline Smart