national Arts Festival Banner

Monday, September 16, 2019


(Right: Kerry Hiles)

With a smile that lights up the room and a gorgeous singing voice, she had the audience in the palm of her hand throughout her impressive performance. (Review by Keith Millar)

Musical tributes are something of a staple at arts festivals - and The Hilton Arts Festival is no exception. Over the years of attending the festival I have been privileged to see many excellent productions in this genre.

But without a doubt one of the very best I have seen, both from a content and a performance point of view, is A Star Is Born.

Sub-titled The Rise and Fall of Judy Garland, the production plots the life, in word and song, of this remarkable artist from her first stage appearance at the age of two and a half to her untimely death at just 47 years old.

Telling the story is the beguiling and very talented Kerry Hiles. At the start of her show she tells the audience that she hopes over the next hour to make them fall in love with Judy Garland. Well, I am sure that many in the audience fell just a little bit in love with the captivating Kerry Hiles during that hour as well. With a smile that lights up the room and a gorgeous singing voice, she had the audience in the palm of her hand throughout her impressive performance.

Accompanying Hiles on the piano was the excellent Luke Holder. I have great admiration for Holder for his work as the Director of Arts and Culture at Westville Boys High School. So to see him live in this production offering such sensitive support to Kerry Hiles was a rare privilege.

Judy Garland’s story is fairly typical of what happened during the “Golden Years” of Hollywood.

Fed pills by her over ambitious mother, Ethel, even from her preteen years. She signed her first studio deal at the age of 13 and went on to be used and abused by studio moguls for very much the rest of her career. She also suffered from a lifelong drug and alcohol addiction and made a few suicide attempts.

She married five times and had three children (including the great Lisa Minnelli).

She was regarded as the queen of comebacks. Every time she hit career and personal rock bottom, she would stage a spectacular comeback because or her phenomenal talent.

This remarkable life story is told mostly in song and the production features 14 songs which includes That’s Entertainment, Zing Went The Strings Of My Heart, You Made Me Love You, How About You, Meet Me in St Louis, The Trolley Song, We're a Couple of Swells, I Got Rhythm, A Foggy Day In London Town, a heart rendering version of The Man that Got Away, and of course the iconic Somewhere Over The Rainbow from The Wizard of Oz.

A Star Is Born which won an Ovation Award at the National Arts Festival earlier this year also enjoyed a two-night visit to the Rhumbelow Theatre last week. And the good news is it is due to return to the Rhumbelow Durban later in the year.

When it does, don’t miss it. It really is a wonderful production. – Keith Millar

For more information on the Hilton Arts Festival visit