national Arts Festival Banner

Saturday, December 12, 2020


(Steven Stead)

If you like songs from musicals and Noel Coward – especially those with much humour and a strong dramatic content – then don’t miss this one! (Review by Caroline Smart)

Despite its negative nature on the creative spirit, the Covid-19 lockdowns have created a few positives. Artists in all genres have been forced to assess their creative capacities to see what they can do to stop themselves going round the bend!

Social media, you-tube, online streaming etc have been a great help from a technical point of view but for a theatre performer absolutely nothing beats giving your all on a stage to a supportive audience.

As multi-award winning and producer Steven Stead says in his one-man show Once Upon a Tune which is running at Rhumbelow Theatre in Durban, it is so important for a performer to have the exchange of energies between the actor, actress, singer or musician with the audience as this creates “the dynamism that is theatre”.

The title Once upon a Tune is an ironic twist to the fact that at this time of the year Steven Stead and Greg King’s KickstArt company have their hugely popular annual panto and the opening phrase of many pantomime stories is …”Once upon a time ...”

Stead has chosen many songs from musicals and, as his opening number, he sang the tender and poignant Try to Remember from The Fantastiks by Tom Jones. This immediately brought a lump to my throat as it resonated on the level of all the beautiful things in life and nature that we have lost during this dreadful Covid-19 period.

This is Stead’s first cabaret – he explains that he was always too busy but Covid-19 lockdown gave him the time and the determination to go ahead. As his accompanist, he chose the incomparable Evan Roberts who provides exactly the right support for every mood.

Moods there certainly are a-plenty in this show. Once Upon a Tune offers a chance for Stead to showcase his professionalism, excellent dramatic skills, command of humour and the capacity to take a song and turn it into a story. Hence the title.

His characterisations are perfect from the wide-eyed Jack who finds himself transported into another world with Giants in the Sky from Sondheim’s Into the Woods to my favourite How to Handle a Woman (sung by King Arthur in Camelot, a role which Stead played in the KickstArt production).

He is Noel Coward to a T, performing Coward’s leading ladies such as Louisa, Alice (Alice is at it Again), and the ebullient Nina (from Argentina) with delicious humour – especially A Bar on the Picola Marina.

The lighting in Coloured Lights (from Kander and Ebb’s The Rink) which build to a massive climax was highly effective, thanks to a lighting system donated for the show by Black Coffee and ably handled by the inimitable Tina le Roux. Jason Bird kept the sound perfectly balanced and controlled.

This is a very demanding programme for the performer. Not once did Stead’s perfect diction falter or did he seem out of breath, even in this Durban humidity. To prove that he has versatility, he sang Koos du Plessis’ Kinders van die Wind in Afrikaans.

The joy about this show is that it can be done in an intimate venue suitable for soirees.

If you like songs from musicals and Noel Coward – especially those with much humour and a strong dramatic content – then don’t miss this one!

Once Upon a Tune has performances this weekend and next week but there’s only one show left with available tickets. This is on Tuesday, December 15 at 19h30 at Rhumbelow Theatre, 42 Cunningham Road off Bartle Road, Durban.

There is limited secure parking. A bar and light meals are available (no alcohol may be brought on to the premises). The venue is highly Covid-compliant.

Tickets R160. Booking is essential through Roland on email – Caroline Smart