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Friday, September 24, 2021


All I can say is “Wow! - what a splendid experience”. (Review by Caroline Smart)

I was extremely impressed by Steven Stead’s production Perchance to Dream which was presented by the Westville Boys and Westville Girls High Schools in June this year.

However, last night’s opening of Crazy Carousel in the Roy Couzens Theatre under the same partnership, held me spellbound as I watched members of the cast I’d seen in the earlier production move to an entirely new level.

(Right: Connor Gordon)

Crazy Carousel, again directed by Stead, with musical direction by Roland Perold comprises the songs of the famous Belgian singer, Jacques Romain Georges Brel. His work is sophisticated with thought-provoking lyrics requiring strong acting abilities. His long phrases challenge the performer’s breath control and often the vocal range is fairly extensive.

All this requires maturity from a cast – in this case, a young cast who may yet to experience some of the life experiences dealt with.

This was Stead’s idea when he chose Brel’s works – to teach his cast that this is what “real” cabaret is all about – not just “feather boas, fishnet stockings and high-kicking chorus girls” or the kind of tribute shows seen at the Barnyard Theatre.

He explains: “It is an art form born in the bars and nightclubs of post First World War Europe, where artists could present experimental, challenging, sometimes subversive music and poetry, offering social comment, and often full of deep emotional resonance. It was often an incredibly pared down and intimate theatrical experience: a small, smoky room with a spotlight, a singer, a couple of musicians, and material that engaged the audience intellectually and emotionally. Sometimes wickedly funny, sometimes heart-wrenching. Always powerful.”

He adds: “In cabaret, the artist is exposed: raw and real. And the experience can be profound for both performer and audience.”

(Right: Ethan Dunk, Jethro Milne & Owethu Gwambe)

The focus is on black - Greg King’s simple sets of rostra steps at various levels, the cast is dressed in black in varying style. There are no costume accessories except for a few hats (black, of course). The full cast remains on stage throughout, only moving forward for their particular numbers.

Michael Broderick’s lighting is suitably designed with moody blues and strong lighting only coming from the spotlight on individual soloists. Brandon Bunyan’s sound is well controlled and Simone Mann has created the choreography which is professionally performed.

Roland Perold is a perfect musical director, ensuring that all are able to extend their talents to their best ability. Seated at the piano, he is accompanied by Heath Squire (percussion) and Viwe Kumalo (guitar).

Performances that stood out for me were Senzo Zondi’s No Love, You’re Not Alone; Jethro Milne’s Jackie; Braydon Rutherford’s Fanette; Ethan Dunk’s Madeleine; Dumo Cele’s If You Go Away, and Amahle Tembe’s Marieke (who performed much of the song in its original Flemish).

(Left: Keryn Scott)

However, there’s no doubt that Keryn Scott completely stole the show with two numbers – Brussels and Carousel.

The rest of the cast also put in fine performances: Siyamthanda Phewa; Kamvelihle Mathe, Owethu Gwambe, Thando X Mzimela, Nkanyezi Kunene, Athokomele Hlekwayo; Mia Nel and Camryn Coward.

The dancers were Sisanda Duma; Akhona Nolwazi Mqadi, Luvo Mthethwa and Connor Gordon.

In every case, the demands of the songs were met – from pathos, anger, desperation, joy and passion to full-on vocal strength. Many of the numbers are fast-paced and require strong acting ability and maturity.

(Right: Steven Stead)

Topping the bill was the unexpected appearance of Stead taking the place of Sma Mkhwanazi, who was in isolation at home as a Covid-19 precaution.

If his students needed a top-class example of what Stead had been aiming to teach them, they had it all as the immeasurably talented Stead exploded onto the stage for one song, Mathilde. It was all there – passion, speed and power. A tough act to follow but a brilliant example for them.

Everyone is acknowledged in the programme, right down to the ushers, which shows a respect to all involved.

I wish I could urge you to book to see the show but it’s – deservedly! – sold out. So … here’s to next time.

All I can say is “Wow! - what a splendid experience”. Thank you, Crazy Carousel for a great evening. – Caroline Smart