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Countless South Africans still continue an ardent love affair with Freddie Mercury (pictured below) and Queen. Apart from their universally popular music, this is thanks to the iconic star and rock band’s brilliant shows at the Sun City Superbowl in 1984 in defiance of the cultural boycott.
This adoration was compounded in 1990 – the year before Mercury died – with Geoffrey Sutherland’s Queen at the Opera, which premiered at Napac in Durban and then toured nationally and the number of spin-off and copy-cat productions it had spawned.
Given this context Queen at the Ballet has to be more than a crowd pleasing tribute show on pointes.
The mere title raises expectations – which in many respects it fails to meet.
That being said, Sean Bovim’s five-year-old project-based neo-classical Cape Town Company, with a contem-porary twist, needs to be supported for keeping the exacting art and tradition of theatre dance alive.
Bovim Ballet not only provides a platform for accomplished artists the calibre of Tanya Futter and James Bradley but for an impressive new generation of dancers to hone their stage craft. A main pitfall on opening night was the bland portrayal by the highly proficient Henk Opperman of Freddie M, a man oozing legendary bisexual charisma and unparalleled showmanship. This is a pivotal role around which spin the characters of Mercury’s lovers Jim (Devon Marshbank), Mary (Futter), Rosemary (Nicola van der Merwe and Elzanne Crause) and Barbara (Faye Dubinski).
Twenty songs represent different phases in Mercury’s life and art. This is very demanding of a single choreographer.
A similarity and repetition creep into the vocabulary and technical levels fluctuate.
Far too many concepts like the clownish MasterTime performed by Steven van Wyk and the hip-hop style Second Hand, superbly handled by JV Mattei, aren’t fully developed.
The use of fashion designers for the costumes is a hit and miss affair but set designer Tay Dall hits the mark every time.
The vocalists Cito, Daniel Fisher and Angela Kilian are excellent, ditto the quality of the recording of Michael Hankinson’s arrangements. But in the first half the singers are disconnected from the rest of the action.
Choreographic substance lies in Who Wants to live Forever, Take My Breath Away, Bohemian Rhapsody and the flashy Barcelona. If only there was more…