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CALL ME LEE
DIRECTOR, CHOREOGRAPHER: Ian von Memerty
CAST: Jonathan Roxmouth, Weslee Lauder and Samuel Hyde
COSTUME DESIGN: Jonathan Roxmouth
VENUE: Pieter Toerien’s Montecasino Theatre
UNTIL: April 27
Mentioning Liberace’s name might not mean anything to the under-40 generation, but we oldies not only know better, we know everything, doll.
Jonathan Roxmouth, portraying and playing the legendary, flamboyant keyboard artiste in the show Call Me Lee, written by himself and Ian von Memerty, is no total, or in most matters a perfect incarnation, but rather a fun show celebrating the over-the-top life of the king of keyboards and kitsch.
His career is celebrated from quite different perspectives and in different theatrical styles all woven into a coherent show that is above all highly entertaining and gives us some insights into the man’s career lifespan of more than half-a-century.
Everyone knows Roxmouth is very talented, but this show puts everything into another, at times daunting, perspective. His piano playing as such was initially a bit brash and over the top in this show’s first act, but it mellowed and became far more appealing and sparkling in the second and final one.
Technically he is quite a wizard in the most challenging pieces like the Classical Requests sequence, Tiger Rag, Kitten on the Keys, Beer Barrel Polka, Dizzy Fingers and a number of others.
It was a pity that the amplified piano sound initially sounded a bit hard and metallic on the ear, but Roxmouth also has to work hard to be heard above the (also amplified) backtracks, including heavy symphonic ones.
As an actor he reflected all aspects of Liberace’s personality: his obsession about his looks, the way in which he manipulated his mother and colleagues, and his strong-willed personality as an artist who wanted nothing less than to conquer the world’s stages.
There is much humour in Call Me Lee. It’s integral to the writing. An example is when someone sees Liberace in a bar and asks: “Is that an Apache?” “No,” comes the answer, “It is Liberace.”
Two excellent actors, Weslee Lauder and Samuel Hyde, play a variety of small roles, filling in much of the narrative that moves the show along at a very nippy pace.
Lauder is especially hilarious as Liberace’s mother, but also, in other sketches relating to her, poignant and endearing. Hyde is spunky in a wide range of small roles of which the one of the Mexican is especially hilarious.
Call Me Lee is like a travelogue through Liberace’s life, also focusing selectively on his inner persona, but more willingly on the whole spectrum of his eccentricities. It seldom digs deeper than being wholeheartedly within the aura of showbusiness. However, in one of the only more serious sequences mention is made of Liberace’s relationship with Scott Thorson. These moments are as sincere as they are discreet. Hyde plays Thorson with a becoming, to-the-point straightforwardness.
All Liberace’s fans – no matter how old – should see this show. It’s slick and over the top, but glorious in the way it refocuses on a still very admired legend and surprisingly timeless magician of the keyboard.