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Porter tribute to wow the Playhouse

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TO NDR Rogers and  Szybkowski

AFTER highly successful shows in Cape Town and Joburg, Cape Town City Ballet brings its vibrant production of Night and Day to Durban for the first time.

Dance lovers will be able to catch this exhilarating work with toe-tapping numbers including elements of jazz, tap dancing and cabaret at The Playhouse Theatre from Thursday until Sunday.

I caught up with the choreo- grapher of the production, Robin van Wyk, to learn more about the much-anticipated show.

Night and Day is a tribute to the life and music of celebrated US composer and songwriter, Cole Porter. He wrote some of the wittiest and most romantic songs ever composed and dominated the American musical landscape from the 1930s to 1950s.

His music has remained popular, with the likes of Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, Robbie Williams, Michael Bublé and Alanis Morisette recording his songs.

Says Van Wyk: “The show has been so successful in Cape Town and in Joburg for two seasons at Montecasino because it travels so well and, in terms of the set and costume, it’s a perfect show to take to the Playhouse.

“It’s a very layered perfor- mance. There’s tap dancing and ballet and it has a very jazzy feeling to it. Also, the music is very modern.”

The production is named after Porter’s renowned song Night and Day and features superb choreography that is said to transport the audience to a Parisian park, a café in Venice, the streets of New York City and a Hollywood film studio.

There will also be a live saxophonist on stage (Martin Sigamoney) and dance perfor- mances to popular songs such as Let’s Misbehave, Too Darn Hot, Let’s Fall in Love and Anything Goes.

Explaining why he wanted to be involved in the pro- duction, Van Wyk says: “De-Lovely came out and I was inspired by the movie, which is an original musical portrait of the life of Porter, filled with his unforgettable songs.

“So it was an easy process creating a ballet. The dancers enjoy it in partic- ular and that energy will come across to the audience who will leave the theatre in high spirits.”

In terms of the role of the dancers in the production, there’s a portrayal of Porter in the lead role, and his wife, Linda Lee Thomas, is played by Lauren Rogers.

“Then I created a role like the seductress, because she’s very torn between his marriage and she kind of senses the darker side of Porter,” he shares.

Van Wyk, who comes from KwaZulu-Natal, but is based in Cape Town, will be bringing his own production to the Playhouse.

So how does it feel to bring to the stage something so big?

“I’m originally from Pietermaritzburg so it’s quite an honour. In the early 1990s, I used to tap dance at the Playhouse, so now to bring a production of my own to the theatre is such an honour and there’s such big prospects in Durban as well.”

In terms of the future of dance, I asked Van Wyk if he believed it to be evolving or heading in any particular direction: “Well, in Cape Town, the audience prefers the great classics and we have to do them as often as we can.

“That’s how we measure that, but you have to move with the times as well.

“There is a huge demand for modern dance. The audiences don’t like negative, they enjoy positive stuff and familiarity. Audiences love things they are familiar with so that’s what we need to focus on.”

According to the choreographer, Night and Day is a performance for the whole family.

“It’s full of diversity. Without realising it, there are lots of movies with Porter music – he’s a very familiar genre.

“He will leave you wanting more and overall, it’s a good, wholesome, light-hearted show.”

• Don’t miss Night and Day at the Playhouse Theatre from Thursday to Sunday (Thursday and Friday at 7.30pm, Saturday at 2pm and 7.30pm, and a Sunday matinee at 3pm).

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