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IT’S not often high-end entertainers opt to bring their shows to Durban, but Jonathan Roxmouth is one artist who never leaves the city off his tour list.
His latest production, which begins its season at the Rhumbelow Theatre on June 11, will see Roxmouth in a very different type of act.
A celebration of musicals, Stage by Stage sees the performer take to the stage alone with nothing but a microphone and his favourite songs from the musicals.
Tonight caught up with Roxmouth to find out more about his love affair with Durban – which started in high school – and his new show, which he describes as a “concert of songs from the musicals”.
He began explaining how Stage by Stage came about: “I do these musicals all the time and after every show, invariably there is someone who will say ‘well why don’t you bring a CD out?’
“So when I did Sunset Boulevard last year I decided, well why not? I had some spare time to do it and while we were rehearsing during the day, I was in the recording studio at night.
“And I just thought, it will be something to sell after the show; it will be something small, but at least when I’m an old man one day I’ll have something to show that this is what I used to do.”
But, as Roxmouth explains, what started as a small project has snowballed into a full-on show: “It really took off and people started to say they wanted to see it live. So I did a few performances in Margate, Centurion and Boksburg.
“These were all people who had come to me. I didn’t go out looking for it, they all just offered (for him to do the show)… I realised it was such a nice thing to see people coming to what is essentially a concert.
“It’s not a show. It’s a concert of songs from the musicals. And especially in 2014, to see young people getting excited about Rodgers and Hammerstein and Andrew Lloyd Webber and others, is, for a professional in the business like me, it’s exciting seeing the audiences still interested in that sort of music.
“It’s not just about Lady Gaga and Adam Lambert and, dare I say, The Jonas Brothers any more… so it’s very exciting from that point of view.”
Roxmouth said he saw Stage by Stage as more than a show. “It’s me on stage. It’s an evening of the musicals with Jonathan Roxmouth.
“I tell funny stories that have happened to me in shows, stories about the songs themselves… and it’s a completely different to anything I’ve done because it’s me, I’m not taking on a character.
“And I think an audience really likes that sort of reality to it and a personal touch behind things.”
The hardest thing about putting together his running order had been choosing the songs.
“I thought, what songs should I sing? And I split them into three groups: songs I have sung before in shows, songs I am singing currently in shows and songs I would love to sing one day – that is essentially the ‘dream roles’ section.
“And hopefully the audience gets to know me a little more during the show,” he said.
Commenting on his passion for Durban, Roxmouth explained where it all began.
“Durban is very special to me and it’s where I really first started doing musicals. In my Northcliff High School days I did five musicals at The Playhouse – Guys and Dolls, Oklahoma!, The Mikado, Me and My Girl and The Pirates of Penzance.
“I treated the Northcliff High School tours down to Durban as my performing arts education because you went on stage and did the show and then you went home, as a professional, but you were still in school.
“I suppose, in a way, Durban has the blame for the reason I’m in musical theatre.
“I got to know Durban audiences well during these tours. Also, on an artistic level, there’s no snootiness. There are no pre-conceived judgements from people who think their opinions matter. There are no critics trying to prove a point and air their agendas.
“Nothing kills a show in its infancy quicker than being judged. And Durban is far more gracious than any of the other hubs.”
Roxmouth added that Stage by Stage would also see him joined by an accompanist for the first time. “Lots of people have been saying they hope it’s not all back tracks. What’s interesting is when I do a piano show like Liberace, people say, ‘Oh, I wish he sang more’; and when I do a vocal show people say ‘Oh, I wish he played more’.
“What sets Stage by Stage apart is this time there is no trick. It’s not like Topsy Turvy where there are 14 costume changes in one song. It’s not like Liberace where it’s just piano all the way and blistering fingers.
“Stage by Stage is a wonderful laid-back show that is all about the musicals.”
• Catch Stage by Stage from June 11 to 22 at Rhumbelow Theatre, Durban. All tickets through Computicket, except for Aliwal Theatre: book with Barbara at 039 973 1105 or 083 778 1469.