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Fun that skirts too close to karaoke

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to c&c by Rob Kirsner2

Coward & Cole

DIRECTOR: Paul Griffiths

CAST: Godfrey Johnson and Roland Perold

VENUE: Kalk Bay Theatre

UNTIL: March 24

RATING: ***

Kalk Bay Theatre has brought back its dinners before the show, now that the road is more or less finished up to that point in Kalk Bay – and it’s not a moment too soon.

Driving out that way was turning into a drag if all you had to look forward to was maybe catching a good show and then having to drive back again over Ou Kaapse Weg.

Godfrey Johnson (The Shadow of Brel) and Roland Perold (I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change) have put together the perfect kind of dinner date with a show kind of piece, though it really wouldn’t be a good idea to eat noisily during this show because you would miss out on the witty lyrics of Noël Coward and the exquisite music of Cole Porter.

Two electronic keyboards stand in for the real deal – one black and one white – but that’s pretty much where the concept of contrast ends.

The two performers have more in common, though Johnson’s got the richer, fuller voice, while Peroldt’s lisp is in keeping with the style of music.

Coward’s lyrics are complex and say a lot about the absurdity of the human condition, but above all, they’re a hoot, and the pair play up that aspect to the hilt.

On the Cole side there is an unfortunate sameness to the sound, because of the return to the same rhythm for every second song.

Johnson’s rendition of Miss Otis Regrets make beautiful use of a different kind of phrasing from the traditional versions, and therein lies the greatest joy of the evening. When they find a different enough way to reinterpret the music, it’s enjoyable.

But every time they return to that same particular five-note rhythm that permeates almost every rendition of a Cole number, it just becomes more of the same. The forced cheerfulness this engenders is weird if you really listen to the darkness of lyrics such as the haunting Love for Sale or the obsessive Night and Day.

Still, when they trade something like Well, Did you Eva! and turn it into a contemporary number with funny local references, they redeem them-selves. Numbers such as the frenetic Mad Dogs and Englishmen and Nina are funny and fun.

Peroldt hit a couple of wrong notes on opening night (nothing practice won’t fix), but Johnson was note perfect – and if it is glissandi and chromatic scales you’re after, here’s the place.

Perforce they are constrained by the size of the keyboards, so the show is not as big as something like the perennial favourite A Handful of Keys, which unfortunately is the first show that comes to mind when you watch this one, the second being the excellent Hat’s Off!

This isn’t quite clap-along karaoke tribute music, but it’s borderline.


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