Cat Simoni’s name has been popping up all over the show and when I saw that she was performing in Pretoria this past weekend, I went to check her out.
She’s a bit of a throwback to another era and has been out of town for quite some time. Born and bred in KwaZulu-Natal, she’s based there, but she and performing partner, actor, writer and director Paul Spence, travel mainly between the Midlands and Gauteng.
Both of them spent many years in England – specifically London for Simoni (pictured) – who is the one who wants to sing passionately. She would have loved to have been a part of the music scene, but instead she became more of a lounge singer in hotels like The Ritz, Dorchester and Mayfair and private parties for the famous and those not so well known.
With three small children to care for, she decided it was time to come back home where there’s more of a support system.
Now that the kids aren’t quite such a handful any more, she and Spence have decided to hit the road and find a niche. And they probably will.
The first one to watch out for is In Love Again, Noël & Gertie: An evening with Noël Coward and Gertrude Lawrence at Joburg’s Foxwood Theatre in Houghton (Friday and Saturday at 8pm and Sunday at 12 noon; as well as July 19 and 20 at 8pm and the Sunday at 12 noon).
It’s music and a time that suits Simoni’s voice and although the classic showtime couple have been showcased recently, Spence thinks there’s room for more. Coward dreams up his former muse and they come together to recapture the music. “It’s a little bit like Blithe Spirit,” he explains.
He wanted to relive their glory days, including the famous “honeymoon scene” from their smash hit, Private Lives, Noël’s delicious humour and the very best of his unforgettable songs, from The Stately Homes of England to I’ll See You Again and Mad About the Boy!
It’s probably the style Simoni is best at, although she can pretty much launch into any song – from Queen to Johnny Clegg, the great songwriters (Porter, Rogers, Gershwin and Kern), pop megahits from the 1950s to now (Adele, The Eagles) and the very best of South African music.
She does most of her own accompaniment, which is always a bonus because in many instances nothing detracts as much as back- tracks.
But having watched From Broadway to Westend, I was most impressed with Simoni’s stage power. She has a beautiful voice, can hit those keys, and is sweetly supported by Paul Spence, but I suspect that personal favourites would be her more jazzy shows and the Noël and Gertie homage.
Old-fashioned cabaret has to be underpinned and enveloped by a strong script. People don’t have the patience for personal stories and asides unless they’re brilliantly captured. In most instances, audi- ences are there for the music and if there’s binding text, it has to be pertinent.
Here’s a meander through their Gauteng programme in the next few months:
• London’s Jazz Cat & Her Boyz – Cat sings her favourite standards with Tony Yoko’s jazz trio. Theatre on the Square, Sunday, July 21, at 4pm.
• Cougar is a duet perfor- mance with Ann Power, where dynamite meets real life comedy at the Foxwood Theatre, Houghton, on August 2 and 3 at 8pm and August 4 at 12 noon, and at the same times again over the following weekend, from August 9 to 11.
• Cat on a Hot Black Steinway showcases her song and comedy repertoire on a gorgeous Steinway Baby Grand at Theatre on the Square in a lunchtime concert on October 4, on October 6 at 4pm and October 7 at 8pm.