MAESTROS: Ian von Memerty and Roelof Colyn in the 20th Anniversary Tour of A Handful Of Keys.


DIRECTOR: Ian von Memerty

CAST: Ian von Memerty and Roelof Colyn

VENUE: The Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre

UNTIL: April 27

RATING: ****

COMMEMORATING its 20th anniversary, the popular musical theatre show A Handful of Keys opened the Durban leg of its tour last week.

And if you think that after 20 years the show would have run its course, think again.

With loads of fresh bits on offer, A Handful of Keys proves to be a celebration of old and new on stage with Ian von Memerty and Roelof Colyn proving their worth as expert pianists offering high-energy entertainment.

But let’s start with the script (Von Memerty), which is a success on so many levels. First it takes you on a historical journey through the art of piano and some of the world’s most celebrated pianists over the centuries to the present day.

But this is no drawn-out history lesson. A cleverly planned and written script, with loads of humour and highly entertaining character portrayals by Von Memerty and Colyn, ensures the audience is kept enlightened and entertained.

From piano’s ragtime beginnings to the Bachs, Chopins and Debussys of the world; to the likes of Nina Simone, Billy Joel, Elton John, Alicia Keys, Vanessa Carlton and more, this show takes a broad sweep through music history, yet is packed with interesting information.

I especially like how the writing and subsequent portrayal of the different piano maestros through the years give one insight into the personalities behind the big names – their passions, their emotions, their lifestyle and background and how this influenced their music… a very interesting journey indeed.

But, as mentioned earlier, don’t be fooled into thinking you’ll be sitting in a history lecture in this show. High-energy, highly entertaining performances by Von Memerty and Colyn, underscored by a laugh-a-minute-script, keep you clapping, clicking and singing along.

And you’ll no doubt leave the theatre with aching cheek muscles after all the laughing.

In terms of piano skill, the duo will have you in awe as they play everything from ragtime to classical, to jazz, to rock and roll to pop to South African music with prowess.

And to ensure they live up to the “extravaganza” tagged on to their show’s promos, the duo chop and change between two grand pianos vivaciously – with a touch of acrobat stunts, glitzy costume changes and even some dance, like the Kwasa Kwasa, the Tsipa and even Sika Lekhekhe.

More than just a show, A Handful of Keys is an experience. A well deserved standing ovation.

• A Handful of Keys 20th Anniversary Tour stages at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre until April 27. Booking is through Computicket. For sold houses and block bookings, contact Ailsa Windsor on 083 250 2690. Shows are Tuesdays to Saturdays at 8pm, and Saturdays and Sundays at 3pm.