TOMORROW marks a big day in the history of the hit show A Handful of Keys as its 20th anniversary is commemorated on the Durban stage.

This year Ian von Memerty and Roelof Colyn pair up for the show, which for Colyn marks his 1 000th performance.

“This year is my 13th year in A Handful of Keys… Playing with Ian is a dream come true because he’s such a consulate performer. He’s quick on his feet, we laugh a lot. We get along splendidly outside of the show and it shows on stage,” he said.

Colyn added that audiences keep coming back for more because the show always offers something new.

“We keep updating it and it’s hard to update it because there aren’t any pianists around anymore who stand out, like Liberace and Elton John.

“But we try to keep the show fresh. Also, you don’t have to come and think: it’s just pure entertainment and lots of laughs from start to finish.”

Featuring a high-energy and highly entertaining script, and two grand pianos played with absolute genius, A Handful of Keys features a wide range of music, from Elton John, Richard Clayderman, Nora Jones and Alicia Keys to Stevie Wonder, Liberace, Bach, Debussy, Chopin and more.

Colyn said his personal favourite is the Broadway and West End musical medley.

“We start it in 1910 and we go until today. We do one or two songs from each year to capture the history of musicals and we do this in a matter of minutes.”

Over the years, the show has sold out wherever it has been performed. Colyn said often the audience will relay back what stood out for them in the show and it’s almost always the unexpected.

“Whether it’s here or overseas, people love the fact that they didn’t see it coming. They thought they’d booked for a nice night out with two piano players, and then they end up laughing for two hours… It’s literally a laugh a minute, (although) it’s a bit serious at the beginning to show people we can actually play.”


He said a fresh highlight is the Liberace set. “This year we have complete new costumes and Liberace is looking especially bright and glitzy.”

With A Handful of Keys and South Africa’s democracy both commemorating 20 years this year, Colyn feels this is especially important: “A Handful of Keys started in 1994, at a time when there was so much uncertainty (around) the new democracy, and it was such an extraordinary, difficult, unsure time. But a show like this made everyone laugh and forget about it all. There’s (always) time to laugh a little (and) put things into perspective.”

• A Handful of Keys – 20th Anniversary Tour stages at Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre from April 2 to 27. Booking is through Computicket. For block bookings, contact Ailsa Windsor on 083 250 2690. Shows are Tuesday to Saturday at 8pm, Saturday and Sunday at 3pm.