Tag Archives: artscape

The Phantom of the Opera is Here My Life 23 DEC 2011

So apart from the awesome Annique massage/pamper voucher I got for Chantelle for her 31st birthday earlier this month, the big event was of course our trip through to the Artscape Theatre in Cape Town on Saturday the 3rd of December, to attend the Phantom of the Opera, presented by Pieter Toerien and The Really Useful Group.

This was the first time Chantelle was going to see the Phantom being performed, and needless to say, she was pretty damn excited!

Joining us on the evening was her folks Cheryl and Monty, and after dropping Jessie off with my folks for the night, the four of us drove off to Cape Town for a VERY early supper, before heading out to the theatre a little later.

Chantelle had picked out the supper venue earlier in the week, settling on the very trendy Headquarters (HQ) restaurant in Heritage Square, Shortmarket street. The restaurant is situated in a stunning old building, with its interior being a combination of the trendy New York style dining and polished industrial look. The menu is pretty simple – They only offer a single sauce steak and chips as a main, with a leafy green salad as a starter, nothing more, nothing less. There is a simple dessert menu to follow up of course, but that is it. As a result, they specialize in their steaks and as such, this probably was one of the best pieces of steak I’ve ever had the pleasure of devouring.

(Apparently the green salad was pretty good too, but that’s the opinion of the rest of the lot – I didn’t really find it all that spectacular.)

Because we ate so early, the restaurant was empty save for us (hell, even the live entertainment gave up after one song), so I can’t really comment on the ambience, but naturally the service was good and of course the party trick of having bottomless chips on your plate was pretty fun to play with.

According to Claire, HQ is currently one of the more popular spots in Cape Town, so Chantelle certainly chose well, though that said, be warned that they are pretty pricey. For the four of us the bill came up just short of a R1,000, obviously much, much more than what we Northern Suburbs dwellers are normally accustomed to paying for a meal out! And it must be said that I won’t necessarily go back either, not because of the price, but rather because of the fact that they are a one-trick pony. You really, really have to like their version of steak and chips, because you’re not going to be getting anything else there. Personally I think they should offer a wider variety of sauces with their steak (you know, instead of only ONE), but hey, this business model is obviously working for them, so who am I to complain?

Anyway, apart from the price we really did enjoy the dining out experience, and left pretty satisfied, so thumbs up to them.

After a roundabout drive to the theatre, we arrived to a quickly filling up parking lot, and after a quick cup of coffee, we moved into our seats which were pretty much in the middle of the theatre. In the end these were actually the perfect seats, because we got the best view of both the actors and the magnificent set pieces, which themselves are worth the admission price alone!

With Andre Schwartz unfortunately sidelined through a throat infection, the lead role of the Phantom had to be filled by one Jonathan Roxmouth (who was meant to be playing the role of Raul), a performer we’ve seen (and enjoyed) on stage before, like when he played the lead in Grease back in 2010.

As it turned out, the entire cast were absolutely fantastic in their roles and combined with the fantastic set pieces, effects, scenery and sequences, the Phantom of the Opera was as delightful as ever to take in. The Montgomery clan enjoyed it, I enjoyed it and in the end it was a great night out and a worthy watch for Chantelle who can now say that she has seen the Phantom of the Opera live and uncut! :)

Mamma Mia is Here Again My Life | My Reviews 30 AUG 2010

So last week’s Mamma Mia musical didn’t quite clear Chantelle’s flu away, but it certainly did bring a smile to her face, brought out a laugh or two and got her head bopping to the music – so in terms of just that it was a great success then!

As for the show itself, it really was a fun show, well worth the ticket price and a great bit of fluffy, light-hearted entertainment. No wonder the Artscape was full house as per usual then! ;)

We had great seats, in the middle, towards the front and these proved to be awesome as we had the perfect view of the action happening before us the whole way through the show.

The set design is extremely simple with a single backdrop employed throughout the entire show, cleverly lighted to dictate different times of the day and complemented by a brilliant circular sliding set of three stylized panels which basically swung in and out, or around in a circular pattern to make up the various aspects of the Greek island taverna, effortlessly depicting the outside of the structure, the inner courtyard, room interiors, the works – in other words dead simple and an absolutely brilliant concept!

As for the cast, they were all brilliant and suitably lively in their respective roles (even the guy who used to play Wimpie in Orkney Snork Nie was pretty okay), while the singing was all pretty much perfect to boot – no terrible Pierce Brosnan on the night to deal with in other words! ;)

The end result is a great light hearted show which will have you tapping your foot merrily along, even if you aren’t the world’s greatest ABBA fan. Loads of fun and a guaranteed good night’s entertainment, that’s for sure!

Related Link: http://www.mammamiasa.co.za/


Grease at the Artscape, Broadway Rocks at Barnyard Theatre My Reviews 29 MAR 2010

So in the space of two weeks I got to take in two different shows, the first being the wonderfully energetic Grease over at the Artscape in Cape Town and the second being the fun sing-along Broadway Rocks, put on at the always inviting Barnyard Theatre out in Willowbridge Mall, Durbanville.

In terms of the Grease production, what can I really say? The show is a legend in its own right, having been first brought to life back in 1971 by writers Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey and proving such a success that it remains to this day one of the most easily recognised theatre pieces alongside the likes of Cats, Phantom of the Opera, Les Miserables, Chicago, etc. It has enjoyed success around the world, particularly on the West End and remains Broadway’s thirteenth longest-running show.

Now it’s here on our shores thanks to the ever enterprising king of theater productions, Pieter Toerien, together with Paul Nicholas and David Ian and features a full South African cast who are tasked with bringing this fun story revolving around high-school hi-jinks in the 1950’s to life. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the story at all (I’d be surprised really), Grease grabs its name from the 1950s subculture known as Greasers, basically boys who like to fight, drive cars, wear leather jackets and look as pretty as possible by styling their hair with all the hair grease they could lay their hands on!

The story follows a group of ten students split across two groups, the T-Birds Greasers and the Pink Ladies, as they navigate the complexities of love, cars and drive-ins, dealing with themes of violence, love, friendship, sexual exploration and teenage pregnancy. The score attempts to capture liveliness and feel good rebel vibe associated with the sounds of the early rock and roll movement, and in its initial form, was a fairly raunchy, raw, aggressive and actually vulgar production. However, over the years it has been sanitized and tamed down and thanks to the highly successful 1978 movie starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John, got embedded in deep popular culture’s memory.

Like I mentioned, the Artscape production is an entirely South African produced affair and I must say, hats off to the set designers who have come up with an absolutely stellar array of sliding, moving, lit-up set and prop pieces, including an absolutely ingenious rotating car and a simply sublimely concealed live band area. And talking about the band, they are simply fantastic. They produce some absolutely energetic renditions of all the classic Grease songs and with the highly animated conductor doing his thing in front of them, it seems that they can’t put a single note wrong.

And then of course there are the actors. For the most part the cast all fit their respective roles perfectly, going right across the spectrum of types of people and all delivering energetic performances with faithful reproductions of all the well known characters that most of us are so familiar with at this stage. Of course special mention must be made of the actress portraying Sandy and the actor playing Danny and the chemistry that these two share comes across as genuine and works well through the story. Of course, Grease is most about fun and laughs and I must say that I really enjoyed the comedic timing from just about everyone, having quite a few chuckles throughout, though hands down the biggest laugh must go to the shower scene because that one had the entire audience in tears and cheers!

Overall it is a very slick production which showcases some great music, good vocal talent (though I did complain that one or two of the singers made it difficult for me to hear their lyrics properly) and is a honest fun bit of entertainment that really should not be missed if you’re a fan of the show.

However, if you’ve never seen it before and know nothing about Grease, you do need to be warned that the story doesn’t really come across as a strong story. It has a whole lot of little subplots swirling around the main romance plot which unfortunately gets resolved rather abruptly as the show kind of just ends mid story. But at least now you know, so you can go in and just sit and enjoy what does go on in the lead up to that all important black lycra suit ending! :P

The cast as seen in the final scene. (That sounded clever in my head you know...)

(Related Link: http://www.greasethemusical.co.za/)

And now onto the next one, namely Broadway Rocks at the Barnyard Theatre at Willowbridge. The concept of the show is simple. Up until the 1960s Broadway was generally an exclusive and snobbish affair. However, that all changed when Grease hit the stages and following that, the mould was broken and we got energized, relevant and often fun shows like Jesus Christ Superstar, Evita, The Buddy Holly Show, and The Rocky Horror Show. Then you got things like Riverdance making the jump, not to mention our very own Ipi Ntombi, and then of course it was those big tribute shows like Mamma Mia and We Will Rock You that truly cemented the bond between Rock ‘n Roll and Broadway.

Now what Broadway Rocks is doing is to take some of the biggest and best songs to come out of Broadway and package them all into a fun tribute trip down memory lane that will have you singing along with all the hits and marvelling at the awesome musical talent on display, never mind the rapid fire costume changes that appears to be happening with almost each and every song change!

Songs like We Will Rock You, Hakuna Matata, Let’s do the Timewarp, Greased Lightnin’ all make their appearance thanks to a fantastically fun and charged group of musicians and singers, that will have you tapping your feet and singing along, pizza in the left hand and beer in the right hand, and perhaps even dancing in the aisles should the mood take you!

I thoroughly enjoyed the show and the singers were genuinely amusing when they were meant to be and absolutely fantastic when they opened their mouths to sing, generating an absolute blast of entertainment for the evening (Hint: if you want to fall backwards over your chair then you’ve got to see the Rocky Horror Picture Show segment!).

Oh and did I mention the absolutely brilliant solo displays of saxophone, violin and guitar?

Seriously, well worth the ticket price if you’re looking for a night out of musical fun and laughter! :)

Sjoe, and that’s that I believe. Amazingly enough, I thoroughly enjoyed both musically slanted shows and believe it or not, now I’m kind of looking forward to Mamma Mia hitting our stages later on this year, a show that Chantelle is already dying to catch!

Weird… (me, not Chantelle) :P

(Related Link: http://www.barnyardtheatre.co.za/vnu_show_moreinfo.aspx)

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats… at the Artscape My Life | My Reviews 13 JAN 2010

I’m not a great theatre lover, I’ll easily admit to that, but I do agree that there are some theatre productions and musicals that one simply has to see during their lifetime, as simple as that. And having already seen Phantom and the Opera when it was brought to the Artscape a couple of years ago, it was no surprise to find myself being dragged through to Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats last Thursday evening in the company of my dearest wife and the rest of the Montgomery horde! :P

Despite being nearly at the end of its run, the play was proving to be as popular as ever and on entry we discovered that there was literally not an empty seat in the house – row upon row of people packed the auditorium as we settled back to enjoy the show. The stage had been transformed into a wondrous junkyard full of oversized junk featuring everyday items like tennis raquets and discarded tins, with dart holes and little dank corridors permeating every nook and cranny. Dotted in amongst this plethora of rubbish was a veritable forest of lighting and special effects gadgets in place, as come the actual show, you as the viewer were to be bombarded by a constant stream of excellent lighting and special effects trickery!

Now as for the musical itself, you must understand that I found it rather nonsensical and quite pointless at that, trying to weave in a whole lot of pointless information and attempting to tie it all up as a story – but then I guess you didn’t really come to this particular production for that now did you? As for the musical numbers, while most are rather forgettable and certainly don’t rank amongst Andrew Lloyd Webber’s best, you would be silly not to recognise one of his greatest compositions that does indeed worm its way into this particular play – and that is the sensational “Memories” of course, performed more than ably in this particular production it must be said.

Actually, on that note, all the musical numbers throughout the musical (apart from the one or two performed by that Brit with the screechy, high-pitched voice) were particularly well executed, though I must just make one small gripe (still ignoring that woman), this one being directed at the black operatic singer cast as the old Deuteronomy. Unfortunately his accent was so overbearing it was difficult to make out what he was singing about, leading to a horrible break in the story as you simply couldn’t follow what he was trying to tell you! So in other words, not cool at all.

As for the dancing however, man was the cast ever so spectacular. With twists, twirls, lifts and tumbles, the cast put in a stellar acrobatic performance that captured the lively energy of Cats to perfection and kept the audiences’ eyes glued firmly to the stage – all of which combined with some excellent musical performances, production values and special effects to make for a particularly smooth, polished and professional production.

Oh, and don’t forget the fantastic, if a little outlandish costumes and make-up that adorned each “cat”. Absolutely fantastic work done in that department, believe you me!

The show was a long one, breaking once about halfway in at the hour and a half mark, and as is the custom, some of the cats came to play in amongst the crowd, providing plenty of laughs and more than a couple of startles as well! :)

Overall though, I must say outside of the high production value of this yet again quality Pieter Toerien presentation, Cats left me feeling… well a little disappointed. Yes, it was excellent in every aspect of its presentation and acting, but the play is pretty meh as far as I am concerned. It’s whimsical and doesn’t really go anywhere, hurries to a conclusion and is quite frankly, quickly forgotten. (But I guess I’m in the minority on this one, seeing as it is one of the longest running plays across the world, so I’ll just shake my head and accept that I suppose.)

Still, at least I can now say that I have seen it in my lifetime – and hopefully now will never have to cross paths with it ever again! :P