Rock on Roelof

2009-11-14 00:00

ROELOF Colyn never had any ambition to be an actor, but thanks to Ian von Memerty and the legendary show A Handful of Keys, he’s found himself treading the boards.

Currently wowing the crowds as legendary composer Ludwig von Beethoven in Rock On! Beethoven at the Barnyard Theatre, Gateway, this pianist believes that the show is the perfect antidote to stress and the painful reality of the recession.

Created especially for the Umhlanga venue, Rock On! Beethoven is a sequel to Von Memerty’s 2000 hit, Roll Over Beethoven. “We changed the show several times while we were getting it ready for the Durban run … there was a lot of trial and a hell of a lot of error, but it was great being able to come here and not have to do so much rehearsing before we opened,” Colyn said.

And the story? Well, after incurring the wrath of his fellow heavenly choir members because he only wants to play his own music, Beethoven is sent down to Earth to find some new tunes and in doing so discovers rock ‘n roll.

Cue lots of high-energy numbers such as Chuck Berry’s Rock and Roll Music and Roll Over Beethoven, and some seriously rocked-up classical numbers, including Verdi’s Anvil Chorus, Beethoven’s Für Elise and Grieg’s Peer Gynt Suite.

Asked how he got the gig, Colyn says: “I didn’t have any work on, so when Von Memerty asked me if I wanted to do the show, I said, ‘Absolutely!’ Who doesn’t want to spend Christmas and New Year in Durban?”

The pair have known each other for years, joining forces to perform in A Handful of Keys in 2001. “People kept telling me to go and see the show and how funny it was. I couldn’t understand what could be so funny about a couple of guys playing piano. Then Von Memerty asked me if I wanted to do Handful and I thought I’d better see it. When I did, I thought, I can’t do that.”.

But his arm was eventually twisted and earlier this year he and Jonathon Roxmouth had audiences at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre at UKZN Durban in stitches with their on-stage antics.

It’s all a long way from Kimberley, where Colyn was born and raised by a family who had no idea he was a gifted pianist.

“No one knew that I was musical until I went to an audition in the music class in Standard 4. When my teacher told my mum, she said it couldn’t be true,” Colyn said.

It was, however, and it has allowed him to travel the country singing and performing, first with The Canaries, the South African National Defence Force church choir and concert group, and later as a professional musician.

Asked why people should see Rock On! Beethoven, he said: “It’s got a great party vibe, lots of hits and some classical numbers which have been rocked up.”

The other reason for seeing it is the cast — velvet-voiced Percy Smith, diva Felicity Kiran; young singer Stephan Nel, Regardt de Bruin (guitar), Arno van der Westhuizen (keyboards and flute), Mark Freel (bass guitar), P. W. van der Walt (drums), Kirsty Madgin (saxophone), and Jane Baillie (violin). “We’re all having a great time and just love doing this show,” Colyn said.

Highlights for me include Kiran’s version of Tina Turner’s River Deep Mountain High and her medley of modern hits — Pink’s So What and Katie Perry’s Hot & Cold and I Kissed A Girl, Smith’s rendition of Bob Marley’s No Woman No Cry, UB40’s Red Red Wine, and Nel’s version of the Bryan Adams’s classic, Summer of 69.

Madgin and Baillie also wowed the audience in numbers like The Doors’ Light My Fire, Cold Play’s Viva La Vida and the Peer Gynt Suite.

As for Colyn himself — well let’s just say I’ve never seen fingers fly across a set of keys like that.

• Rock On! Beethoven runs until January 10. Tickets are R115, Wednesday to Saturday, and R80 on Tuesday night and for the Sunday matinée show. To book, phone 031 566 3045.

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