A slick and shiny night out

2012-10-20 14:46

Why should Gautengers turn out for a District Six musical?

Because it’s the best two hours of knee-slapping, toe-tapping fun you’ll have in a while.

David Kramer and the late Taliep Petersen’s political musical, wrapped up in a slick, shiny rock’n’roll box, is rehearsed to flawlessness and every step is in time.

The musical was newly minted around the same time as our democracy and its run on London’s West End elicited superlatives and awards.

This updated version introduces a new cast and they do the show’s legacy proud.

Old-timer Kat Diamond is played by Danny Butler, a man who might have piled on more years than many, but who can do a two-step that would be the envy of the young and energetic.

Butler has been doing this role for a long time and he wears it with the same pride his character shows in shining his customers’ shoes.

Shoes, the older, wiser Kat says, show you what kind of person someone is.

The shoe analogy runs through the production – from your first pair to your dancing pair, from your most comfortable pair to new ones with an impossible shine.

Kat looks back on a lifetime of good times and doors of opportunity that closed before he could step through them.

While Kat reminisces, the audience is transported back to the streets of District Six in the 1950s, at the height of rock’n’roll, and we see the rise and rise of a quartet of coloured boys to become the celebrated Carvella Kings.

The trouble is of course that this story is set during apartheid, so the ending for the foursome is no fairy tale and their female songwriter suffers terrible indignities too.

Kat’s young self is played by the charismatic youngster Dean Balie, who is joined by Zak Toerien as Magoo, Grant Peres as Bingo, Carlo Daniels as Ballie and Amy Trout as Lucy Dixon.

The five young performers pull off a variety of styles and tempos, performing each number with aplomb and humour – from the devil-may-care Wild Time to the starstruck Boetie Guitar and the perfectly packaged “hit” Lonely Girl.

Kat and the Kings keeps the tempo lively throughout, capturing the exuberance and expectation of youth, that feeling that anything is possible – only to find that life has other plans for you. But don’t imagine that it’s a drag – not for a minute.

This is fine musical storytelling – sweet with the bitter, never resentful, but sometimes mournful.

This is not a Cape Town story; it is a slice of South African history told through the music that inspired the youth of the time, who were doomed to be judged and dismissed by the colour of their skin.

»Kat and The Kings is on at Pieter Toerien’s Montecasino Theatre until November 18. Book at Computicket

»Follow me on Twitter @GayleMahala

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