From rugby rucks to music revues

2011-11-05 00:00

A FORMER All Black rugby player and successful breeder of thoroughbred race horses seems an unlikely person to have penned a music revue — but that’s exactly what Alan Sutherland has done.

“I’ve always had a passion for music­ ever since I was a kid of 15, working on farms in New Zealand. We always had the radio on and knew the words to every song after it had been played about four or five times,” Sutherland, who moved to Gowrie Village from Mooi River six months ago, said.

“I’ve always loved live shows and had been thinking for awhile that it would be fantastic to go to one where every single song is instantly recognisable.”

He took his idea to Durban-born actor and midlands resident, Paul Spence, a former member of the Royal Shakespeare Company and familiar face to fans of the dinner thrillers he puts on with fellow midlands resident, Annie Robinson.

Spence told him to write a script and then between them they produced the show, The Girl From Somewhere, which will have its debut performance at Hartford House in Mooi River on November 11.

Sutherland said the story revolved around a young woman with a fabulous, but untrained, voice, whose ambition is to perform on the international stage. She goes to see a music­ teacher, who has abandoned the Johannesburg rat race for the midlands, and with his help learns to sing and becomes the star she’s always dreamt of being.

“My show is a musical cabaret,” Sutherland says, “it tells a story. It has bits of sadness in it, some subtle touches, joy, great songs, and just when you think it’s over, it’s not.”

Performing the power ballads­ in the show is fellow Gowrie Village resident, Cat Simoni, the Durban-born chanteusse, who enjoyed a successful career performing in Britain, working with producer, Bill Kenwright, and sharing the stage with stars Boy George and Kiki Dee.

During her time in the UK, she also wrote songs for Mark Morrison, Kym Marsh, Atomic Kitten and Will Young and played at some of London’s top hotels including The Ritz, The Dorchester, The Park Lane Intercontinental and Berkeley Square Casino.

“Cat has one of the best voices in South Africa,” Sutherland said. “There are some very difficult songs in the show and there are not too many people who, for example, can take on a Whitney Houston song, but she can. She has a big voice.”

The song list includes numbers by Houston, Adele, Bette Midler, Faith Hill and Barbra Streisand — and it’s the latter’s song, Somewhere, which helped provide Sutherland with the title for the show.

Simoni, a pianist-singer, said she and Spence, who studied acting at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London and worked as an actor and director in theatres in England­, Scotland, Northern Ireland and several other countries, wanted to keep the show simple.

“This is not a West End musical with huge sets and lots of props, instead it’s a smaller show with big numbers — big show numbers and pop songs — performed with some piano and some backing tracks,” she added.

Among those behind Sutherland’s musical theatre debut is his wife Vera­, the former Miss South Africa, Vera Johns, whom Sutherland married­ after meeting her during a rugby tour to South Africa with the All Blacks.

The rugby legend had played lock and number eight for the All Blacks and toured South Africa in 1970 and again in 1976.

“On the last one I met my wife… it seemed like a good reason to stay,” he said.

The Sutherlands moved to Mooi River and started a stud farm, where their stallions included the Irish-bred King Of Kings, which won five races over distances ranging from 1 200 m and 1 600 m in Britain and Ireland, including the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket.

Commenting on the debut of The Girl From Somewhere at Hartford House’s Al Maktoum School of Excellence, he said: “It’s the most wonderful venue and it’s going to be a classy affair. The cuisine has been prepared by internationally renowned chef, Jackie Cameron, and the guests will be getting a glass of champagne when they arrive. It’s going to be a real social event for Mooi River.”

The Hartford House show, which is a fundraiser for the Mooi River Farmers Association (MRFA), is pretty much sold out, but speak to Jenny at the MRFA at 033 263 1513 on the off chance that space is still available.

A second show is scheduled to take place at the Nottingham Road Hotel on December 21 and Sutherland says he may also take it to Baynesfield in the New Year, and to Howick and Maritzburg.

Tickets for the Nottingham Road Hotel performance, which will be in a supper-theatre format, are R180 each and can be booked with the hotel­ at 033 266 6151.


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