Superb vocal ‘potpourri’

2009-06-25 00:00

LISTENING to Rory Rootenberg sing is like being on a musical rollercoaster, such is his incredible vocal range and falsetto of about four and a half octaves. But whatever he chooses to wrap his vocal chords round, the audience can rest assured they’re in for a quality performance.

Born in Johannesburg, Rootenberg, an Afrikaans-speaking Jewish boy, first honed his musical talent at KwaZulu-Natal’s famed Drakensberg Boys’ Choir School.

“Being at the school was wonderful,” he says, “we sang for two hours every day. It really was a foundation for me.”

He later studied singing with the well-known baritone professor, Werner Nel of Potchefstroom University, before going on to carve a niche for himself in professional show business, starring in shows such as Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, The Sound of Music, Me and my Girl and Crazy for You.

An undoubted career highlight was winning the coveted title role in the Phantom of the Opera in The Really Useful Company’s productions in Cape Town and Johannesburg in 2004, but Rootenberg admits it wasn’t ever a huge dream to be in the Andrew Lloyd-Webber classic.

“Being in Phantom was never a dream of mine ... but being in it was a huge bonus. It is an absolute highlight (of my life) and has done wonders for my career and my solo shows. People always want to hear a few songs from the show,” he says, adding that he would, however, love to perform in the musicals, les Miserables and Miss Saigon.

Rootenberg is currently in Durban performing with long-time friend, Ian von Memerty, in The Best of Ian and Rory at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre on UKZN’s Durban campus. The show, which ends on Sunday, follows hot on the heels of Cadenza and More!, which he performed at the Sneddon last week.

Rootenberg admits he would never have had the courage to create his own shows if Von Memerty hadn’t encouraged him. “When I was planning Cadenza!, I was worried about moving from humour to poignant songs, but Ian said I could do it,” he says. “He’s my role model. I admired him from when I first saw him perform.”

Describing his shows, which include Cadenza! and Behind the Mask , Rootenberg says: “They’re a potpourri. There is a wide variety in what I do, I suppose you could call it a cabaret revue. There are moments of pathos, moments of madness.”

Read the review here.

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