Baxter Theatre, Bovim Ballet, QUEEN AT THE BALLET, Sean Bovim, Cito, Henk Opperman, Freddie Mercury
Bovim Ballet is back on stage in Cape Town with a return reason of QUEEN AT THE BALLET. One of the project-based company’s flagship productions, this "rock ballet" was first seen in 2004 at which time it crafted a new image for ballet in South Africa, one that was sexy, contemporary, cutting edge and exciting. A tribute to Freddie Mercury, the show delves into the life of the enigmatic frontman of Queen, using many of the timeless songs that Mercury introduced during his career at a springboard.
At its core, QUEEN AT THE BALLET is about the intricacy of relationships, about how they begin, end and transform. Perhaps that is why the more intimate numbers work best. When Henk Opperman, simply brilliant as Freddie, takes the stage with his various lovers the show throbs with a heartbeat that pulsates all the way through to the back wall of the theatre. Most convincing of all are the sequences during which he is partnered by Devon Marshbank, who delivers a performance as Jim Hutton that is layered and poignant. The chemistry between the two is palpable and this lends the piece an emotional core that is utterly compelling.
A series of numbers that portrayed Freddie’s relationships with women fleshes out this theme, dealing as it must with the universal human need to connect. Tanya Futter is grace personified as Mary Austin, a woman who was a central figure in Mercury’s life and for whom he wrote "Love of My Life". Faye Dubinski bursts with personality in as Barbara Valentin, around whom the "Killer Queen" number in the show is built. As Rosemary Pearson, herself the most mysterious of Mercury’s lovers, Nicola van der Merwe combines elegance with a raw vulnerability that was best on display during "Take My Breath Away", a quartet danced with Opperman, Marshbank and James Bradley.
The other important thematic motif in QUEEN AT THE BALLET is time, which manifests itself in the choreography, in a large clockface appears onstage from time to time and in the two characters that round out the principal cast, MasterTime (Steven van Wyk ) and Second Hand (JV Mattei). MasterTime functions as a kind of narrator-commentator and Van Wyk embodies the character with a sense of wit and flamboyance. As his hip-hop dancing assistant, Mattei uses his appealing personality to makes palatable a role overtly created to add youth appeal to the show while adding little resonance to it.
The show features recorded music with live singers, namely Cito (the electric lead singer of WONDERboom, who delivered similarly first class vocals in JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR and CHESS), Daniel Fisher (whose vocals are techinically solid but whose presence lacks the magnetism for which Mercury was so famous onstage), Magdalene Minnaar (who appears onstage to deliver the soprano vocal in "Barcelona" and who delivers in spades) and the abovementioned Van Wyk, who delivers a couple of the songs in the show in character.
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Born and bred in South Africa, David has loved theatre since the day he set foot on stage in his preschool nativity play. He graduated with a Master of Arts (Theatre and Performance) degree from the University of Cape Town in 2005, having previously graduated from the same university with a First Class Honours in Drama in 2002. An ardent essayist, David won the Keswick Prize for Lucidity for his paper "Homosexual Representation in the Broadway Musical: the development of homosexual identities and relationships from PATIENCE to RENT". Currently, he teaches Dramatic Arts at a high school in Cape Town and also freelances as a theatremaker and performer. |