IF ANYONE knows Port Elizabeth audiences, it is stalwart entertainer Marelize Barnard – she understands that you can’t just slap anything together and expect applause. That’s why she and equally experienced co-performer Niqui Cloete-Barrass have been very careful in their selection when it comes to Raising the Curtain!, which will be staged in the new Pemads Athenaeum Long Room next week with a montage of top numbers from some of the duo’s previous award-winning shows.
“Pemads asked us to do something special for the opening of their Long Room cabaret venue and we thought it would be nice to cover popular songs from our previous shows. Sort of a highlights package if you will,” explained Barnard.
She said the successful development of her and Cloete-Barrass’s stage partnership over a long period could mainly be attributed to their like mindedness.
“We both believe that entertaining people is the biggest part of what we do. We want people to have fun with us. Life is serious enough, when you go out for an evening’s entertainment you want to leave feeling uplifted.”
Barnard said a professional approach to what they did was key.
“We have a very similar approach to performing and we both bring our own off-stage talents to the partnership. We have also become great friends, which is half the battle won.”
When it comes to the secret to providing the right mix for a montage like this, for Barnard it’s a case of being in touch with your audience.
“You have to be very aware that audiences in PE are very educated about theatre. We have a very dynamic amateur theatre scene in Port Elizabeth and you cannot just get on stage and slap something together.
“We’re not all about the jokes, we want to make people think and feel as well. You have to consider keeping the audience entertained. This often goes hand in hand with putting personal wants aside.
“The first consideration for doing a song in the show is if the audience will connect with that song, whether it be emotionally or just tapping their feet and having a good time.”
Barnard said it was for that reason it was also very important to have a good balance between slower vocal songs and faster – sometimes sillier – songs.
So how do you go about choosing the material and then assigning it to the right performer?
“Both Niqui and I believe that you perform a song best if you really love that song and connect to it yourself. It’s easy to sing words but to convince the audience and give them the experience that they came to see, you have to interpret the lyrics of the song and actually feel that song in your gut.
“If you enjoy singing the song, more often than not, the audience will enjoy it. So we consider what the audience would like to hear and then Niqui and I first decide who feels passionate about which songs.”
Barnard said that with Raising the Curtain! – as with all their shows – the audience could “expect the unexpected”.
“The whole feel of a show depends very much on the audience as well, so sometimes we are also surprised. In essence, they will have some moments of hysterical laughter, moments of wiping a tear, toe-tapping moments and some just ‘ah, I love that song’ moments.”
The duo will chat and sing their way through numbers from hit shows like Curtain Call, Kilts, Celts and Welsh Rarebits, 50 Shades of Eve, and their latest project, Kiss My Country Bumpkin.
Some of the songs audiences can look forward to include the sultry Cher hit Dark Lady; the sassy Sandra Dee from Grease; the power duet by Liza Minnelli and Donna Summer, Does He Love You; Anne Murray’s A Little Good News and Cloete-Barrass’s hilarious parody versions of Stand (On) Your Man and It’s My (Body) and I’ll Cry If I Want To.
The show runs at the Pemads Athenaeum next week on Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday at 7.30pm.
Patrons are welcome to bring snacks and take advantage of the bar facilities on offer.
Tickets cost R90 and are available from Westway Cafe, Newton Park, (041)365-0217.