Every year, between numerous television appearances, corporate gigs, fatherhood and being a good husband, Mr Showbiz Ian von Memerty creates a dazzling production and this year is no different.The energetic and vibrant Von Memerty is bringing his latest creation, Keyboard Killers, to Port Elizabeth from September 28, after a successful run in East London in June.
In an interview this week, Von Memberty could not hide his enthusiasm for Keyboard Killers, saying it was not “just another piano show”, or similar to his wildly successful Handful of Keys, but was rather inspired by a group of people who were “really rare”.
“These are stars who can play piano, sing, write music and lyrics. It’s a tiny list of people of about 12 people,” Von Memerty said.
The former SA’s Got Talent judge said the show featured the work of eight different composers and artists such as Freddy Mercury, John Legend, Cole Porter, Stevie Wonder, Noel Coward, Billy Joel, Irving Berlin and Fats Waller.
“Obviously these are artists I love and listen to,” Von Memerty said and to bring them to life on stage, the entertainer will be joined by Port Elizabeth bass player Andrew Warneke and percussion player Bronwen Clacherty.
He outlined how the idea for Keyboard Killers came about.
“I only do one theatre show a year, just because it fits in with corporate, directing, TV and travelling. My fans are always asking when I’m going to do another piano show, but I didn’t want to do Handful of Keys part two.
“You want to choose songs that show off a range of writing as you don’t want songs with the same style.
“Take Stevie Wonder and ask why he’s Stevie Wonder? It’s not just because he’s got nine kids from five different women and a great singer who had his first hit when he was just 12. What is it about his writing that has kept him in the business for four decades?
“You must choose music that people must respond to and which shows off that magic. It shouldn’t be just a documentary, but tell a story in a magical way.”
He said when inspiration hit, it hit “pretty fast”.
“I knew immediately which eight artists I wanted to feature as all these artists do more than just sing love songs.
“I tried to get a sound in my head because I didn’t want it to be just piano, and I knew it wasn’t a rock band, then I thought percussion because it’s got a Latin and ethnic feel.”
And Von Memerty has collated 74 songs for the show and asked if these were songs he already knew the lyrics to, he answered, “not always”.
“For instance, one of my favourite songs, I Wish, by Stevie Wonder, is about his childhood and is one of the funkiest, coolest songs. Then there is John Legend’s Glory, which I also didn’t know until I came across the soundtrack for Selma. It was cool to learn some of the songs and it challenged me as a performer and singer.”
The show title was one of a number of titles he gave to his producer in Cape Town. In the end, they decided on the name simply because it “sounded cool”.
“I sent a couple of names which included, Prince of Piano, Keyboard Kings, Keyboard Killers and he was like, ‘Keyboard Killers just sounds cool’.
“There’s a vague subliminal meaning to it when you have a hit song, it’s a smash, a hit, you killed it. There’s a thing about knocking something dead,” he said.
Von Memerty, who hosted Strictly Come Dancing for five seasons, said audiences could expect to be blown away by the amount of talent, “not only for us on stage but for the original performers of the music”.
“They’ll leave asking themselves isn’t the talent astounding? They’ll be talking about who wrote this music, remembering the last time they laughed like that because when I do a show, I try and make it like a good meal.
“If there’s a brand, it’s sophisticated entertainment for the whole family,” Von Memerty added.
He likened preparing for Keyboard Killers to climbing Mount Kilimanjaro and said “it was like standing at the bottom of a mountain and going ‘ Here, maar daai is hoog’.”
“For a start, it’s a huge show, within the range of a hundred years – old to new. I cover pop, swing, jazz, instrumental and I’m narrating it and there’s not a moment where I’m off-stage. It’s a marathon. I love being challenged and love to work with people – the audience. Vocally, because it has such a huge range of styles, it took a while for the muscles to adjust.”
Keyboard Killers will be at the PE Opera House from September 28 until October 1 with a pensioners’ matinee on Saturday October 1 at 2pm.
The show starts at 7pm on September 28, and tickets are available at Computicket ranging from R120 to R150.