Offbeat maybe, but ‘Offbeat Broadway’ is spot on-target

By Lesley Stones 29 August 2011

Satire can be a most delightful creature. A skilful turn of words, a twist on something familiar to render the ordinary extraordinary. It’s not an easy art form to do well, and “Offbeat Broadway” doesn’t do it well -  it does it superbly. LESLEY STONES may go back for more.

This is a sharp and irreverent romp through the best and worst of Broadway, packing together all the musicals you could never afford to see. And since it’s now in its fourth iteration, I’m kicking myself for missing the previous three.

Offbeat Broadway is a small, intimate show sending up musicals and the theatre industry in general. Yet you don’t need to be a theatrical luvvie-darling to get the full benefit of this bright humour.

The cast of Anton Luitingh, Lindy Abromowitz and Paul du Toit bill themselves as Older, Fatter and Slower than before, and I’m laughing from the first minute when they waddle on stage with walking sticks and drip feeds. A hilariously reworked version of “Saturday Night Fever” turns “Staying Alive” into barely alive, as they complain “My voice is getting creaky and my bladder getting leaky, and we’re barely alive, barely alive.” The only trouble with lyrics like that is they’ll be burrowed into my brain for days to come.

Performer Paul du Toit has rewritten the lyrics and crafted the script that propels it along, and there are some moments of genius. This still-young veteran of the stage has selected the most famous tunes with which everyone is familiar and given them biting twists. Luitingh as pianist and singer is responsible for the madcap musical arrangements. A highlight is a wicked “Cats” spoof, which anyone who has sat through that exasperating fur-ball of a show will instantly appreciate.

“The Phantom of the Opera” is reduced to a hilarious eight-minute scramble that captures all the best bits, saving you a few hundred rand and several hours. More glorious moments come in “A Royal Rip Off”, a “Lion King” parody that’s pure Elton John goes Londolozi. This budget-Broadway show also includes a wonderful skit of “Les Miserables” with rapid-fire wig changes as the trio plays numerous parts in a Mini-Miz.

There’s plenty of social satire too as the singers keep up a great banter between themselves, with a script as witty as the rewritten lyrics. A question-and-answer session where the audience can pose musical questions gives us some entertaining ad-libbing too. It’s a simple stage set with a piano, chairs and a few props, and creative lighting to fuel the atmosphere. Facial expressions and a little choreography enhance the show and, since all three have excellent voices, we enjoy some lovely harmonies as well as a huge amount of laughs.

“Offbeat Broadway” is directed by Alan Committie, who is always great value for money whether he’s on stage or guiding other people around it. The result is a crackling yet well-balanced affair, with some serious medleys that have the audience applauding the quality of singing alone rather than the humour.

Near the end a lovely reworked version of Oliver’s “Reviewing the Situation” pokes fun at theatre critics who are “reviewing this abomination”. Don’t worry, guys, I adored it. So much so that I may do an Oliver Twist and go back for some more. DM

“Offbeat Broadway” runs until 30 September at Montecasino Theatre, and from 10 – 29 October at Cape Town’s Theatre on the Bay.



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