Maverick Life

Theatre review: Keyboard Killers will, um, slay you

By Lesley Stones 13 October 2016

At the risk of stating the entirely obvious, a piano show featuring Ian von Memerty is great if you love the piano. By LESLEY STONES.

Keyboard Killers features a collection of songs from eight enduring stars ranging from the ancient to the modern. The target audience age range is definitely veering towards middle-aged plus, as long as they don’t mind a bit of Freddie Mercury to shake things up before calming down again with the mellow melodies of John Legend and Stevie Wonder.

Von Memerty is joined on stage by bass player Andrew Warneke and percussionist Bronwen Clacherty, adding greater depth to the sound and something else to look at. Although Von Memerty sending himself up as a middle-aged white man pulling sexy African dance moves is always worth another glance.

He’s an excellent pianist, has a rich, smooth singing voice and proves a jolly raconteur with a quick wit when he tells us about the composers in between the songs.

Announcing a Cole Porter medley drew some happy clapping from the elderly Sunday afternoon crowd, and interest from the rest of us when he mentioned that Porter’s repertoire was saucily slanted towards sex and drugs.

Unfortunately Memerty’s range of interesting accents delved into some that were unfathomably thick and fast, so I couldn’t hear all the lyrics, which is a waste with the quirky Porter numbers.

The show features a real cross-section of forgotten old gems, so you’re not going to hear material that’s already been rehashed endlessly. The exception is the Freddie Mercury medley, since the stature of the man makes almost all his material familiar. Here it felt like Von Memerty was holding back compared with Mercury himself, who would have belted the numbers out with unbridled showmanship.

For Bohemian Rhapsody he sensibly just plays the music rather than attempting the singing, reminding you how astounding Mercury was to intertwine his mad lyrics into all its atmospheric music.

Warneke on the double bass, guitar and bass guitar smiles his way through the entire show with an ease that makes you warm to him. He’s an excellent musician, adding layers that make the overall sound far richer.

Clacherty was less integrated as the percussionist, mostly playing the bongos, and slapping rather than subtlety caressing them. The distracting result didn’t always complement the keyboard, and she’d fare better with a wider range of instruments to choose from.

Keyboard Killers also features music by Stevie Wonder, Irving Berlin, Fats Waller and Billy Joel. Its second half swings along with greater jollity than the first half, as Von Memerty interacts with the audience more. He delivers a lovely Capetonian version of Don’t Put Your Daughter On the Stage Mrs. Worthington, while a very clever rewrite of Let’s Fall In Love adds another welcome dose of local flavour. DM

Keyboard Killers runs at Montecasino until October 30. Tickets from Computicket.

www.lesleystones.co.za

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