THERE’S SOMETHING RICHLY poignant about the glitz and perfume of a vibrant theatre industry that we once loved deeply and maybe took for granted. There’s something terrifying about a society in lockdown which allows its art freelancers to be tossed under the proverbial bus, many of them with no source of income at all. Come Fly with Us is a production under the aegis of Waiting in the Wings SA, that aims to address these difficulties, from withinn the industry and for its own welfare.
This classy revue of great old standards – from Louis Armstrong’s What a Wonderful World to Frankie Valli’s Can’t Take My Eyes off You, Nina Simone’s Feeling Good and Sammy Davis Jr’s Mr Bojangles among others – represents the cream of top songs of a gentle era of song-making to warm the cockles of your heart. It’s spiced with some manic humour from the pens and clownish skills of Sylvaine Strike and Toni Morkel, and features a big brass band in situ. Filmed in the hangar of OR Tambo, with a huge plane as part of the set, the work is flight-themed, and in the madcap genre of air hostess musicals, that reminisce on work done by performers of the ilk of Brendan van Rhyn in what seems decades ago, the piece is utterly charming.
Better still, you don’t have to endanger yourself, wear a mask or even get out of your grubby lockdown pajamas, as you buy your tickets and tune into the show. Indeed, you don’t even have to be in South Africa for the privilege. Every cent earned by this initiative will go towards supporting the people you see onstage, as well as myriads of others whose sole source of income – the musical stage – has been put into abeyance under the bruising scourge of lockdown.
At R85 a ticket, it’s a bit of a no-brainer: Invest in the ability of this industry to pull itself back to life with its own sense of fortitude and get some delightful jazz covers by men and women you love to applaud, as part of the price.
It’s a lovely show: the only criticism is it leaves you wishing for more: More opportunity for Adam Pelkowitz to stretch those notes, more exposure to the singing skills of Kiruna Lind-Devar, more development to the characters that Strike and Morkel present; more of Lelo Ramasimong, and certainly more of Harry Sideropoulos who, as his Simone cover begins, stands at the door of an aircraft like royalty.
Come Fly with Us is directed by Owen Lonzar. Produced by Megan Carelse and Owen Lonzar, it is written by Toni Morkel and Sylvaine Strike. With performances by Josh Bouwer, Megan Carelse, Kiruna-Lind Devar, Lila Faye, Winray Fortuin, Toni Morkel, Adam Pelkowitz, Funeka Peppeta, Lelo Ramasimong, Harry Sideropoulos, Itu Sings, Sylvaine Strike, Leote Taylor, Graeme Watkins and Donovan Yaards, dancers: Tony Banyatsi, LJ Cusack, Michael Fullard, Ernest Mokete, Jasmine Peterson, Cat Swart, Sibahle Tshibika and a big band, comprising Donny Bouwer, Romy Brauteseth, David Cousins, Yusuf Just Holcroft, Wian Joubert, Zbigniew “Speedy” Kobak, Sydney Mavundla, Etienne Mecloen, Mthunzi Mvubu, Simon Nyivana, Kagiso Ramela, Dan Selsick, Rob Watson, Marcus Waytt and Sisonke Xonti, it features creative input by Luke Draper (lighting), Owen Lonzar (choreography), Etienne Mecloen (orchestration), Lauge Sorenson (filming and editing) and Nik Sakellarides (sound). It is streamed online until 11 October.