Garbed to a T

LADIES in red, with their pianist: (from left) Lorri Strauss, Ntambo Rapatla and Sharon Spiegel-Wager, with Clifford Cooper on piano, in Alan Swerdlow’s The Dress Code, at Theatre on the Square in Sandton, until 28 May. Photograph by Phillip Kuhn

WHAT ARE YOU wearing right now? Does it pinch and bunch, ride and give you a pain where it shouldn’t? Does it make you feel like a million dollars, nevertheless? Or does it feel delicious but whatever you do, don’t catch a glimpse of yourself in a mirror, or your day will be ruined! Alan Swerdlow takes on the behemoth of dress, with three divas and a pianist and the revue is a delight. See The Dress Code at Theatre on the Square in Sandton until 28 May.

Taking on everything from stilettos and crocs to bridesmaids’ frocks shouting expensive and ugly, the show is a combination of famous standards deliciously tweaked to reflect on dress rules, poems and narrative that will make you laugh and cry out loud. It’s about the secret places where old undies get lost in the washing system, and itsy bitsy teeny weeny swimsuits, which just you and the truth telling changeroom assistant get to see on your aging body. It’s not only the sequins in the costumes, however, that shine in this show which is a breath of fresh energy onstage.

Veteran musical theatre professionals Sharon Spiegel-Wagner, Lorri Strauss and Ntambo Rapatla know how to seduce their audience with colour and light, movement and parody to keep you smiling. Their voice ranges differ, as do their roles, and you will learn about the pummelled but much-loved wedding dress, the ambiguity of the red dress in its social roles and the beads that the youngest child will wear after the first loss of a parent.

Accompanied by the inimitable Clifford Cooper who sports bling in his belt and in his chords, the music ranges from the best of the best of Burt Bacharach and Elton John to snippets from Les Mis, Amy Winehouse and The Doors, and the harmonies come thick and fast, vocally in thought, deed and online purchase, and the way in which girls, when together, judge. But it is Christine Lavin’s cheeky and sexy little 1981 song Air Conditioner that Strauss comes into her own, in her vocal capacities and persona. Spiegel-Wagner lends the show comedic highlights, nifty poetry and a voice which reaches from modulated to classily raucous, while Rapatla has a stage presence that reaches forward and back in time, making you embrace the moments. Together, they sing in more than just the literal sense.

The grand finale of this work, which is maybe a tad longer than it should be, puts the lilt back in your head and the beat in your foot on the theatre carpet. The three emerge in dresses that will leave you gasping with delight, as they bring all the arguments around wokeness and planet salvation, beauty and beasts to fabulous and witty closure.

It’s a satisfying and tonic-laden show, laced with the right kind of well-trodden cliches to allow you to remember that aside from doom and gloom, loadshedding and potholes, Putin and bad news, there are other things in the world. Things to smile about.

  • The Dress Code is directed by Alan Swerdlow. Written by Sharon Spiegel-Wagner, Lorri Strauss and Alan Swerdlow, it features creative input by Clifford Cooper (musical direction) and Pumeze Boutique (finale dresses). It is performed by Ntambo Rapatla, Sharon Spiegel-Wagner and Lorri Strauss, with Clifford Cooper on piano and is at Theatre on the Square in Sandton until 28 May. Call 011 883-8606.

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