The Doowah Boys

Running at the Langoustine’s Theatre by the Sea in Durban North until May 28, The DooWah Boys is written and directed by Kevin Feather. The irrepressible four invite ladies in the audience to throw lingerie “which we will auction to pay our salaries – we ARE in Durban, after all!” However, while Durban audiences are notoriously difficult, this one’s sure to pull them in.

With costume design by Kevin Feather, choreography by Owen Lonzar and backtracks and musical arrangements by Garth Victor, the show follows DooWah Boys 1 which remains Kevin Feather’s second biggest commercial success after Jo’burg Follies. It showcases the hits of all-male groups from the 1940’s to the 1990’s and includes numbers by The Beatles, The Bee Gees, The Beach Boys, The Platters, The Temptations and Queen – just to mention a few

For the Durban run, popular local entertainer Percy Smith has joined Brandon Auret (currently appearing in Isidingo: The Need), Durban singer/musician Andrew Webster (last seen in Durban in Return to the Forbidden Planet) and Emmanuel Castis (who recently appeared in the Cape Town production of The Rocky Horror Show).

Freddie Mercury tribute, the four are a delight to watch. Getting a good response from the audience early in the show, all have strong voices and distinct personalities. But energetic, beautiful-bodied, lithe and disarming though they might be it’s a pity – opening night glitches apart – that the show wasn’t as tightly directed as it should have been. This DooWah Boys lacks the sophistication of the first production seen at the O’Hagan’s Supper Stage several years back, a show which gained a Vita award nomination in 1996.

An item where the boys perform as the DooWah Girls heralded by a video insert which sees them frantically donning female gear in the dressing room was tacky and unnecessary. Or, rather, they should have done it properly – as female impersonators – and proved their acting ability. This would have provided greater impact.

I was also unhappy with some of the arrangements. While a new look at a standard hit is welcomed, some of the numbers included harmonies discordant to the point of acute discomfort. And if they’d gone any higher as the BeeGees, they might have attracted a passing colony of bats!

Highlights of the evening were Percy Smith’s Unchained Melody and a particularly clever medley of Beatles songs woven into a scenario where a white-coated psychiatrist listens to deranged lovelorn swains offering complaints such as Help! … She Was Just 17, Michelle … A Hard Day’s Night … Yesterday, I gave her all my love … Why did she have to go, She Loves Me … to which the psychiatrist offers laconic replies such as He’s a real Nowhere Man!

Another fun piece is The Lion Sleeps in which the cast dons South African flag shirts and launches into some nifty gumboot dancing. There’s also the `unplugged’ version of Tainted Love which is accompanied by spoons, a cool drink bottle, two coat hangers and a belt.

The show also includes video inserts with Kevin Feather masquerading as a television presenter from Shat (southern half of Africa television) and cast members prancing around by a lake.

The audience was in transports of delight so obviously my reservations are but niggles when compared to overall box-office attraction. This show should do extremely well. It’s entertaining, enjoyable, the guys are gorgeous and the music’s great. The venue is comfortable and the food good (I had a Greek salad, lamb shank and apple crumble) although the bar service still needs attention. Book through Computicket or phone 563-7324.