Music Review: Blu Piano Social Club – Hitting The Right Chords, Or Quality Azured

April 10, 2021

By BRUCE DENNILL

Blu Piano Social Club / Plug In Theatre / Peachy’s, 44 Stanley, Milpark, Johannesburg

 

Along with the obvious thrill of the onstage performances, part of what makes going to the theatre or a music venue so enjoyable is the connection with a like-minded community – of fans, fellow artists, technicians and others (venue owners and the like) – who all appreciate whatever kind of art is on display.

That innovative theatre platform and production company Plug In Theatre (run by Alyssa Harrison and Megan Rigby) understands this is evident in the name of their new venture, the Blu Piano Social Club, which nods towards both music and the simple pleasure of getting together in its title.

It’s a very simple format: one accompanist and eight (ish – line-ups can be modified if someone drops out at late notice) singers, each performing one song of their choice. The line-up for the event of 7 April – Murray Todd, Sharon Spiegel-Wagner, Megan Rigby, Kiruna-Lind Devar, Catherine Isaacs, Venolia Manale, Danny Meaker, Dikelo Mamiala and Megan Carelse – had a substantial amount of shared experience in stage musicals between them, so it was not surprising that a good portion of the evening’s entertainment was drawn from productions in that area.

Crowd-pleasers from Mama Mia! and Grease jostled with heartfelt dramatic pieces from The Last Five Years and Anastasia (Rigby’s take on In My Dreams was arguably the pick of an impressive bunch) and the occasional addition from the pop charts (Spiegel-Wagner being a sultry alternative to dishevelled Scotsman Lewis Capaldi for her take on his song Someone You Loved). The line-up of songs being unannounced before the show and wonderfully varied as it plays out keeps audience interest high.

With organisers leaping up between performers to sanitise microphones and other gear in line with COVID-19 regulations (as things stand, there is no cover charge, but you do need to book in advance so that venue capacity guidelines can be met) and a cheerful audience singing along where appropriate and shutting up where dynamics call for it, the Blu Piano Social Club has an atmosphere that encourages a more or less constant grin. Even when the material being performed is more serious, reminding yourself that you are once again in a position to enjoy it in person is fuel enough for a wide smile.

On the piano (which is blue), Dale Scheepers is a sensitive sideman, leaving the spotlight to the singers but always providing enough rhythm and colour to support their endeavours. And he has a lovely line in improvised instrumental quips, such as playing a few bars of the national anthem when co-emcee Kim Cloete expresses how a return to performance – and community – reminds her of what she loves so much about South Africa.

Good for the soul.

 

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