Dance Review: The Queen Show – Rhapsody In Retail, Or So Much Dance Will Thrill You

October 11, 2021

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Mzansi Ballet: The Queen Show / Choreography by Michael and Angela Revie / Fourways Mall, Fourways


It’s a brave move to take a ballet production into a shopping mall – a setting where professional artist-athletes can hardly be guaranteed the sort of facilities that will minimise their risk in terms of injuries or delivering their best. But when the authorities in charge of deciding what sort of percentage occupancies different buildings can handle during different levels of lockdown position theatres right at the bottom of the priority list, taking the initiative out of their inept hands makes a lot of sense.

The central court area in Fourways Mall is massive, so appropriating an area big enough for a stage and a good number of seats for spectators is not too difficult. And with a good sound system, the other incredibly important aspect of this show – the music of Queen – can be played loudly enough that the dancers can hear it clearly, as can the audience on the same level as them (non-ticket buyers who watch the show on their way from shop to shop get an echoey, second-hand version). Lighting is trickier, but an astutely-designed rig means the illumination of the stage is properly handled. For the audience, positioned closer to the shops, the only facet of this experience that is notably different to the feeling in a theatre is the flickering of the digital screens in those shops, running (fortunately silent) adverts on loops.

To the cast’s credit, such distractions – along with the rise and fall of elevators in the semi-transparent shaft behind the stage – appear to be of little consequence, probably because the pacing of the show, which includes 18 songs, each with specific choreography, in around 70 minutes, requires their close attention and full physical focus.

Large parts of the production involve all of the company’s main cast, with the vastly different tone and mood of the songs lending itself to appropriately energetic, wistful or acrobatic movement that alternatively highlights the collective skills of the ensemble and the particular interpretive feel of soloists. Of the latter, Michael Revie (particularly in his dizzying work on a Cyr wheel), Veronica Louw and Alison Lee Sischy are standouts, with the formidable Xola Willie also drawing the eye whenever he’s on stage, thanks largely to his array of incredibly defined muscles appearing to move to their own choreography. The parasol-toting youngsters of the Shablam Dance Academy also do a superb, assured job of their routine for The Show Must Go On, suggesting the certainty of future professionals moving smoothly to the senior ranks.

This new production retains the formula used in previous runs, with the running order comprising a wider range of Queen’s music than many casual fans might be familiar with, including songs like It’s A Beautiful Day, Millionaire Waltz, My Melancholy Blues and Bijou. To the choreographers’ credit, though, the progression from huge hit to emotive deep cut never feels stilted, and, with the dancers always looking eye-catching and attractive in David Hutt’s beautiful costumes, The Queen Show is a treat for the eye and the ear even before you begin to appreciate the artistry and the precision involved (that last just occasionally an issue on opening night as the dancers adjusted to the exact measurements of available stage space on this custom-made mall platform).

This show remains an excellent argument for a repertory system – a powerful, proven production that can be tailored to different contexts – losing none of its impact on repeated viewing.

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