Music Interview: Corlea Botha – What Happens In Vegas Is Spectacular, Or Learning To Be Lifted

July 3, 2024

 

By BRUCE DENNILL

 

Swingin’ Las Vegas pays homage to the music of the stars over the past few decades who have made Vegas… Vegas! It features the music of Elvis, Frank Sinatra and The Rat Pack, Shirley Bassey and Tom Jones as well as contemporary stars Michael Buble, Robbie Williams, Adele, Amy Winehouse and more. The 18-piece Johannesburg Big Band, conducted by Adam Howard will take audiences on a musical journey of pure nostalgia with singers Craig Urbani, Corlea, Timothy Moloi and Harry Sideropoulos.

Corlea talks about her career and preparation for the show.

 

In the lead-up to a new production, how do you prepare physically, mentally and emotionally?

I’ve been doing this for so many years that I don’t think there’s really too much of a “run up” into a production anymore. I think the first signs of real preparation are when rehearsals start. I have quite a solid short-term memory and I function really well under pressure, so by the time that rehearsals come around, that’s crunch time for me – focusing and getting into everything. I think the longest part or the longest process is getting the costume ideas together that will suit and add to each song. For the emotional part, I think that only happens once you’re on stage. When you are in rehearsals, you can get a feel for each tune. I also don’t like to overthink each performance beforehand – it needs to be real. So once you hit the stage and the lights shine bright and the music starts going – that’s when the emotions really kick in.

 

What is the single most influential performance you’ve ever seen – the one that made you feel: “This is what I want to do with my life!”?

My story is a little different. I never saw a performance that made me decide to become an artist. My parents discovered my talent at the age of three. They heard that my vocal was solid, and breathing and all of the right places and my pronunciation was good and they took me for some singing lessons. That led to me performing a solo at a talent function. From the get-go, there were problems. The sound engineer started playing my song halfway through the first line which resulted in me, gently, stopping him, asking him to rewind the track to the beginning, tapping my foot while waiting and then starting my performance with a bang. I enjoyed it so much – it felt like I was in my own living room. It was so comfortable for me. Once that performance ended I told my parents that it was so much fun and I would love to do that again. And the rest is history.

 

What is your favourite aspect of the industry – be it specific people, parts of the production process, particular venues/locations or something else?

They are quite a few processes that I enjoy. I think my first love will always be performing live on stage, especially with a big band like as in Swingin’ Las Vegas. There is something so invigorating about that. I enjoy putting productions together, but I am not an admin-driven person, so I tend to do things at my own pace and sometimes that means that when it comes down to crunch time, everything happens at the same time. But it is exciting to perform a production for the first time and to see if it works and what the audience responds to. Thirdly, I love doing production on a single or album. Recording in studio, hearing the mixes, hearing the finished product – it’s something to be proud of after working so hard for many months.

 

What is an aspect of the industry that you feel could be improved (even if that’s only an idealistic wish)?

Something that I do wish I could improve (unrealistically) would be the return on investments regarding streaming. I think the whole world was shook when album sales no longer existed and everything started streaming and our revenue as recording artists was literally cut down to live performances only, and I feel after Covid a lot of audiences feel like they can rather watch singular performances on YouTube or Facebook or online somewhere then coming out to venues to support live music. It is never the same on a recording, and to go out and make some memories while listening to great music is always a good time!

 

What has been your scariest onstage/on set moment so far (anything from forgetting words or cues to accidents or other unforeseen events)?

The songs I perform are usually quite big in production scale and for some reason people like to send me up on lifts or drop me down from lifts from the sky. I have a huge fear of heights, and I was in an earthquake in 2007 in Japan, so that means when anything gives a bit of a jerk under my feet, I get really nervous! The mechanics of these lifts are fine up to a point, then they either start jerking or swinging and I don’t think I will ever get used to that – it freaks me out. I try to look calm and collected though, but I’m literally shaking… The things we do for our art!

 

Tell us about your current/upcoming production, who will be joining you on stage, and what songs you’re most keen to perform – whether solo and/or group numbers? 

This really is a once in a lifetime performance! Firstly, to perform with the 18-piece big band is a dream come true! This will also be my first solo performance in the Teatro at Montecasino, which I’m thrilled about. I am doing four power songs made famous by incredibly strong female artists who include Amy Winehouse, Adele, Bette Midler and Shirley Bassey. I’m also doing a collaboration with one of my dearest friends, Timothy Moloi. He has a voice like velvet and it’s always such a treat for me to do a duet with him. I’ve worked with Craig Urbani before – he is a force to be reckoned with and such a performer! This is my first time working with Harry Sideropoulos. I saw him literally 20 years ago in the first Big Band Blast and I’ve admired his talent and his stage presence ever since. Adam Howard from Howard Audio is the captain of our ship. I’ve worked with Adam for many years. He’s one of the sweetest human beings and he can make a trumpet cry like nobody else can. I really want to urge anyone who loves music to come and see this spectacular show – it’s going to be like the “good old days” of proper live music and singing!

 

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