By BRUCE DENNILL
Live Jukebox / Directed by Kristy Suttner / The Fringe, Joburg Theatre, Braamfontein, Johannesburg
Interactive theatre shows are not as common as they once were, with even the likes of the Joburg Follies being distant memories to younger audiences. Not everyone wants to be involved in shows – that may put paid to some of the escapist pleasure of letting someone else do all the work – but anyone in the mood for taking part can enjoy their 15 seconds of fame, which is a significant drawcard in itself.
Live Jukebox is a music game show a la enduringly popular TV productions like Noot Vir Noot, sharing with that show the presence of a live onstage band and a range of questions that requires good general music knowledge from the audience. Unlike the set, safe scripts of the TV version, though, Live Jukebox has two all-singing, all-dancing hosts in Kristy Suttner and the elastic-voiced Mortimer Williams, who perform medleys of songs between segments and ensure that the teams they captain (half of the audience each) get their cues straight when the time comes to compete.
Incentives are in the shape of tots of shamelessly punted sponsor Bacardi (if you don’t want to drink, you can nominate someone else to do so), which greases the wheels in interesting ways, depending on the state of the team member on stage at the time. The unpredictability of the behaviour of the punters who join Suttner and Williams on stage is both part of the entertainment value of the show and part of the risk that it might go partly (or wholly) pear-shaped at some point in proceedings.
The hosts are both adept improvisors and cool heads, so they’re able to handle the disruptive influences well, and helped by a sharp, adaptable band, they keep matters on track throughout. This is – mostly – a show for extroverts who don’t mind putting themselves out there a little, and for anyone who covets the spotlight … but has skipped the whole voice and drama training thing as well as the endless audition process.
Every show (it takes place in monthly instalments) will be different, as Suttner and Williams constantly update the playlist, and different audience members will add their personal stamp to the sequences they’re involved in. It’s not profound stuff, but it’s heartfelt and exuberant.