Capetonians have become accustomed to On Broadway’s consistently innovative showcasing of local talent and Strictly Come Jazz is no exception to its track record; once again, fresh young performers have been provided a legitimate platform.

Presumably, the innovators of the show decided to coin a recognisable TV ‘concept-phrase’ by their choice of title, with the hope of attracting potential audiences.

Personally, my own levels of anticipation for a thoroughly enjoyable evening were high, having seen a number of excellent productions at this popular supper-theatre venue. Its ambiance is ideally suited to the intimacy of raw cabaret. So I naturally looked forward to an evening of personalised interpretations of classic jazz standards – only to be sadly disappointed.

To begin with, the title itself is misleading. To a musical purist, the combination of the two words ‘strictly’ and ‘jazz’ imply something other than what actually takes place on stage. Within a loose framework of somewhat lack-lustre narrative links, this programme tends to be a mish-mash of popularised blues-swing melodies (for example, Sinatra’s Something Stupid and Eva Cassidy’s version of Over The Rainbow) few of which can actually lay claim to real roots within pure jazz.

Now in my opinion, a lack of musical purism might have been overlooked if the design technicians had achieved a typical ‘jazz’ atmosphere at least – I’ve previously witnessed enough creative lighting within the existing limitations of this venue to know that it is possible. But in this case, very little visual mood was evoked and for this writer, jazz is all about MOOD. After all, jazz music is emotionally inspired.

This particular musical genre historically developed as an artistic expression for human pain and suffering, as well as adrenal excitement and earthly thrills. In the early days of its evolution, jazz was a dangerous innovation within conservative western society, very little of which was theatrically evoked within this production.

There was just too much light on stage: Where was the evocative intimacy, sophistication and sexuality with which most of us link this type of music? If nothing else, one of those dreaded smoke-machines might have helped within this PC, non-smoking venue. (Forgive me, but I’ve always associated jazz with smoky interiors!)

Fortunately, the three performers possess fine future potential Рan insightful director is what they need. Monique Hellenberg has an engaging stage presence and a pleasing voice, although she would do well to explore a jazzier gutsiness that was mostly lacking Р(jazz is seldom pretty, my dear!) Рher rendition of B̩same Mucho was poignant; for a few moments one truly empathised with the emotional content of the song.

Jaco Norval’s interpretation of Mona Lisa contained a similar quality – this budding actor has a lyrical voice that, although pleasant to the ear, was not entirely suited to all the selected material. Francois Lliam came nearest to delivering the confident style that this musical genre deserves – a brash arrogance pervaded his performance, throughout, with an unexpected, yet welcome, intensity in his delivery of Fever.

Suffice to say that the performers individually shone most when they stayed still and merely sang their songs – stillness and economy of physical movement are immensely effective in musical theatre, especially when lit effectively. Choreography (however innovative) should always be cautiously employed in any production. Singers should never have to move about just for the sake of activity – concise, pertinent, purposeful dance steps and gestures are all that is ever required; extraneous ‘dancing’ can be extremely irritating upon one’s nerves.

In a more hopeful vein, though, my thirty-something table companion thoroughly enjoyed the show – perhaps you’ll share his point of view. Although well aware of the presentation’s flaws, he enjoyed the interactive vibe that existed between the singers and praised their youthful raw talent.

Strictly Come Jazz is on fromTuesday to Saturday at On Broadway from 19 January to 9 February. Visit to book.

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