During the past few years – with one-man shows such as Vitamin R, Rocktails and more recently Liberocco – South African audiences have wholeheartedly embraced the irresistible charm and undeniable musical talent of Rocco De Villiers.
Fans are bound to be supremely impressed with his latest production – One Rocco, One Piano – as it exposes a whole lot more of the man than has ever been seen before!
This popular entertainer has a unique style of theatrical presentation that seems to deny any form of rehearsal process. A sense of spontaneous improvisation lies at the core of his success – it’s as if one has been invited into the pianist’s living room for an impromptu recital, which he humorously intersperses with amusing personal anecdotes.
From the moment he appears on stage, De Villiers intimately engages the trust of his listeners and his inimitable self-effacing ‘plattelandse’ patter quickly puts even the stiffest of audiences at ease.
Taking a trip down memory lane he recalls his formative years within the kitsch environment of Harrismith in the Free State, which predictably results in affectionate mockery.
Musical items are punctuated with camp banter and peppered with derogatory references to 1970’s sun-filter curtaining, crimplene safari suits and the introduction of South African television.
His scathing comments about a fellow varsity student who wore ‘Biggie Best’ outfits raise many a laugh, as do his recollections of one-time pen pal Glenda Kemp (the famous SA stripper with her two-metre python ‘Oupa’.)
But above all, the pianist is the star of this show. There’s an unusual start to the programme in which the first musical item is played solely with the right hand, whilst a flagpole in the left supplies percussive accompaniment. It’s simple yet highly effective.
And apart from personalised interpretations of some well-known classical pieces, there are also notable renditions of his many original recordings – (my particular favourites come from the album If Freud Knew The Steps.)
The ever-impressive drama that is evoked by De Villiers’ somewhat grandiose mastery of the keyboard is frequently contrasted by moments of simplistic piano fingering in this well-balanced and highly entertaining programme, which reaches an unexpectedly quiet climax in the form of a poignant piece entitled The Sudden Death of Robert (composed as a tribute to the accidental drowning of his much-loved dog ‘Bollie’),
Rocco De Villiers is a flamboyant performer, to say the very least, and one that is unhampered by the stationary nature of his instrument of choice.
Like every piano-player he is obliged to spend most of the evening with his back to the audience and yet the rest of his body evocatively and actively choreographs its way through every piece he plays. His bright red patent leather rugby boots are a toe-tapping attention-grabbing delight. And that’s not all…
Audiences get to feast their eyes upon more of the pianist’s hunky body than he’s ever previously revealed! Skin-hugging tops beautifully enhance those admirably pumped shoulders, pecs and biceps and sexy leather patchwork shorts provocatively accentuate the masculinity of those shapely legs – De Villiers is obviously ‘working out’.
In reference to the rugby-mad populace of this country, the pianist facetiously quips: “I’ve never played rugby…playing piano is my game!”
And long may his game continue!
One Rocco, One Piano is on at Theatre on the Bay, Cape Town until 31 May. It then moves to Pieter Toerien’s Montecasino Theatre, Joburg from 6 to 29 June. Book at www.computicket.com.