Interview: The Good News Cabaret, exciting mélange of new songs and standards and comedy by Godfrey Johnson and Roland Perold in theatrical cabaret

The Good News Cabaret- April 2023 Cape season – comedic cabaret

Performers: Roland Perold and Godfrey Johnson
Artistic supervisor: Paul Griffiths

~The Galloway Theatre (Waterfront Theatre School)  
April 21, 22, 28, 29  at 8pm

~Die Koelkamers (Paternoster)  
April, 26 at  7pm

~The Drama Factory (Somerset West)  
April 30 at 4pm

More info:  

Entertaining audiences and sharing ‘good news’ vibes, in late 2018, Godfrey Johnson and Roland Perold, presented The Good News Cabaret, in the Alexander Bar in Cape Town. Mindful that we all need ‘good news’, the award winning singer/songwriter/composers decided to revive the cabaret for the festive season and they played to appreciative audiences, in Durban in December 2022. The Good News Cabaret 2022/23 is an evolving body of music, which shifts in banter and mood, according to venue, city and of course the audience.  Johnson enthuses: “Singing along is absolutely essential.” The Good New Cabaret is touring the Cape, April 2023: Three venues to catch the beguiling duo of Johnson and Perold. It is a theatrical cabaret- mashing songs (standards and original material by Perold and Johnson), with comedy in songs and dialogue.

Giving ourselves permission to laugh again

An iteration of The Good News Cabaret, a start-up tester season, was presented in late 2018 at the Alexander Bar in Cape Town (which closed during the pandemic). The Good News Cabaret, in a post pandemic landscape is very different to its first incarnation. Insights how the 2023 edition differs from the 2018 cabaret – in terms of songs and/or concept?

Godfrey Johnson: The good news is, we are still here. It is about unapologetically maintaining your individuality. We are living through wars, poverty, gender- discrimination, artistic suffocation and an endless list of crimes against sanity. Through observation, music and laughter we hope that ‘The Good News’ is not so much about the literal rainbow but about giving ourselves permission to laugh again.

The pandemic was in many ways a profoundly sobering disaster and therefore the irony of having ‘Good News’ in a title did not go unnoticed by the post – pandemic Perold and Johnson. When Roland invited me to join him to revisit and reimagine the show, I simply couldn’t say no!

Conceptually it is similar: Two of us sharing a piano [or keyboard – depending on venue], sometimes playing together, sometimes solo and sometimes accompanying. We have also kept material from the original show and have added juicy new material to the programme.  The whole show is musical. The dialogue is both sung and spoken.

In terms of set, we have gone for an uncluttered look. We want the material to create the colour, line and set. Singing along is absolutely essential.

Influencers, exorcism blow up dolls and unwanted marriages

Can you give insights into the playlist – covers? Your own compositions –what can people expect?

Godfrey Johnson: Roland has a wonderful nose for unusual composers. We both love the satire of Noēl Coward and the sheer brilliance and theatricality of Stephen Sondheim. We sing about blow up dolls, unwanted marriages and so much more. We have also included comedy favourites like Let’s Do It by Victoria Wood, Nina by Noël Coward, in amongst some crooner classics like The Lady is a Tramp, by Rodgers & Hart. If the mood takes us we may even throw in a bit of eighties (medley-lized of course) or a Bette Midler favourite for die-hard fans.

I recently wrote a song called, A Demon Called Sue a song about an exorcism gone wrong. I also wrote a song, called Influencers. I couldn’t resist. This is new material – which was not in the 2018 edition. It is always interesting to see how audiences react to previously unheard material and these songs went down very well in Durban. Roland has been curating and composing for a wonderful online, festival, CAB – Cabaret and Beyond. These two songs – A Demon Called Sue and Influencers -were written specifically for CAB- which was presented  in December, 2022.

In terms of comedy for The Good News Cabaret, in our covers of Coward and Sondheim and other songs, we have altered a few lines here and there just to add to the fun- even Lloyd-Weber does not escape a gentle poke.  For the most part however, we find it more satisfying to write songs from scratch.

Shape shifting cabaret – city, audience, venue

You launched The Good News Cabaret in Durban, December 2022 and here it is, the Cape, April 2023, at three venues. Does the chit-chat between numbers shift when you play in a different city?

Godfrey Johnson: It does. We do adapt according to the audience but avoid straying too far from the point. Our director, Paul Griffiths is brilliant at keeping us in check. As we are both used to solo performing, it requires a different kind of discipline and thread when sharing the stage, it is about ‘us’ and the audience not ‘me’ and the audience.

From Bach to the Sex Pistols

You both have studied music so you bring extensive pedagogy to what you do- you don’t just string a playlist together and add comedy. Insights into building a cabaret such The Good News Cabaret.

Godfrey Johnson: Our musical tastes range from Bach to The Sex Pistols. Roland has introduced me to some wonderful song writers such as the effortlessly irreverent Randy Newman, another composer on our playlist. The show also includes the wonderful Perold original, Opening, a minor. This is the number which opens our show.

Stories, new ideas, humour, satire, tears, art, dance and song

Your reflections into navigating the pandemic, as artists working in live performance? Godfrey you had a bad experience, being stalked, recently?

Godfrey Johnson: It was about just keeping going and supporting those around you.  We will always need stories, new ideas, humour, satire, tears, art, dance and song. In a world where books are being rewritten and banned we must simply never keep quiet, so we kept going – creating and writing

I was stalked and threatened in December [2022] and it was really quite traumatizing even for a middle- aged me. I had to delete all my social media platforms. This was not great for marketing but it was rather fantastic for my brain. The unseen universe of stalkers is growing daily and it is our duty to be cautious. A friend of mine exposed their stupidity by promising to find them and pull their hair, after that not a word- cowards.

After all that – the pandemic and other stuff we all are dealing with- it is a privilege to be back on stage, with The Good News Cabaret, working with Roland Perold. It is a pleasure to work with someone as gifted as Roland, working with him, to create a theatrical cabaret, within the genre of cabaret.  As people who are familiar with our work, know, we do not do ‘tribute shows’. It is not simply about stringing together, covers by other artists. We have been influenced by so many great songwriters and we pay homage to them – sometimes with a twist with lyrics but with deep respect and humour- and laughs. And in tandem, we feature our own songs, our own material and comedic dialogue. It is a real treat to work with Roland in that process of creating cabaret- with original material and with a shout-out to what has and continues to inspire as musical creatives, working in theatre. We have had a lot of fun assembling The Good News Cabaret and we hope that audience will have a joyous experience at the theatre and I did say-“Singing along is absolutely essential.”

✳Related coverage on TheCapeRobyn