Review: Mad dogs and shenanigans at the Good News Cabaret-quirky, wry and entertaining -uplifting and charming show – with songs to sing and laugh along to –walk out with a smile on your face – as you leave the theatre

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)  – season over

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

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

More info: 

Roland Perold and Godfrey Johnson’s The Good News Cabaret is smart, wry, witty, entertaining and delivers a comedic concoction of quirky riposte and song- a quirky collection of comedy story songs with the spirited duo, romping across the stage, with a cocktail of banter. I thoroughly enjoyed this cabaret, performed with zest and verve by the multi-talented duo sharing the piano/keyboards. The playlist includes toe-tapping, sing along sets (a fabulous 80s melody), numbers by Noël Coward, Tom Lehrer (with some variations) and new material that they have written – deliciously sardonic and mirroring this mad world of ours.

Mad dogs and Englishmen by Noël Coward [first performed in June 1931] met with whoops of delight and laughter. The title references the chorus: ‘Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun.’ The line is believed to have been devised by Rudyard Kipling. He was referencing the heat in the Far East- observing that Englishmen were mad to go out in the burning heat at midday – as were dogs – while locals – stayed indoors. On a rainy, cold winter night in Cape Town, that song truly resonated. Only mad Cape Town peeps would venture out, in loadshedding [electrical outages for those from abroad], to the theatre, with the rain pelting down. It was a full house. There was an incredible vibe before the show as we communed for pre-drinks in the Galloway Theatre bar area at the Waterfront Theatre School, by the light of torches. People were amped to see an uplifting show and nothing was going to keep them away. We took my FIL (father in law), age 98 and he was singing along to Mad Dogs. Yes, he is 98. If he can venture out, so can you. Do not let the weather or Eskom, deter you: Go to the theatre.

The title is “Good News Cabaret” and the good news is that we are still here, quipped Perold at the start. On that note, on the afternoon of the night that we saw the show, he injured his hand, courtesy of a falling shower door, but no worries, he dashed from the emergency room to the theatre. And let me add, he scampered around the stage, entering and exiting the space, like a Duracell Bunny (maybe it was the pain drugs). One can see Paul Griffiths’ fine hand as artistic/supervisor in directing the performers – imbuing pace and movement – as they move around and use the theatre space- ensuring that it is not simply a static show – two musos at the keyboards/piano.

The Good News cabaret is a show to mull on. It’s not bubble-gum fare but features a carefully considered narrative arc – with story songs. I was not familiar with all the songs and it was cool to discover the numbers, through this show. The 80s medley is pure fun but for the rest, a chunk of the material packs a punch in evoking snapshots of situations and characters, which ping in relation to contemporary culture and social behaviour. In Johnson’s Influencer, the crooner declares that everything he does is “relevant”. I think that we can all relate to that. And in their take on I Got It from Agnes, by Tom Lehrer, Johnson and Perold chant: “I like my braai- if it is gourmet – I stick it on Facebook”.  Lots of fun and close to the bone of how people are behaving, with every scene in their lives being archived. I would love to see more material by Perold and Johnson which digs into the silliness and wackiness of our lives. If one thinks about the witty and droll repartee of the likes of Coward, we have lost the art of banter and comedic gymnastics and witticisms and deep listening. Deep listening is required in The Good News Cabaret – to soak up the narrative threads. For those who only want a string of hits and songs which are immediately recognizable, this show may not be to your liking.

Another original song in The Good News Cabaret, is Johnson’s A Demon Called Sue. Johnson wrote the song for CAB (Cabaret and All- an online cabaret festival which Perold curates). Johnson says he wrote the song because he has a “love of horror movies” and “whenever they show an exorcism, it makes me laugh hysterically.” Why is the protagonist named, Sue? Johnson:  “All the Sues I know are the sweetest people so I thought the idea of an evil Sue was quite novel.” Perold wrote the opening number of the show- The Good News Cabaret– an affirming rouser that we are still here and that our fears will disappear – supposedly if we can let go- and laughing and singing certainly helps.

I absolutely loved their rendition of Bette Midler’s The Rose and yeah, it is a song, drenched in yearning and is sad but it does contain the promise that beyond the winter and snows, “lies the seed that with the sun’s love …in the spring becomes the rose.” There was a chorus of people singing that line and I won’t production spoil- the surprise loop in the song- which met with peals of glee.  Fabulous. I had a lovely giggle at Short People by Randy Newman. I was not familiar with this song – hilarious lyrics. According to Google, apparently it is a call to not get into the habit of short-shaming people. Ahh- okay, I am short – and I am not offended by being tagged as short. This song is a hoot.

I relished the musical-comedy pedagogy of The Good New Cabaret. I think that it would be great to include a short programme with insights into the provenance of songs – to enlighten audiences who are not familiar with the history of songs like Mad Dogs and Englishmen. I salute Perold and Johnson in creating new material and for chewing into the genre of original comedy-cabaret. The Good News Cabaret is an uplifting and charming show – quirky, wry and entertaining with songs to sing and laugh along to –walk out with a smile on your face -as you leave the theatre.

The Good News Cabaret: Roland Perold and Godfrey Johnson, at the Galloway Theatre, Waterfront Theatre School, Cape Town, April 2023. Image: TheCapeRobyn/Robyn Cohen.

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