The newly staged Here’s to You has only gained in charm and momentum since we last saw it at Montecasino’s Pieter Toerien Theatre, and even then it was a perfect stroll through the Simon & Garfunkel songbook. A combination of excellent musicianship, very astute musical direction, and the inexhaustible supply of classics in the catalogue make for the perfect night out at the theatre – and we envy the people of Durban and Cape Town for their opportunity to experience the show.
We are greeted with a set that evokes feelings of rustic, outback-type locales – bare bulbs and naked wood providing a backdrop to the instruments lying on stage, and the hipster-style costumes perfectly complement this mood. The boots and hats are a great touch to set off the show, and I found it did well to encapsulate the way we see Simon & Garfunkel now: they are, as noted in the show, “old fogies”, but there is a natural and undeniable timelessness to their style and sound.
The show itself is pleasingly woven together, making greatest use of each performer’s available talent. Every time one of the cast had a solo moment, it felt well thought out, relatable, and like this was a moment that best suited their strengths. For instance, we don’t hear much of Hanna So’s gorgeous, rich singing voice – but it is almost unbelievably perfectly suited to “Still Crazy After All These Years”, when she takes a break from playing cello, violin, and piano to blow the audience away. This pattern is repeated throughout the show, and includes the instrumental solos, like the percussion breaks from Justin Swartz, which inject liveliness and life into the show.
The arrangements of the songs themselves might be the real stars here, however; the complex vocal harmonies and intricate instrumental parts make for a listening experience that allows nostalgia to wash over you, but is still layered with enough interesting choices to make you wonder how your favourite parts are going to be riffed on. Daniel Geddes, Bryan Schimmel, and Wessel Odendaal must take credit here for their superb work that stretches from transforming “Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes” into a barbershop quartet-style number to building medleys that seem to work even better than some of the originals did (Almost, mind you… we are talking about Paul Simon’s songwriting here!)
The performers, as mentioned above, are allowed to shine brightly in their own areas of strength. Josh Ansley, who we last saw in Rock of Ages, again showcases incredible range and control, and turns in a handy bit of guitar playing to boot; Ashleigh Butcher’s gorgeous songbird voice is like the cherry on top of a perfect sundae. Phindy Dube really rocks the house every time she steps up (and watch out for her rendition of the Aretha Franklin-styled “Bridge Over Troubled Water”!), while Hanna So’s heart-melting vocal tone only plays second fiddle (pun intended) to her virtuosity on multiple instruments. Sanli Jooste slays it on the cello, and is always the most fun to watch on stage, adding a stunning soprano to proceedings. Justin Swartz imbues the show with rhythm and vitality, and his performance of “She Loves Me Like a Rock” might be the show’s highpoint. Daniel Geddes is predictably excellent, and adds another multiple instrument-playing member to the cast. Wessel Odendaal ties it all together with his music direction, running an incredibly tight show while also playing instruments and singing himself – always a massive ask, and especially so with this many musicians performing on stage around him.
We are so glad this show returned to Joburg, so we could see how it has evolved, and we urge all Simon & Garfunkel fans in Durban and Cape Town to get out and see it – it is an experience not to be missed!
Here’s to You is on at the Theatre on the Bay in Cape Town from April 2-25. Tickets are available from the box office or on Computicket.