You’ll ‘Feel The Earth Move‘! An exciting show is heading to Cape Town and Johannesburg, promising to deliver a fantastic theatrical experience, filled with heart and soul.
VR Theatrical’s Jaco Van Rensburg, and show director Elizma Badenhorst, sat down with Dean Roberts to talk about the exciting new tribute show that will be hitting Pieter Toerien’s Cape Town and Johannesburg theatres in October and November this year.
DR: Following up on the success of ‘Here’s To You – The Simon & Garfunkel Songbook’, what made Carole King’s catalogue so attractive to you?
JVR: Apart from her world-famous Tapestry album, Carole King is a fascinating artist who not only made songs famous herself, but who wrote or co-wrote very many hits that nobody knows was her. Remember Kylie Minogue’s Loco-motion? I bet you didn’t know that that was a Carole King song!
What ultimately drew us to her work, was the fact that her songs are story-songs. They are all like one-act plays that takes the listener on a journey of discovery, making it the perfect music for a theatrical event.
“Our diverse cast is not only excellent, but also lovely humans! It has been an absolute pleasure to create this production around their specific talents.”
DR: Carole King wrote more than 400 songs, 100 of which have hit the Billboard singles chart, how do you go about choosing the songs for the show?
JVR: I am very lucky to not have to make the final decision here. I leave that to the creative team, although I may have had some opinions and made some suggestions.
EB: Growing up, I loved music from the 60s and 70s. I had no idea who wrote them, I just knew I loved them, later in life I learned that Ms. King wrote many of my favourites. Going through her body of work was equally challenging, as it was a familiar stroll down memory lane. Choosing the songs was, indeed, a delightfully difficult task of mammoth proportions. But I must say, the concept took shape pretty quickly, and once we knew we were ‘up on a roof’ overlooking a city, the songs metaphorically ‘put up their hands’.
“Storytelling. These women have a gift of telling stories through their music that any human can relate to in such an authentic way. The human condition addressed, but with exquisite melodies and harmonies to boot.”
DR: Artists such as Adele, Amy Winehouse and Taylor Swift have all credited Carole King as being one of their biggest influences… can you hazard a guess as to what the through line is with these fine artists music?
JVR: A good narrative. There are shoo-bee-doo-bee pop-songs and there are songs with lyrics like:
“When this old world starts getting me down
And people are just too much for me to face
I climb way up to the top of the stairs
And all my cares just drift right into space”
They’re relatable and timeless songs.
EB: Storytelling. These women have a gift of telling stories through their music that any human can relate to in such an authentic way. The human condition addressed, but with exquisite melodies and harmonies to boot.
DR: Your promotional material highlights an all-woman cast of singer-musicians who all work together to create these magical soundscapes, what was the casting process like?
JVR: Casting an original production is always strange and wonderful. Because there is no script, we could mould and shape the production around the specific personality and talents that we find – and boy-oh-boy are these ladies talented! Six gorgeous proudly South African women who deliver these timeless songs with excellence!
EB: The casting process of an original piece such as ‘Up on the Roof’ is always interesting to say the least, because the show doesn’t exist yet; you’re not casting a performer for a specific character. But there are so many things to consider. Their skills, their musicianship, their personalities, how will all of them work together; it’s a very intricate puzzle, and I must say, we have built an exquisite cast with our six phenomenal cast members.
DR: Carole King has been called THE greatest songwriter of all time, and being responsible for penning the soundtrack to our lives. Why do you think these well-written songs have stood the test of time?
JVR: She’s a great story-teller with an ear for writing a ‘hook’ – you know, that little bit of a song that gets stuck in your mind and that you can’t get out of your head.
Her themes are universal and timeless (often about falling in or out of love) and have emotional depth. While this all sounds very cerebral, her melodies are also catchy! I think the combination of all of these things make her music timeless.
EB: Ms. King has the ability to put words and melodies to universal feelings of love and loss, the ups and downs of life. We all know exactly what she’s addressing in her songs and most importantly, it then makes us not feel alone.
DR: The music of Carole King is especially comforting, and with themes of love, relationships, and the idyllic notion of what ‘home means… how have you considered these themes when selecting the numbers as well as the ensemble cast?
JVR: Our brilliant director, Elizma Badenhorst has come up with a clear concept that drives the overall narrative of the show. We did not want it to be ‘just another tribute show’ but rather to be thematically linked. Our musical director, Wessel Odendaal created original arrangements that emphasise the emotional impact of the songs.
Once the concept was established, i.e. a group of friends meet for a glass of wine on a ‘New York type’ rooftop and sing songs about their lives, the material sort of chose itself.
Our diverse cast is not only excellent, but also lovely humans! It has been an absolute pleasure to create this production around their specific talents.
DR: Could we perhaps argue that Carole King is the perfect everywoman figure: an alto singer (too low for soprano voice and too high for a tenor), the perfect mix for soul music?
JVR: Yes! Unique is our Carole. Not only a brilliant songwriter, but also an exquisite vocalist in her own right, solidifying the singer/songwriter category in pop music history.
DR: How are you aiming to marry the sublime sounds of Carole King’s catalogue, with the staging of such a dynamic ensemble presentation?
JVR: The fact that we don’t have one person impersonating Carole King gives us scope to play with dynamic staging, interesting choreography and incredible vocal arrangements – all necessary to create an interesting piece of theatre.
Add to that a boho-chic inspired rooftop setting and theatrical lighting and you have a magic recipe for harmonic heavenliness!
EB: When the concept came to me, it all fell into place so seamlessly: six girl friends meeting up on a roof overlooking the city observing some people down below and commenting through Ms. King’s songs on what they possibly could go through, realising we’re all pretty much the same.
DR: ‘(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Women’ is a song that emphasises the route of self-discovery, of a woman’s natural inner beauty. How do you want the audience to leave the theatre ‘feeling’?
JVR: Things are tough out there and people are tired. This production guarantees to make you forget your troubles for at least two hours, to fill you with hope, heart and optimism and will make you leave the theatre feeling happier than when you entered! I can only describe the experience as a warm, glowing ember that will ignite the fire we all carry within ourselves.
EB: Uplifted…. And I guarantee this is what audience members will feel. They are going to hum along, laugh, shed a few nostalgic tears, but will definitely leave feeling better about life.
DR: Who will enjoy this exciting piece of live theatre?
JVR: You do not have to know Carole King’s catalogue in order to enjoy this incredible production. There is so much to listen to, look at and appreciate, from the beautiful setting to the gorgeous harmonies and the amazingly talented performers onstage. If you are the kind of person who enjoys any kind of live entertainment, there will be something here for you!
EB: This is one of the many things a love about Ms. King’s music. Whether you know her/her work, or not, you will enjoy her music. The range of styles this woman composed in is incredible: soul, folk, pop, rock, jazz, R&B and more. If you love music, you will enjoy this production.
‘Up On The Roof – The Carole king Songbook’ runs at Theatre On the Bay in Cape Town from 5 October and at Pieter Toerien’s Montecasino theatre in Johannesburg from 1 November, 2023.
Direction & concept – Elizma Badenhorst
Musical direction & orchestration – Wessel Odendaal
Scenic design – Nadine Minnaar
Wardrobe co-ordination – Elizma Badenhorst
Lighting design – Kieran McGregor
Graphic design – Jaco Van Rensburg
Sound design – Christo Davis
Duration is approx’ 2-hours, including a 20-minute interval.
Age restriction: none.
Tickets are available from Webtickets or by dialling CPT (021) 438-3301 or JHB (011) 511-1988.