The summer season in Cape Town is well underway, which means that most of what is on offer around town is stand-up comedy and cabaret. All of these are mounted in the name of great end-of-year entertainment, but not all deliver on that promise. Thankfully, MINNIE AND JOHNSON is everything it promises to be. In fact, I think you might be hard pressed to find a cabaret around town this festive season that is in the same class as this show, which is on at the Kalk Bay Theatre for an all too brief run of 7 performances.
The ninety minute show is divided into three sections. First, Emile Minnie does a set of songs at the piano, followed by Johnson, who offers his own playlist. Finally, the two pair up, with Minnie adding a clarinet to the mix, to perform a series of songs from completely different eras and in a plethora of different styles. There is nothing thematic that holds the evening together or to link all the songs: the performers are the show and the show is about their performance. In that respect, Minnie and Johnson complement each other perfectly. While both are witty, Minnie's persona is chatty and intimate, while Johnson's is tragicomically clown-like and introspective. Both have the ability to have the audience doubling up with laughter in one number and on the brink of tears in the next.
In his part of the show, Minnie performs – amongst other numbers – a couple of French standards, like "La Vie en rose" and "Non, je ne regrette rien". In a cabaret setting, these songs always run the risk of devolving into easy listening hell, but Minnie's bluesy and tongue in cheek interpretations steer well clear of that pitfall. Minnie also performed some self-penned Afrikaans songs and an English original, the moving "Finally Lost", which was undoubtedly the highlight of his section of the show.
Godfrey Johnson, which included some hilarious original songs as well as a couple of the Jacques Brel songs for which he has become so well known. This is the third time I have heard Johnson perform "My Shattered Illusions" and the song becomes funnier with each listen. Johnson really draws you into the worlds he creates with the songs he performs and nowhere was this more evident than in his take on Brel’s "La valse à mille temps" ("Carousel"), a stirring number after which one is left quite breathless.
When the two pair up in the third part of the show, adding a few costume pieces and props for certain songs, the evening shifts into high gear with a whimsical take of "Putting on the Ritz" and some songs that inspire a fair deal of singing along, namely "Those Were the Days" and "Holding out for a Hero". Minnie and Johnson's personable hijinks are balanced out by a touching bilingual version of "If You Go Away"/"Ne me quitte pas". None of this, however, prepares one for the Lady Gaga-Madonna mash-up in the style of Die Antwoord, which proved to be an audience favourite and certainly one of the most memorable moments in the show.
The thing that I appreciated most about the show was that it was not over-wrought about being polished. That is not to say that Minnie and Johnson do not offer a top notch evening of entertainment, because they certainly do, only that the priority of the evening is the relationship that Minnie and Johnson work to create between themselves and the audience. This show truly felt like it was being performed one time, for us and for us alone.
Cape Town audiences do not have many chances to see MINNIE AND JOHNSON, which is a pity. Whether you have seen them before, either alone or together, this is a show that will lift your spirits and banish your bad day or year-end blues. Make sure you get yourself a ticket and see in the festive season with these two wildly fabulous and entertaining performers.
MINNIE AND JOHNSON will be performed on Wednesday to Saturday at 20:30 until Friday 7 December. Guests can enjoy a delicious meal before the show, with coffee and dessert afterwards, when they can meet Godfrey and Emile. For all bookings and further information visit the Kalk Bay Theatre website.