Lux­u­rama: songs of de­fi­ant diva

Inthe

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - GOODTHEATRE - ROBYN CO­HEN

THE LUX­U­RAMA The­atre, Wyn­berg, fondly known as the Lux, was le­gendary. It opened in 1964: the first apartheid-era the­atre com­plex to host mixed au­di­ences. World stars like Dusty Spring­field, Tom Jones, Percy Sledge, Jose Feli­ciano and Lovelace Watkins per­formed there. Big names signed on for the Lux be­cause it was an in­te­grated venue.

Vet­eran per­former/mu­si­cal di­rec­tor Alis­tair Izo­bell, who per­formed at the Lux as a child and the Bax­ter’s CEO Lara Foot, have teamed up to write Re­mem­ber­ing the Lux, a homage to the the­atre and a cel­e­bra­tion of the ta­lent that it has nur­tured.

The show runs from De­cem­ber 3 to Jan­uary 9 fea­tur­ing Izo­bell, Terry For­tune, Terry Hec­tor, Louk­maan Adams, Niesha Abra­hams, Les­lie Klein­smith, Giem­pie Var­dien, Nur Abra­hams and Kashiefa Blaauw, ac­com­pa­nied by a six­piece band led by Don­veno Prins.

The roll call of South African star per­form­ers who launched their ca­reers at the Lux in­cludes Taliep Petersen, Zayn Adam, Jonathan But­ler and Richard Jon Smith. Bands like The Rock­ets, The Bats, Rab­bit and Bal­ly­hoo cut their mu­si­cal teeth there. As the cul­tural boy­cott crested, lo­cal artists sang cover ver­sions of the songs by boy­cotting artists.

“Cape Town had its own Shirley Bassey. Its own Nat King Cole. They were stars,” said Foot. “I am sort of a scribe on this show, rather than a writer. It’s very much Alis­tair’s piece. We deal with the his­tory and the peo­ple who sang there: it’s a his­tor­i­cal mu­si­cal re­vue.”

Izo­bell adds, “Be­sides be­ing en­ter­tain­ing, it’s go­ing to be ed­u­ca­tional and re­mind peo­ple about a place that they have per­haps for­got­ten.”

“Most ‘ma­ture’ per­form­ers in this show started their ca­reers at the Lux – like Terry For­tune and Terry Smith, Niesha, Giem­pie, Les­lie,” ex­plains Foot. “And then there’s the next gen­er­a­tion – Alis­tair and Louk­maan (Adams) who were there as kids, and a younger gen­er­a­tion who weren’t there but con­tinue in the tra­di­tion of the Lux.

“Invit­ing peo­ple to post their mem­o­ries on the Bax­ter’s Lux Face­book page has been an im­por­tant part of the process of putting the show to­gether. We are re­flect­ing their mem­o­ries. The show mostly fea­tures cover ver­sions but Alis­tair is also writ­ing songs… kick-arse.”

For­tune who strut­ted in high heels as a drag queen for the bulk of his ca­reer, re­marks: “Alis­tair has writ­ten some stun­ning songs. He wrote me one – It Takes a Man to be a Woman.”

For­tune was in the au­di­ence at the Lux on open­ing night to watch Cin­derella.

“I was 17. I re­mem­ber walk­ing into the Lux and the op­u­lence. If you look at pho­tos of District Six in 1963, 1964, 1965 – it was look­ing de­crepit, tired. So you can imag­ine the con­trast walk­ing into Lux: plush car­pets, mar­ble floors, foun­tains on the walls, cerise string cur­tains.”

“Lux had 1 444 seats and a re­volv­ing stage. I think that it had the big­gest movie screen in South Africa,” says Izo­bell.

The Lux limped along un­til about four or five years ago, host­ing com­mu­nity events, but its hey­day was the 1960s and 1970s. The build­ing is now a school.

“Au­di­ences that went to the Lux moved to the Bax­ter (built in 1976). Some­how, I feel a con­nec­tion – that the Bax­ter is the right place to do this play,” said Foot.

● Tick­ets are R135-R155 at Com­puticket on 0861 915 8000 or www.com­puticket.co.za

Re­mem­ber­ing the Lux

MU­SIC’S MIL­I­TANT MAMA:

cast is rar­ing to take au­di­ences on a lyrical tour of Wyn­berg’s Lux­u­rama The­atre that be­came the home not only of lo­cal and global artists but also of gen­er­a­tions of ac­tivists.

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