Chef, Rattle & Roll really cooksJennifer de Klerk
Jennifer de Klerk: The first thing I caught as I entered the ornate Globe Theatre, all gold paint and red velvet drapes, was the tantalising smell of a chicken roasting.
It was coming from the kitchen unit on stage where the cast members – Mortimer Williams, Tshepi Mashego, Genna Galloway and Elizca Coetzer – were whisking and stirring while singing their hearts out.
No, this wasn’t the opening – that came the next night – this was one of the last rehearsals of Chef, Rattle & Roll, the cooking, singing and dancing show at the intimate little Globe Theatre at the Gold Reef City Casino.
“The eggs are whisked and now add the sugar,” says Elizaca with a broad South African accent. She starts whipping and folding while the others launch into a spirited rendering of “Sugar Sugar”.
Behind the dancers, the live on-stage orchestra – bass guitar, guitar, keyboard and percussion – are letting rip.
As Tshepi reverently bears away the ice cream to set in the off-stage freezer, Elizca comes out from the cooking station to lead the way in “It’s Got to be Perfect.”
And so it must; after the show the audience get to sample the goodies.
Obviously the cast can sing and dance – they all have big productions on their CVS, from Cats to Dreamgirls, and High School Musical to Chess - but can they cook?
“It’s my passion,” Mortimer assures me when they break for interval, talking learnedly about red wine reductions, while he flicks on the gas burner to prove that all is functional.
A camera picks up the moves for an overhead monitor while in the see-through oven the chicken is sizzling gently over a bed of onions and potatoes.
The girls are more modest – just home cooking, they say, although they admit they have learnt a lot. A stint at cooking school was part of the rehearsal process. They had to learn how to baste, roast, whip and stir professionally.
It’s a fairly simple menu – roast chicken, home-made pasta and sauce and home-made ice cream – but it is definitely all done on the spot.
“We’re in charge of different things,” Elizca explains, her dizzy bimbo image toned down off stage. “I do the sweet, Tshepi does the meat and Genna makes the pasta, while Mortimer is the head chef.”
“We all have solos and our moments to shine,” Tshepi adds, one of the reasons they all love the show.
“It’s very well-conceived,” Genna says enthusiastically, “the musical numbers flow out of the cooking process, but it’s difficult ... the timing is critical.”
And she’s not talking about the music or the choreography - it’s the cooking that sets the pace.
Everything has to be timed split-second to match the mixing and blending, or there will be lumps in the ice cream and burnt bits on the chicken. Not easy, you try stirring while bopping and singing along.
In fact, do try this at home - the recipes are in the programme. I gather singing is not compulsory.
Four (and a half) chickens down so far … “The crew love us,” giggles Tshepi, “they don’t have to bring their lunchboxes. Of course, after we’ve done 16 performances, we probably won’t be able to look a chicken in the face.”
It’s very good chicken. I got a chance to sample the goodies after the first show the next night. The ice cream was delicious, rich and creamy with a lemon tang, the chicken was succulent and tasty, the potatoes perfect and the home-made pasta was served with a piquant mushroom and brandy sauce with a hint of garlic.
Oh yes, the show was pretty good too!
The musical numbers chosen flowed neatly out of the action on stage – “Rolling down the river” while rolling out the pasta, “Crying” while the onions were being chopped and even a moving rendition of “Over the Rainbow” triggered by a Rainbow chicken.
All the cast have their moments in the spotlight and develop definite persona, which adds to the humorous interplay on stage. Bouncy Tshepi Mashego takes a sexy bad-girl stance, taking no nonsense, Elizca Coetzer’s ditzy, dumb Luscious Lizzy is a running joke and Genna Galloway starts as a nerdy geek in glasses and transforms herself into a slinky femme fatale.
Mortimer Williams is the man of the ensemble, to his sorrow when the girls turn on his autocratic attitude in “Let Me Be” – forcing him to sadly tackle the pasta alone, which as a “Cooking School Drop-out” – neatly reinvented from the musical Grease, was something of a challenge.
Luckily they relented, giving him a chance to explain himself in “If You See Kay” … get it?
It is a lively, energetic show which works well in the intimate surrounds of the Globe Theatre with its cabaret-style seating, friendly waitresses and the bar behind.
I could certainly see why the timing was critical – and, delicious as it was, I won’t be trying the ice cream at home; that’s far too much whipping and folding. It looked like really hard work.
This was fun … and the aroma from the on-stage stove too, too much.
Chef, Rattle & Roll, produced by Hazel Feldman, directed by Shelley Adriaanzen, script by Jervis Pennington, musical director Cathrine Hopkins, is at the Globe Theatre at Gold Reef City until November 3
Jennifer de Klerk is editor of Artslink.co.za
Gold Reef City, Ormonde Johannesburg Gauteng South Africa