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BEAUTIFUL BARBRA – The Barbra Streisand Songbook

Performed by Cat Simoni with Original Orchestration by Johan Laas

Devised and directed by Paul Spence

Presented by Daphne Kuhn at Auto & General Theatre on the Square

Cat Simoni

Growing up in the 70’s and 80’s (especially if you grew up Jewish), Barbra Streisand was a standard feature in just about all of our parents’ music collections. Whether they loved her or hated her (and really, how could one every really ‘hate’ Barbra?), she just couldn’t be ignored. After all, who could ignore the only artist ever to receive Oscar, Tony, Emmy, Grammy, Directors Guild of America, Golden Globe, National Medal of Arts and Peabody Awards and France’s Légion d’Honneur as well as the American Film Institute’s Lifetime Achievement Award? Okay, so she hadn’t won all of those quite yet back then, but she was well on her way from the very minute she started performing in the late ‘50’s.

So one would expect, as tribute shows gain increasing popularity, that vocalists of every ilk would be clamouring to mimic the award winning Diva. However it seems this isn’t the case. It would take a very unique voice and a very bold performer to be able to execute Barbra’s timeless classics in a style anywhere close to those of the original.

And here we have Cat Simoni, who arrives with the voice, elegance, poise, and just the right amount of chutzpah to tell Barbra’s story and sing her songs with the precise measure of passion and intensity that they were composed for. This is a treat for true music lovers; the combination of a voice that understands the notes, together with musical arrangements created by Johan Laas, who South African muso’s appreciate for the maestro he is.

Simoni is so comfortable, both on stage and with her audience. From the minute we hear the first strains of ‘Something’s Coming’ (Leonard Bernstein, Stephen Sondheim), and she appears on stage it’s clear that she is at home. She jokes easily with Laas (“a man of few words”), hams it up in a Bronx accent, and gives a blazing rendition of ‘Don’t Rain on My Parade’ (Jule Styne, Bob Merrill) from Funny Girl, the story of the life of comedienne Fanny Brice, and the film that truly launched Barbra’s career (I have to admit, I can’t hear that song and not think of Lea Michele’s version in the TV show Glee).

But then, as you’re sitting there, nodding to yourself and admitting just how good Cat Simoni really is … she ups the ante. Her haunting version of ‘Memory’( Andrew Lloyd Webber, Don Back, Tim Rice) from Cats, gave me goosebumps, and as if that wasn’t enough, she really came into her own when she sat down and played her own solo piano accompaniment to ‘Pappa can you Hear Me?’ (Michel Legrand, Alan & Marilyn Bergman) from Yentl followed by ‘Avinu Malkeinu’ – a version of the Jewish prayer that Barbra had sung at Shimon Perez’s 90th birthday in Israel, and that Daphne Kuhn had asked to be added into the show. Simoni’s intonation and timing are pure perfection. Once again in the second half, she plays the piano for her own perfectly comic version of ‘Second Hand Rose’ (James Hanley, Grant Clarke) and this is where she truly shines.

The favourites are there, sung with such faultless clarity, and accompanied by short snippets about Barbra’s life: ‘Evergreen’ (Barbra Streisand, Paul Williams), ‘The Way We Were’ (Marvin Hamlish, Alan & Marilyn Bergman), ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’ (Leonard Bernstein, Stephen Sondheim, Harold Arlen, Yip Harburg), ‘Send in the Clowns’ (Stephen Sondheim) and more.

The intricate musical arrangements by Johan Laas are a sheer labour of love. He doesn’t say much, he gives a wry smile here and there, but when his fingers hit those keys, he can transport you into a musical wonderland!

There’s not much in the way of a set, just a couple of leather chairs, some flowers and some velvet draping on the keyboard. But you’re not there for the scenery … this is all about the music, and boy … does it deliver!

Beautiful Barbra is on at the Auto & General Theatre on the Square in Sandton until the 30th of July. Book your tickets at www.StrictlyTickets.com or call the theatre on 011 883-8606.

 

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Gateway to Africa – Rosebank Art & Craft Market

Rosebank Market 2I’ve always loved markets. There’s just something about them: the promise of being able to find hidden treasure at the next stall you visit or of finding that unique item that you’d never find in a conventional shop. And then there’s that lovely relaxed feeling you get in a market, that feeling that you don’t need to rush and you’ve got all the time in the world to browse to your heart’s content.

Maybe that’s one of the reasons why, with the increasing pressure we feel in our everyday lives, there’s been such an increase in the number of markets you can find popping up all over the place these days. True, they mainly operate over the weekends and during the holidays, but there’s all types: organic, clothing, food, farmers, indoors, outdoors, night markets, flea markets … you pretty much get my drift!

But in the heart of one of Joburg’s trendiest shopping districts, amidst the brand names, right next to the Rosebank Mall lays an Aladdin’s cave of African treasure: The Rosebank Art & Craft Market! It’s open daily and is an active hub for traders from all over Africa to display and sell their diverse wares. Thank you so much to Hello Joburg magazine for giving me a wonderful opportunity to explore this hidden gem!

Rosebank Market 4I was given the opportunity to chat with Themba, who’s actually from Malawi, but who’s been working at this market since 2012, before it even moved to its current location. He proudly manages the proudly South African stall where he works for the owners who spend their time sourcing the goods they sell. The beadwork is out of this world!

A firm and instantly recognisable favourite is the much loved Ndebele doll. Handmade in Mpumalanga, the intricate detail on each one is truly incredible. Every doll is unique, as only a handmade piece can be. Themba then demonstrated how Rojans (read that carefully) are worn, either on the head or as necklaces. These also have bangles to match and are all made in Durban. After that he showed me how the famous Ndebele neckpieces are layered. Next was the extremely popular beaded cutlery. Themba wires these himself and can wire a set of salad servers in under a minute! His mom then does the beading. These make great gifts, and one needs to appreciate that someone’s hands have taken the time to create them, as has been done with the all the items sold here.

We chatted about the international visitors to the market and about how many enjoy bartering as part of the tourist experience. Themba thoroughly enjoys meeting people from all over the world, and chatting to them about South Africa. He would, however, like more South Africans to come and visit the market.

There is such heart in this market, and a camaraderie between the stall-holders that’s clearly evident. They’re proud of what they’re selling and they want you to take it all in, in all of its sensory excess of colours and sounds; to look, to touch, to realise that they place value in the items that they’re displaying here, to understand the meaning that some of these pieces might have to them and to their cultures.

Take some time to stroll through the Rosebank Art & Craft Market. You won’t regret it, and you probably won’t leave empty handed either! People travel across the world to come to Africa. We’re so lucky to call it home, and to have an African market like this right on our doorstep. There’s nothing quite like being a tourist in your own city!

Rosebank Market 8

Life is Tres Jolie at Bistro Michel!

When an invitation from Edward Chamberlain-Bell, Mr #JoziStyle, lands in your Inbox, you know you are indeed fortunate, but when it’s for a two-fold wine-tasting/lunch, then you know you’re in for a treat!

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Wine as far as the eye can see!

Lunchtime started at Wine Menu, a boutique wine store in Birnam’s exclusive Blu Bird centre. This is a veritable Aladdin’s cave for any wine lover, with a considerable selection of rare and exclusive wines, as well as the everyday ‘staples’.  They also stock a small number of craft beers and spirits. We were treated to an informative (and very

Wine Menu 1

Corlien contemplates some bubbly

generous) wine tasting of a small variety of some lesser known local wines, with the extremely knowledgeable Corlien Morris, and yes … I remembered the cost of a cork!! Between R10 and R15 each! (So proud of myself!)

And then it was on to lunch …

Bistro Michel, found on the upper level of the Blu Bird centre, is a little slice of French bonhomie, away from the hustle and bustle of everyday tedium.

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Chef Michel

As guests of #DineJoziStyle, we were privileged to have Chef Michel himself join us for a relaxed lunch, so were able to chat to him about his menu, where he sources his ingredients from (basically everywhere, he sees no reason to be restricted by region), and what inspires him. The menu isn’t a large one. It’s divided into starters and mains, and then there are side dishes or ‘gratins’ that you can choose to accompany your mains. There’s a separate burger menu for those who are so inclined. There is also a specials board available, depending on what Michel has managed to source

The complimentary bread selection (together with butter, olive oil and balsamic) that you’re presented with before your meal, is just divine! Try not to overdo it though because you need to keep space for the delicious meal that you’ve ordered.

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Traditional French Onion Soup

I didn’t elect to have a starter but my fellow diners did, and I instantly regretted my decision, especially when I saw the onion soup. This typically traditional French dish looked heavenly with its thick cheesy topping and crisp croutons. Michel himself had the vegetable soup which also looked incredible (can you tell I’m a bit of a soup fiend?)

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Sirloin with Bearnaise sauce

Onto the mains and my sirloin was cooked to perfection (medium rare). The accompanying Bearnaise sauce was a little cooler than I would have liked, but I know that you can either have it served hot or cold, depending on restaurant preference. It did taste good though.

Some of us chose to order a selection of side dishes

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Side dishes – au gratin

so that we could share a variety (or possibly because they all sounded so good that we just couldn’t choose). This was an excellent choice! So we opted for the Gratin Dauphinois, the macaroni with truffle, the green beans and zucchini. All were really ordinary, everyday ingredients which were elevated to another level and enhanced with just enough subtle flavouring to make them extra special accompaniments to the dishes they were complementing. The presentation, in pretty multi-coloured dishes, was quite delightful – adding that

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Creme Caramel

typical French, stylish flair that one would expect.

And yes … we still had room for dessert! The Creme Caramel was light and the perfect finish to a beautifully balanced meal.

Of course, being a bunch of foodies (social media foodies at that), we all had our noses in each other’s plates, commenting, photographing and admiring. The plating here is simple, yet exquisite. Everything I saw almost looked too good to eat!

Throughout our lunch we were looked after by the delightful Victor – nothing was too much for him. He was friendly, efficient and obliging. Suffice to say the service was unobtrusive yet excellent.Bistro Michel 9

The emphasis at Bistro Michel is on elegant simplicity and fine dining. This isn’t the place to bring the kids – unless you’ve got kids with sophisticated tastes! The interior is classicly designed with an eye-catching map of the Paris Metro covering the entire side wall. During warmer months the outside deck is the perfect place to enjoy your meal.

This is a dining experience to be savoured. Perfect for a special occasion, or perhaps for those with discerning tastes who have tired of the more pedestrian eating spots. You won’t be disappointed.

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