SHOWSTOPPER: Ian von Memerty danced with his wife, Vivienne, who wore a real showstopper of a dress in the opening act
THE Ian von Memerty show at Kenton town hall on December 2 started with Von Memerty dancing with his wife, Vivienne, and the national ballroom dancing champion wore a lacy gown which was barely there, but the show was only a one night affair.
Kenton Rotary’s Roger Carthew took 18 months to book Von Memerty whose show at Kenton town hall delighted local theatre-goers and culture vultures.
Von Memerty introduced Tony, the sound and lights guy, who was incorporated into the act when things went wrong, and hammed it up -reflecting our common experience of frustration when things go wrong with technology and politics.
Apart from ballroom dancing numbers and comedy skits, Von Memerty performed on the piano keyboard and sang songs while dancing silhouetted in the spotlight against the rear wall.
This was particularly effective in songs like Mr Bojangles when his top hat and antic gestures mirrored the story of a street dancer who met the original songwriter in jail where cellmates exhorted ‘Bojangles’ to dance and tell the story of his meagre existence in America in the ’50s.
It was given a South African flavour, however, as Von Memerty related the story of a bergie living on Table Mountain which was hit by lightning and visited by the prince of darkness.
“Oh so you’re from Eskom,” said the bergie.
Von Memerty met Vivienne 25 years ago in Durban when he was still playing classical piano, but “I was not a concert pianist at heart”, he said after delivering a sample on keyboard.
He also played in a two man with two pianos which poked fun at famous piano players like Elton John (knighted by another queen) and Stevie Wonder altering the lyrics to comic affect or to suit the South African context.
The audience joined in clicking along to the tune of “Steve Hofmeyr is not her style, my baby doesn’t care for Bobby Skinstad’s smile, my baby just cares for me”.
When he sang Fever, he came off the stage to interact with the audience. The original R&B song made famous by Peggy Lee and covered by many others, including Elvis, was given a humorous take as Von Memerty sang “you give me fever” to ladies in the audience and even danced with them.
Von Memerty was a farmer’s son, but when his parents moved from Rhodesia to Johannesburg and he started dancing ballet with 10-year-olds at the age of 19, and Latin dancing with an aggressive older woman, he was not too happy about it, although it was there that his career took off.
Another affecting song was If I were a rich man. Rich in melodrama, with Russian rhythms from the musical Fiddler on the Roof, the song about the life of Jews living in Russia, reflects life in South Africa which can also be as precarious as the perch of a fiddler on the roof. (Video on Facebook.)
The Von Memertys performed a wonderful dance to “All that jazz” from the musical Chicago.
While on keyboard, Von Memerty also spontaneously composed a song based on Roger and Bridget Carthew’s story. The couple, a pharmacist and a guesthouse owner, living in Kenton with a family of three children, were eulogised as a drug dealer and owner of a doss house.
The average age of the audience was also the subject of hilarity (Von Memerty told the story of an old lady in Durban who could hold her liquor but not her bladder) as was the venue, the backstage facilities and air conditioning, or lack thereof.
At the end of the show Von Memerty sang Save the last dance for me while dancing with his wife, a fitting end to Double the Magic, in which the talents and skills of the one perfectly complemented the talents and skills of the other.