If you are looking for an evening of bold, brassy and big laughs, there are three fierce minxes waiting to entertain you at Gate69 in Cathy & The Trolley Dollies.
Walking into the venue – after having been personally greeted by your fabulous hostess Cathy Specific (Brendan van Rhyn) – it shouts of opulence and grandeur, which sends a theatrical tingle down your spine. This is a not just your average cabaret joint. Guests are encouraged to glam-it-up for the evening, and gents are not allowed to grace Cathy’s presence in shorts and sandals… or she may discipline them her way.
The show sees three 8ft stewardesses share their cockpit adjacent jet setting tales of delusional pilots and annoying passengers with you as they await take-off on a delayed flight. The tantalising Cathy Specific, the passive aggressive Holly (Christopher Dudgeon) and the small-town gullible Molly (Rudi Jansen) throw the fourth wall out of the emergency exit and speak to you directly as the passengers.
Tales of their escapades shrouded in naughty jokes and suggestive mannerism easily get the audience giggling and laughing at their scandalous antics. Their outfits are perfection, allowing them to strut the stage with a true dames of the sky look, with wigs that will have Peggy from Love and Marriage and Marge from The Simpson have an on-flight bitch-fight just to get their hands on one of their larger-than-life hairdos.
As all three serve you your meals and drinks before stepping into the follow spot, there is an authentic feel to the scene that makes you buy into the fact that Cathy, Holly and Molly are indeed your air hostesses on a domestic flight, having been demoted after an international flight ‘incident’. As a previous visit to this show saw waitresses dressed as stewardesses serve the audience, creating a similar effect, one wonders if this doesn’t to a degree distract them or make them feel rushed as they dash off to get dressed for their stage call.
The Trolley Dollies however show no sign of being flustered or rushed as they belt out big Bette Midler, Dolly Patron and Tina Turner numbers, with their rendition of Cabaret's Maybe This Time being a highlight. The musical numbers are funny, witty and performed with great skill. With the added touch of Sannie Sê Afrikaans charm, these dames soon have the audience eating peanuts and raisins out of their hands, or off the floor... Holly can be a bit temperamental at times.
With her sarcastic and jaded outlook on life, Holly steals the show. Dudgeon elevates his character to a degree that one truly believes she may be due for an anger management refresher course. Both in song and onstage presence, Dudgeon brings the necessary dramatic effect that adds a theatrical balance to the show. You may want to write some of Holly’s quips and comebacks down for future reference. Her punchlines, delivered with a very impressive resting bitch face, will have you screaming with delight.
Overall the show’s flight clichés are relatable and amusing, though these do run the risk of being overdone if the performers become too caught up in the moment, especially as repetition of (similar) jokes and gestures can result in an overplayed routine. Timing is everything for great comedic rhythm and impact.
Although the musical performances are clearly the appeal and focus of this show – a delight for any audience to witness – the overall production feel lets the talented dames down a little when it comes to script and direction. There needs to be something more succinct to the Cathy & The Trolley Dollies storyline to give their adventures a clearer crux around which the jokes can turn. There are moments where the choice of song actually contradicts the to-follow punchline. For example, they musically elude to the great package of the pilot and directly afterwards downplay it with a tongue-sans-cheek comment. Such gaps in the storyline may leave audiences feeling a bit turbulent at times, especially as the big finale also has nothing to do with the flight being delayed or the Trolley Dollies being stewardesses.
As far as the set is concerned, it would be nice if they could play with that a bit more, perhaps with luggage falling out of the storage compartments or the addition of a slightly tinny sounding audio-speaker sound effect when cabin announcements are made. From a show composition perspective, it just misses a piece of the puzzle that elevates frivolous and funny to utterly fantastic.
To be fair, the show is billed as a fun, laugh-a-minute experience, and not as something overly theatrical. Judging from the audience's raucous laughter on the night, it delivers exactly what is promised of the vivacious and potty-mouthed Cathy, Holly and Molly. So personal dramaturgy bugbears aside, the night was a delight, the atmosphere inviting, the songs practically pitch perfect, and the energy levels set to high amusement and pleasure from beginning to end.
For R550 a Gate69 booking for Cathy & The Trolley Dollies will get you an evening of suggestive laughs, in a truly beautiful setting paired with a snack-fest mezze platter, hot soup, bread and a delicious purple Patron soft serve ice-cream. Book online at www.gate69.co.za.