Honky Tonks pays tribute to Sir Elton John, the phenomenal performer who over the last 50 years has gifted audiences the power of music, declaring, “It has the ability to take people out of themselves for a few hours.” Everyone has at least one Elton John song that triggers such an out-of-themselves memory moment, of which 'Candle in the Wind' (a song that was a hit twice, twenty-five years apart) is that for many.
As soon as Ian Von Mermerty takes his seat behind the piano, accompanied by the Centrestage Band's Wayne Kallis (vocals, acoustic and musical director), Curtis Kettledas (saxophone), Gino Fabbri (drums), Sandy Robbie (lead guitar), Andrew Warneke (bass), and Boet Strydom (keyboard), it becomes clear that they all love the rock ‘n’ roll style of Elton John.
Nowhere in the show does Von Memerty try to become Elton John. He only incorporates some of this icon’s mannerisms, along with his flamboyant dress sense, to highlight the performance-essence of the man who brought the world 'Sacrifice', 'Daniel', 'Bennie and the Jets', 'Crocodile Rock' and more.
All this is done with a clear admiration for the songs Elton John and long-time lyricist partner Bernie Taupin collectively created – even though these musical partners have never worked on a song whilst in the same room. In between songs, Von Memerty shares such fun facts and anecdotes about the John-Taupin creative journey. This gives great insight into the evolution of the sound and soul of the music associated with the master of the piano keys.
By taking this concert-in-a-theatre conversational approach in Honky Cats, Von Memerty and band pay tribute to Elton John without it at any stage becoming cheesy – which is a risk when performers label a show a tribute. They avoid this theatrical pitfall well by simply having fun performing Elton John's songs; inviting the audience to do the same. Their energy and love for the music is so infectious that you can't help but bob your head and tap your feet, or simply just giggle at the onstage antics of Fabbri, as he steps into the role of Kiki Dee, or Von Memerty, when he reveals his inner Tina Turner.
When it comes to numbers such as 'Club at the End of the Street', Kettledas sends beautiful saxophone tones echoing through the theatre, making you sway along with the narrative found in between the notes – because that is a stand-out element of every Elton John song, it tells a story!
Honky Cats reveals to the audience why Elton John is very much still standing: the music he performs is equal parts nostalgia and vivacity. This show is a lively theatrical concert about just that and will make you jump to your feet like a rocket, man!
The best thing about this show? It is fun! You will laugh, you will sing along (which Von Memerty and his stellar band at times actively encourages), and you will definitely get up and dance. Book your tickets through Computicket to see Honky Cats at Theatre on the Bay before the run ends 27 January 2018.