The Fleur du Cap nominated Bar None is back and it has grown from a fun show into a fantastic production since we saw it premiere at Kalk Bay Theatre in 2014. Under the direction of husband and wife team, Ashley Searle and Vanessa Harris, the romance, comedy, and nostalgia driven elements of the show have developed into a multi-layered narrative that is given full emotive and melodic expression by the exceptional cast of Lucy Tops, Alex Tops and Gary Naidoo.
Bar None is the musical story of a family-run bar in New York of olden days. It still has that Casablanca classic movie feel that appealed during the first-run meeting of narrator Rick (Alex Tops), the current bar owner, as he shares the stirring Bar None origin story of Betty (Lucy Tops), Frank (Alex Tops) and Giuseppe (Gary Naidoo).
The story that greets you feels like Mary Poppins meets Kira of Xanadu, thanks to the mysterious, almost magical appearance of the enchanting Betty at Bar None just when Frank, the then owner, could not be more down on his luck. Songstress Betty (given true angelic tone by Lucy Top) with her voice and positive energy breathes new life into a failing bar, while capturing Frank’s heart too. The big difference here though is that this time Betty as our Mary/Kira does not get an enchanting exit to escape reality, but rather stays to live life to its fullest —embracing the laughter along with the tears.
The casting of Gary Naidoo as bartender Giuseppe is inspired. Not only is he an amazing performer, with vocal qualities that would make Elvis’s ghost jealous, but his comedic timing is exceptional, and those hips of ‘Giuseppe’ don’t lie once he gets holds of a beat. Naidoo’s character brings the perfect balance as supportive, ‘I fix it’ friend to both Frank and Bambino Ricky, both whom Alex Tops in turn portrays with great depth and understanding.
The story of Betty, Frank, and Giuseppe (as told revealed through Rick's flashback memories) not only reveals to the audience how much heart and soul they've put into the success of Bar None, but also subtly makes you wonder if they didn't perhaps magically inspired a few timey-wimey music cross-overs. Why? Because they thoroughly entertain with some great swing-type modulations of hits by Meghan Trainor, Michael Buble, Queen and Billy Joel, alongside some Ella Fitzgerald and Carole King classics.
The dynamics between Lucy Tops, Alex Tops and Gary Naidoo speak of a level of understanding that comes from years of sharing a stage —nothing comes across as forced or contrived. Their effortless interactions are so natural as performers that their personal level of comfort invites the audience to take them into their confidence as much as the appealing Bar None story itself does.
As a musical production Bar None has retained that original romantic fairytale angle that drew you in the first time, but now the current staging also surprises with the newly explored real-life happiness and heartbreak elements that will have you wipe away a tear or two. In but an hour Bar None reveals a story that has a clear arc, character development, and all the elements of a melodically explored story that will capture the attention of even the most unromantic soul.
Bar None presents a theatre experience where the narrative delights as much as the melodies enchant. It is sensitively and thoughtfully balanced, and the creative team and cast can be very proud of how this production has grown since 2014 from a fun night out into fantastic production.
It is a beautiful piece of theatre that has so much heart you simply can’t afford not to make this part of your theatre diary. Catch Bar None at Kalk Bay Theatre until 3 November 2018. Book online at www.kalkbaytheatre.co.za