Theatre review: Brothers of Soul

Posted: April 21, 2010 in Uncategorized
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Starring Nathan Daniels, Reginald S. Manus, Franklin Martin, Denzil M. Williams.
at On Broadway until 24 April. ASTRID STARK reviews
 Published in the Cape Times, 20 April
Tribute show needs a little polish to make it really slick.

When Motown music, with is rhythmic blues and hypnotic pop, started the journey to its Afro zenith in America in the early sixties, anti-apartheid movements began campaigning for cultural boycotts against South Africa.  The state controlled SABC practically had a monopoly on radio broadcasting and the paranoid National Party viewed television as a potential threat to its tight-fisted control of the broadcasting media. When we finally got our first sets in the mid-seventies, organisations such as the British Actors Union, Equity, justifiably boycotted us.  It sometimes feels to me as if we have missed out on an entire era of counter-culture.  Some of us were only introduced to Motown music in the 80’s and 90’s; earlier if you were lucky enough to get a hold of a black market LP.

Back, left to right Denzil M. Williams, Franklin Martin Reginald S  Manus   front Nathan Daniels

Back, left to right Denzil M. Williams, Franklin Martin Reginald S Manus front Nathan Daniels

Four South African guys have bravely decided to take on this very American genre in their Brothers of Soul tribute to bands of the Motown era.  Motown played a key role in the racial integration of popular music and saw the birth of legends such as The Jackson 5, Stevie Wonder, The Supremes, The Four Tops and Marvin Gaye.  Nathan Daniels, originally a Mechanical Engineer, leads his team through Motown classics by prodigies such as the Temptations, The Trammps, Hot Chocolate and The Isley Brothers.  It can’t be an easy task to emulate legendary songs such as My Girl, Grapevine and the adored This Old Heart of Mine.  For the most part, the foursome do a really good job of it. Motown is soulfull R&B blended with strong flavours of pop and it may use a variety of musical instruments.  However a prominent feature of Motown is the use of distinctive vocals, and this is where Brothers of Souls’ places its biggest emphasis.

The first half of the show appropriately opens with The Temptations’ Get Ready and the guys look spanky in their glittering satin suits. However there is no live band on stage and their background music has been pre-recorded which doesn’t do any justice to their beautiful voices.  The background music sounds metallic and too loud; drowning out the words and more subtle nuances.   It is not until they do an a capella number, Old Man River, that you get to fully appreciate the voices.

The sound problem became less-prominent during the second half. Pappa Was A Rolling Stone, Treat Her Like A Lady and Sexy Thing are all performed with great energy and their synchronised movements are a little cheesy but very enjoyable to watch.  Nathan Daniels has the Motown look down to a fine art. His approach is sexy, with a hint of humour, and loads of Lionel Richie tossed in for good measure. It’s Motown with a modern twist and it feels right.  Daniels has been performing internationally for the last nine years and although his performance feels very polished, it still brims with natural passion.  His voice is soulful and will melt the butter off your toast.   Franklin Martin, who I am told is still an upcoming singer and songwriter, has a silky crooner’s voice and he is quite a pleasure to watch but it seems as if he is still feeling his way around developing his voice’s full potential. He is possibly someone to look out for in the future.  Reginald Manus, who has been performing abroad for the past eight years, and Denzil Williams, take a slight back seat in the performance though both can hold their own when given the opportunity.  Manus’ performance of Love Train stands out as a memorable piece.  Williams had the audience roaring for more when he did his raunchy Barry White voice during The Love I Lost.  Best of all, he did it in a cheeky Cape flats accent, mostly tongue-in- cheek, which went down a treat.   It is refreshing to hear a South African take on an American classic.   By the time the performed Disco Inferno our table was up and dancing which is quite rare for this group of people.

Brother of Soul does not feel like it is pretending to be anything other than a tribute performance and as such, with the exception of the first half’s irritating background situation, does a fair job of an evening’s entertainment. The overall show does feel as if can be a bit more polished if it really wants to be slick. The stage lighting is hardly used at all and with a bit of imagination it could to a lot more to create a soulful, sexy mood. There are no props to speak of apart from a small and lacklustre disco ball.   Their dancing movements are slick and it will be a fun evening out for lovers of Soul, Motown and just generally a crowd that enjoys foot stomping, and clapping to happy love songs.

  • The Show starts at 20h30.  Dinner is served from 18h30. Tickets are R85 per person.  For bookings please call 021 424 1194 or visit the website www.onbroadway.co.za
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