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Tickling the ivories in A Handful of Keys

Ian von Memerty, director and co-creator of the musical revue A Handful of Keys, didn't see it coming. "When we opened in 1994 in a tiny theatre, we were hoping for a five-week run," he said in an interview with Pieter Tromp. "[And] here we are after 19 years, on cast number five and no end in sight."
In this staging, Von Memerty (presenter of Strictly Come Dancing and Mr Fantastic from SA's Got Talent) teams up with Jonathan Roxmouth (The Phantom of the Opera), who first joined the show in 2008 when he was only 21. "We had to put this cast together in a great hurry when Roelof Colyn, who has done such fantastic work in Handful, suddenly had a clash of dates," Von Memerty said. "Three days of rehearsals and Jono and I were performing on stage. I was nervous because it was the first time that two 'leading men' had done the show together and the chemistry was instant and electrifying. A combination of our long history together, our individual experience, and a shared awful sense of humour seemed to instantly click."

More than 140 Broadway songs in just 12 minutes

The two-hour performance, which has incorporated fresh content as the seasons progressed, covers a lot of ground in paying tribute to pianists (and the piano) throughout history. And while some knowledge might be required to appreciate parodies of classical composers or the remarkable feat of performing more than 140 Broadway songs in just 12 minutes fully, most viewers should find something to enjoy. "It is a show that is greater than the sum of its parts, featuring virtuoso piano playing, high wit, low comedy, huge vocals, impersonation, irreverence, inventiveness," Von Memerty said. "These elements somehow coalesce into something that leaves audiences with a sense of huge delight." It seems that more than 360 000 people around the world can't be wrong!

A Handful of Keys is at Cape Town's Theatre on the Bay until 13 April and at Joburg's Montecasino from 16 April to 5 May. Tickets are available from Computicket. The show has raised almost R500 000 for the Theatre Benevolent Fund so far (including R250 000 from the 1000th performance).

About Eugene Yiga

Eugene graduated from the University of Cape Town with distinctions in financial accounting and classical piano. He then spent over two-and-half years working in branding and communications at two of South Africa's top market research companies. Eugene also spent over three-and-a-half years at an eLearning start-up, all while building his business as an award-winning writer. Visit, follow @eugeneyiga on Twitter, or email moc.agiyenegue@olleh to say, um, hello.



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