Wednesday, May 18, 2011

In the Retro Present

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Cinema Wow – with The Dahlings

Wow! There is no dearth of talent in South Africa! The Dahlings are faaaaaabulous! From Rosie the Riveter to slinky Rita Hayworth clones, to the wives of Stepford, the Dahlings, Nadia Beukes, Nacia Erasmus and Elizma van Rensburg, take you on a musical history tour – zigzagging backward and forward in time. Cinema Wow is a brand-new musical review all about love, a lemon and everything else, played before a backdrop of carefully chosen vintage films – The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Philadelphia Story, Sunset Boulevard, All About Eve, Young Frankenstein, King Kong, Casablanca and many more. These synchronised film sequences play an integral part in the show, actually becoming a fourth character. Without doubt, Cinema Wow is just too-too and oh so very-very uptown. Think martini glasses, vermouth, vodka and a twist of lemon, stirred, not shaken, of course.

Using old-time girl-group harmonies, the Dahlings recreate the sounds of the late 1930s, 40s and 50s while at the same time, they put an entirely new spin on contemporary hits such as Bjork’s It’s Oh So Quiet, Fool Garden’s Lemon Tree, and Antonio Carlos Jobim’s version of The Girl from Ipanema. As a matter of fact, when the girls do this latter number, I could almost swear they were singing in Cantonese. If they were, then they had to be paying sly tribute to Kate Capshaw who sang Anything Goes in “Chinese” at the beginning of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Such detailed finishing touches simply cannot be allowed to slip by unnoticed and they certainly add tremendously to the mystique the girls create.
And, I can get away with calling Peggy, Lawna and Cupcake “girls” – those are their persona names, by the way – because all three are real, honest-to-gosh girly girls on stage and off. Just like Marilyn Monroe, these curvy gals are walking, talking “Varga pin-ups.” If you don’t know what I mean by that, just surf the Net and you will!

“What the Dahlings are striving to do is incorporate vintage style with modern songs to create something new and fresh but seems to have a history,” says Elizma (Lawna). “It’s our mission to bring all this into the new millennium. …People always take notice of us. Maybe it’s the clothes, the high heels, the false eyelashes or the red-red lipstick. Whatever it is, they notice!”

“The three of us share a love of fashion.” Nacia (Peggy) takes the lead. “We each have a specific style and in our personal lives, we actually adore these retro fashions, so it’s not something we do just for the show. Our own personalities are very much a part of what you see in The Dahlings. Our mantra is: life is often dull – why not dress up a little? 

“It’s who we are,” agrees Nadia (Cupcake). We’re definitely not the jeans and t-shirts kind of girls. We believe in glamour – old-school glamour. We like having lots of it in our lives and enjoy the positive attention we receive. We all concur, if something’s not your passion, then don’t do it! And, if we do something, it has to be done with total enthusiasm!”

Created by Timothy le Roux, Elizma van Rensberg and Jaco van Rensberg, Cinema Wow is sort-of the Andrews Sisters meets Beyoncé Knowles on a New York Saturday night. The show is built around five separate and distinct themes – Women in the Workforce, The 50s Perfect Wife, The Horror of It All, The Exotic Orient, ending with an Escape to Paradise. The special guest star in the last section is Betty Boop. Memorable hits included in these segments are Sh-Boom (Life Could Be a Dream), the Jackson 5’s ABC, Mas Que Nada and Chasing Cars. In fact, all the music performed throughout the show is well-known and the audience will have a tough time keeping themselves from singing along.

“I think there is a vast opportunity for The Dahlings to appeal to a large audience,” says co-producer, Timothy le Roux. “This show and its music will appeal to people of all ages. It’s about the many aspects of being a woman – and how those facets have evolved over the past 75 years. There are no specific characters and no real storyline. However, the music is the thread holding everything together and it is punctuated by the film images in the background. – This is what makes it so much fun – that, and a lot of intellectual, dry humour!”

“I think Cinema Wow presents quite an eclectic mix of style,” continues Jaco van Rensberg, the other co-producer. “Not only in the choices of songs but also in the way the performers move around on stage. Everything is stylised to suggest iconic images of each era. Our use of black and white Film Noir footage as a backdrop just enhances the effect – moving the whole thing to a new and more entertaining level. And I know it’s not going to be difficult to love The Dahlings!”

Each of The Dahlings has an amazing singing voice and in harmony, they are sheer magic. In my opinion, they out-sing the Andrews Sisters  and give Rita Hayworth a run for her money in the vamping department. In the 50s segment, they looked like real country club girls with their sun glasses, spike heels, flouncy dresses and crinolines. In my mind’s eye, I could almost see a “Welcome to Stepford” sign in the background. They are absolutely perfect and more than just a little scary as they evoke images and sounds of how recent past eras were supposed to be – but never really were.

Cinema Wow has glitz, panache and lots of pizzazz. The set is simple but properly creates the ambience of a smoky cabaret. Costumes are bang-on, colourful and downright sexy! This is a sophisticated, innovative production about everything and nothing and this show at The Jo'burg Theatre is not to be missed!

In the Retro Present...

In the 1950s and early '60s, I was a firm believer in the future and this was the image that really got me going. I think I first saw this rendering in 1957 when I was a very impressionable 10-year-old.
In my mind's eye, I could visualize the then present translated into "the future." Here are a few glimpses into what I saw...

Robots = The Good Life
Robotic servants to allow us more leisure time - yeah right!  picture via Retrogasm 
The 1962 Chrysler 300 Hardtop with three of my front-end modifications. And If I had been a designer at Chrysler Corporation in 1958, the ugly 1961 Plymouth line (below) would have looked a little more presentable (bottom illustration).
And of course, I looked forward to the era of the flying car. This is how I thought they might look... Just regular cars, minus the wheels.

Alas in the late 1950s, there were very few child auto designers. And unfortunately dream cars of the present look more like this...

The Rhombus, built by Changfeng College of Automotive Engineering in China, has its wheels arranged in a diamond shape, with each pointy end supported by a single wheel and two wheels in the middle. Actually, such wheel placement offers an advantage. The front and back wheels turn simultaneously, thus giving the car a really short turn radius. The concept was in the making since 1990, and finally was shown at Detroit auto show this year. Even though it can easily win the Ugliest Car of the Year contest, it definitely makes an audacious engineering statement. But after seeing it, I think I'll have to visit my therapist!

So, you didn't think this place existed?

Well, we've all been there and without a paddle. Next time, we'll know where to get one.

And now for a Dorothy moment...


And tigers.

And bears.

Oh my!

Fun with Dick and Jane

Even in First Grade, I knew these kids were retarded.

See Jane, Dick & Spot harass a frog.


See Jane ride her trike in rush hour traffic.

See Dick run!

Now this isn't how I remember those stories! 

But I like it.

Man of the House

A young husband had just finished reading a new book entitled, "You Should be the MAN of Your House."

He stormed into the kitchen where his wife was putting frozen dinners into the microwave oven. "From now on," he announced, "you need to know I am the man of this house and my word is Law. You will prepare me a gourmet meal tonight, and when I'm finished eating my meal, you will serve me a sumptuous dessert.

After dinner, we are going to go upstairs and we'll have the kind of sex that I want.

Afterwards, you are going to draw me a bath so I can relax. You will wash my back and towel me dry and bring me my robe. Then, you will massage my feet and hands.

Then tomorrow, guess who's going to dress me and comb my hair?"

His wife calmly replied: "A funeral director would be my first guess."
Way too funny 

All About Talloo

"The only thing I regret about my past is the length of it. If I had to live my life again I'd make all the same mistakes - only sooner."

Nature's Call

...[Tallulah] had to go to the john, but found when she was settled in for the duration that there was no toilet paper at hand. "So I looked down and saw a pair of feet in the next stall. I knocked very politely and said: 'Excuse me, dahling, I don't have any toilet paper. Do you?' And this very proper Yankee voice said: 'No, I don't.' Well, dahling, I had to get back to the podium for Adlai [Stevenson]'s speech, so I asked her, very politely you understand, 'Excuse me dahling, but do you have any Kleenex?' And this now quite chilly voice said: 'No, I don't.' So I said: 'Well then, dahling, do you happen to have two fives for a ten?'" - from People Will Talk by John Kobal

Don't Ask, Don't Tell...

Tallulah Bankhead and friends at Finnochio's, ca. 1950's
Tab Hunter and friends in The Girl He Left Behind
(1956, Warner Bros.)
"How should I know, dahling?
He's never sucked my cock."

- Tallulah Bankhead, queried about co-star
Tab Hunter's sexual orientation.
Constant Craving

"But really, dahling - sixty apples a day?" 
- Tallulah Bankhead, after being advised by a doctor 
to eat an apple each time she craved a drink.
Rhythm of the Rain

Tallulah Bankhead in the stage production of Rain (1935)

"Dahling, you're divine. 

I just fucked your husband. 

You're next."

- Tallulah Bankhead to Joan Crawford
Joan Crawford in Rain (1932, United Artists)

When Caught Between Two Evils...


"My father warned me about men and booze, but he never said a word about women and cocaine." 

Sisters Under the Skin

"Alcohol does things to your face and skin. You don't get away scotfree. Pretense is futile. Look at Tallulah Bankhead. Or me." 

- Geraldine Page

They called her Snow White 

...but she drifted.


"I'm as pure as the driven slush."

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