Johnson plays old favourites in a way that is instantly recognisable, yet there’s something more to it, an extra layer not audible to the naked…um…ear . My Plus One was fortunate enough to have one of his favourites, When Doves Cry by Prince, played.
The classics got us going but it was the original songs that crept into one’s heart. Anyone who has spent 2 minutes in Cape Town will recognise the man who is neither gay nor metro sexual in ‘Modern Man’, also known as a hipster. For ‘I’m not going to sing that song’ the audience were granted the privilege of being a fly on the wall inside? Johnson’s brain. He starts off by putting his foot down in a minor temper tantrum against singing a song from the famous Broadway musical Wicked. This is followed by a medley of other highly requested songs and Miley Cyrus being told off for trying to pass off licking a hammer as art.
All the songs in the set where propped on a sandwich board much like a café announcing the specials. When he got to the bottom of the sandwich-board he simply flipped it over, to the delight of the folks in the third mezzanine, revealing the options for the audience choice. Right off Piano Man was the clear crowd favourite which merged into Butterflies by Tori Amos. For good measure he threw in Marieke by Jacques Brel, a composer he had mastered in his Shadow of Brel shows. Two songs over par and the greedy audience’s appetite was still not satisfied. Johnson obliged with another two before taking his bow.
A few concert promoters have hijacked the term ‘intimate’ of late, because nothing is more intimate than Grand West Arena or a packed Kirstenbosch, right? A solo pianist surrounded by a tiny audience in the Kalk Bay Theatre is the true meaning of the term. I was happy to show my sister the polar opposite, yet still fabulous, side to the Cape Town theatre scene as opposed to the super popular The Rocky Horror Show we’re watching later in her visit*.
It is not often that this calibre pianist holds mass appeal. Johnson achieves this through his sharp wit, a knack to read the audience and the ability to wear dark rimmed Typo glasses without looking like a silly ‘Modern Man’ himself.
Mr Johnson Presents runs at the Kalk Bay Theatre Wednesdays to Saturdays until 26 October 2013.
* I have seen The Rocky Horror Show twice already