x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Show presents musical history, scale by scale

After a successful performance last year, the South African production A Handful of Keys returns to Dubai's Madinat Theatre February 7-9.

A Handful of Keys started in 1994. Courtesy Shaun Smith, Studióski
A Handful of Keys started in 1994. Courtesy Shaun Smith, Studióski

With everything from Beethoven to Fats Waller to Freddie Mercury, A Handful of Keys is filled with "hilarious" impersonations and "pianistic virtuosity", says the co-founder Ian Von Memerty.

The two-man piano show began in 1994 and, in 2009, marked its 1,000th performance. Today, Von Memerty teams up with Jonathan Roxmouth, who recently starred in Grease and The Phantom of the Opera.

"A Handful of Keys explores why the piano is still the most popular instrument in the world. More than electronics and guitars, more great performers and composers and entertainers have been behind the keyboard than any other instrument," says Von Memerty, who is also the host of Strictly Come Dancing in South Africa, and the chief judge on South Africa's Got Talent.

UAE audiences, he says, should expect a "complete night of entertainment".

"They will leave sore from clapping and laughing so much. This is what audiences tell us every time we perform anywhere," Von Memerty says. "None of us involved in the original creation of this show guessed it would be such a huge hit. The fact it's still as popular as it is nearly 20 years after it was launched is something unique."

Among the evening's highlights is the History of Broadway section, which covers 140 songs in 12 minutes - which, of course, "makes perfect sense and is hilarious", Von Memerty says.

What else could they possibly cover?

"From the grandeur of the classics through the upbeat elegance of ragtime through the foot-stomping joy of Fats Domino and Elton John, to the madness of rock 'n' roll, a sumptuous Rhapsody in Blue by George Gershwin and then the complete history of the Broadway musical, audiences will hear every kind of sound that the piano can make - and then we sing everything as well," says Von Memerty.

A Handful of Keys will be at Madinat Theatre, Souk Madinat Jumeirah at 8pm on Thursday and Friday and at 7pm on Saturday. Tickets cost Dh185 and are available through Time Out Tickets and Madinat Theatre box office. Visit www.madinattheatre.com

melshoush@thenational.ae