Review: Spellbinding Bon Soir at Kalk Bay Theatre

A mesmerizing and spellbinding theatrical journey

Review by Frances Aaron: 

Bon Soir is the latest production from Ash Searle and Vanessa Harris, the dynamic directors of Cape Town’s FollowSpot Productions and managers of the eclectic Kalk Bay Theatre. The cast is comprised of 7 multi-talented performers who take the audience on a thoroughly captivating journey of the senses.

Peppered with hilarious antics, this sexy and entralling show takes on a distinct theme of ‘Cirque’ where the performers display strength, beauty, awesome contortion, illusion and comedy with great skill and stamina.

Alex Tops is a delight, fully engaging the audience with his highly amusing antics, which include bringing a suit to life and playing invisible drums with flair.

Bon Soir introduces musician and songwriter James Harris who shares his special and versatile talent accompanying several of the acts.

Ash Searle and Nadine Theron dazzle with their highly seductive dance performances. The second dance pair – Ruby Burton, (who by the way also impresses with flawless singing), and Brad Searle (who performs an enjoyable dance rendition of the popular Michael Jackson’s ‘Beat It’) demonstrate great skill on the dancefloor.

And what would Bon Soir be without their superb cabaret leader, Lucy Tops? Her grand presence, enticing body language and soaring voice bring the entire show together. She is the one who manipulates not unlike a puppeteer who imbues each performer (puppet) with life and sets them loose on the stage.

There is so much more to be enthralled by in this mostly slick set of extraordinary performances, which will appeal to a wide audience. Also included are a several Hip Hop numbers, an amazing illusionary contortion performance and some more first-class singing.

Do go and see it at Kalk Bay Theatre where it is showing until February 6. Bookings and more information

Bon Soir Group - Alex & Lucy Tops, Ash Searle, Rub…adine Theron

Bon Soir Group – Alex and Lucy Tops, Ash Searle, Ruby Burton and Nadine Theron

Strength, beauty, stamina, contortion, illusion and comedy provide a surreal and seductive feast for the senses

Bon Soir is the latest creation from Ash Searle and Vanessa Harris, the dynamic and gutsy directors of Cape Town’s FollowSpot Productions and the eclectic Kalk Bay Theatre, and takes audiences on a mesmerizing and spellbinding theatrical journey, which begins from the moment you step inside the Kalk Bay Theatre.

In this unique and intimate setting, where the action is seen inches away and one becomes truly immersed in the performance, Bon Soir  introduces a distinctive brand of ‘Cirque’ – where strength, beauty, stamina, contortion, illusion and comedy provide a surreal and seductive feast for the senses.

 Six multi-talented artists dazzle with one extraordinary performance after another, delivering a captivating compilation of speciality acts.

Strung together with hilarious antics and flawless vocals, and decked out in costumes designed by Vanessa that are offbeat and unconventional, this slick and sexy show enjoyed sell-out runs and rave reviews at the Grahamstown and Hilton Arts Festivals this year.

Featuring the priceless and endearing Big Boys, Ash and Brad Searle; the power couple that is Lucy and Alex Tops of Bar None fame (yes, she’s The Voice); together with the beautiful and sinuously acrobatic Nadine Theron and Ruby Burton of Another Day; there is no doubt that Bon Soir will titillate and enthrall!

This is a festive celebration – a show for the whole family. Absolutely fabulous entertainment that will send you singing and dancing into the night!  Simply unmissable!

Bon Soir Lucy and Alex Tops

Lucy and Alex Tops

Alex Tops has performed in theatre productions ranging from Shakespeare at Maynardville to Assassins directed by Fred Abrahamse which re-opened the Space Theatre on Long Street, to The Great Gatsby at Spier directed by Peter Joucla.  He also had the privilege to perform in the grand-scale opera Lost in the Stars, and Showboat which travelled to Paris in 2011 and the UK in 2014.  He also performed in the hit musical The Sound of Music in 2014 at Artscape. Alex co-directed Absolucy, a sell-out one-woman cabaret show at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown in 2011/2012 as well as co-writing and starring in Cooked a hilarious live cooking show at the NAF and at Kalk Bay.  He was the Resident Director and understudy for the role of Brad Majors in the Fugard Theatre’s production of The Rocky Horror Show which played to full houses in 2013 and 2014. More recently he played the dual role of Frank and Rick in FollowSpot Productions’ musical romance Bar None at the Kalk Bay Theatre, and was cast in the opening run of Bon Soir at this year’s National Arts Festival.

After leaving the Waterfront Theatre School Lucy Tops began her performing career at a Hilton Hotel in China. Thereafter she came home to work for The Barnyard Theatre in tribute shows such as Dancing Queen, Hollywood Rocks and Glory Days. She has also worked with the Mike McCully Band and still performs regularly with them in shows such as Station 70, Country Classics, That 80’s Show, and Folk Rock Heroes. Lucy joined forces with FollowSpot Productions where she co-wrote and starred in her one-woman show Absolucy directed by Alex Tops which successfully debuted at the Grahamstown National Arts Festival. She has also performed in a variety of FollowSpot’s popular shows such as Big Girls, Face The Music and Another Day. Another highlight was getting the chance to work with The Mechanicals in The Great Gatsby directed by Luke Ellenbogen. Lucy has released original music through Stereotype Records and continues to work with a variety of artists. She is also a voice artist for jingles on radio and TV and is working towards recording an original album. More recently Lucy performed in The Fugard Theatre’s The Rocky Horror Show, a tribute show Stealing The Show : Bette Midler written by Jon Keevy and directed by Garth Tavares, and the musical romance Bar None written and directed by FollowSpot Productions at the Kalk Bay Theatre. For the role of Betty in Bar None she was nominated for a Fleur du Cap Best Performance by an Actress in a Musical or Music Theatre Show.

Ash Searle & Ruby Burton

Ash Searle & Ruby Burton

Ash Searle is one of South Africa’s unique talents – technically-trained in both dancing and acting. His focus is on entertainment that is vibrant and comedic, but always of a world-class standard. Ash has performed all over the world in productions such as Chicago, African Footprint, The Buddy Holly Story, We Will Rock You and Fame to mention a few.  He has choreographed and danced for the most prestigious corporate functions throughout Africa, including Bidvest, DHL, Protea Hotels, the SAMA Awards and Miss World. South Africa also voted Ash into the top three of the television series So You Think You Can Dance? In 2008 Ash and his wife Vanessa Harris, a well-known performer in her own right, opened the company FollowSpot Productions.  The company specializes in two genres of entertainment – corporate functions and intimate theatre – and has been credited with numerous awards, both nationally and abroad.  Together with Vanessa, Ash has written (and often co-directed) Love at First Fight, Big Boys Don’t Dance, Big Boys II, Big Girls, Bar None, Bon Soir and The Cat’s Meouw. 

Bradley Searle

Bradley Searle

Brad Searle comes to the performing world with eleven years’ training in modern, contemporary, jazz, ballroom and hip hop under the SA Dance Teachers Association. In competition he achieved two gold medals for Hip Hop Solo and Show Dance Duet, and qualified to represent South Africa at the World Championships in Germany. Janice Honeyman nabbed the budding talent early on and drew Brad into the pantomime world at the Joburg Theatre – as ensemble in The Adventures of Pinocchio and Robinson Crusoe & the Caribbean Pirates, and as the Lost Boy Nibs in Peter Pan The Pantomime. He also performed as Lyle in Footloose The Musical. In 2010 Brad joined forces with FollowSpot Productions and, together with his brother Ash, took the dance comedy Big Boys to cult hit status and a Standard Bank Ovation Award at the Grahamstown National Arts Festival, and at schools countrywide.  He was a member of the debut cast of Another Day at Grahamstown in 2014 and Bon Soir in 2015, and performed as Moe in Dirty Dancing at Teatro at Montecasino, the Artscape and on tour to the Far East.

Nadine Theron is another contestant from the television series So You Think You Can Dance and placed in the top six.  She excels in acrobatic dance and is a qualified teacher in this genre under the SA Dance Teachers Association, but she has a wealth of experience in other forms such as aerial silks/ribbons, adage, strength, freestyle, showdance, rock ‘n roll/jive, hustle, hip hop/breakdance, modern, disco, contemporary, jazz, latin and pole dancing. Nadine joined FollowSpot Productions when she was cast as the leading lady in Another Day during its runs at the Grahamstown National Arts Festival and the Kalk Bay Theatre, and when she performed in Bon Soir earlier this year during its opening at the NAF. She has also worked as a stunt girl and double for Claire Danes when episodes of the TV series Homeland were shot in South Africa, performed as a cheerleader for the Stormers and danced at numerous corporate events. She recently started her own company, Tulu Entertainment.

Ruby Burton began dancing at the age of 4. She joined the Cape Junior Ballet Company under the direction of Dianne Cheesman and spent five years training, travelling and performing with the Company. She has also trained in African dance, hip-hop, jazz, modern, pantsula, salsa, tap and – her favourite – contemporary. In 2009 Ruby won the National School of the Arts Dance Bursary and participated in the Cape Town International Ballet Competition the following year. In 2011 she won the SA Talent Championship Overall Dancer award, as well as gold for singing and acting. She competed in Orlando, Florida where she was scouted by a few American Triple Threat agencies.Ruby also performed as jazz band singer at Reddam House and enjoys writing her own music. She sang with Jimmy Nevis at his album launch and was signed as a solo artist to Rude World Records. She is currently working on an album and collaborating with different South African artists. Her debut single ‘My Man’ had its first play on MTV in 2014.Ruby began working with FollowSpot Productions at the age of 16 when she was cast in Another Day for the National Arts Festival and for its run at the Kalk Bay Theatre earlier this year.  She joined forces with FollowSpot again at the 2015 NAF for the first season of Bon Soir.

Also a graduate of the Waterfront Theatre School, Vanessa Harris took to the professional stage in a string of musicals – The Rocky Horror Show, Fusion, Fangs, The Buddy Holly Story, Peter Pan the Pantomime, and We Will Rock You.  She also played the Russian vamp in the film Running Riot with Bill Flynn and Paul Slabolepsky.At this point, longing to be mistress of her own destiny, Vanessa left the mainstream and – with her husband Ash Searle – established the company FollowSpot Productions. With the festival circuit firmly in their sights initially, and a mission to create accessible and comedic musical theatre, she co-wrote (with Ash) Love at First Fight, Big Girls Don’t Cry, Big Boys Don’t Dance, Big Boys II, Face the Music, Van and Ash Exposed, Bar None, and Another Day.  Before and between babies, she performed in LFF, Big Girls, Face the Music and Exposed. She also directed the Big Boys phenomenon, Bar None, Another Day, Borderline, The Cat’s Meouw and Bon Soir.

The New Kalk Bay Theatre & Restaurant, 52 Main Road, Kalk Bay. Phone 021 788-7257 between 3 and 8 p.m. Tuesdays to Saturdays.  

Ticket price:    R155

Show time:      8:30 p.m. – 9:45 p.m.


Bookings and more information