2010-11-15 Weekend Post Report
THERE have been quite a few exciting changes at the charming Art Deco-styled Karroo Theatrical Hotel on the outskirts of Steytlerville in recent months, starting with a fresh new version of their popular Steytlerville Follies dinner theatre show.
“The end of the winter marked our seventh anniversary of acquiring the hotel and we decided to celebrate by launching a new show,” said Mark Hinds, who runs the hotel alongside his partner, Jacques Rabie.
Hinds performed in variety theatre, circuses and dinner shows across Europe while based in Germany and Switzerland for 23 years. Qualified dressmaker Rabie, despite having only made his stage debut three years ago, has fully developed his significant natural talent as a cross- dressing artiste, mime and singer.
"Our approach this time was to showcase two magnificent divas and their gowns – Madonna as Evita and Eartha Kitt singing All by Myself. To these we then added some comedy and linked it all by piano showpieces,” said Hinds.
This highly-accomplished pianist and performer returned to South Africa in 2002 – the year before he and Rabie bought the near-derelict 1943 hotel which has since been transformed into a colourful, quirky and by now almost legendary oasis in the dusty Karoo.
“We recently also upgraded our stage with sequined backdrop material, extra lighting, a laser and smoke machine,” Hinds said.
“Upgrading the stage was the progression to a revamp of Grimaldi’s, our dinner theatre venue. The key changes were building in a vestibule with a ticket office and transforming an entire corner of the room into a wrap-around couch with a gallery above it, adorned with dummies clad in costumes from previous shows.
"Square tables were replaced with round ones with floor-length tablecloths and beautiful overlays.”
The pair was undaunted at the prospect of putting together a new show and revamping the theatre in between running the hotel full time, staging their Saturday night dinners and shows throughout, tackling most of the hotel’s maintenance themselves and even hosting their popular Queens of the Desert party a few weekends ago, “just for a laugh”.
Hinds’s favourite part of the new show is when he gets to play an evocative piece on glass bottles. “I performed this number in many dinner shows in Europe but here I lacked someone to accompany me on the piano.
“Jacques’ daughter, Stefanie Nel, joined us recently and with her talent on the piano I was able to revive one of my most exciting and passionate performances,” he said.
Rabie particularly enjoys performing Kitt’s version of All by Myself, as “there is some profound dialogue which is especially touching, like ‘cutting life's golden cake into a million tiny squares’.”
Hinds chuckled: “In Tap your Troubles Away, Jacques in true exhibitionist style gets to show off his drop-dead gorgeous legs which any real woman would kill for”.
Rabie makes all of the outfits and even the hair pieces and jewellery for his various persona in the show.
His inspiration already begins when shopping for fabrics, be it in Cape Town, Johannesburg or Port Elizabeth.
“He’ll often stumble across a magnificent roll of cloth and have a flash of inspiration,” said Hinds. “One such occasion happened not in a shop but while visiting a friend – somewhat taken with her kitchen curtains, he soon transformed them into the star-spangled costume for Tap your Troubles Away.”
Rabie and Hinds now also have two newcomers at the hotel to share a bit of the workload. Stefanie, whom everyone calls Steffi, is a qualified hairstylist who helps her father in the kitchen besides also running a small salon from the hotel. She made her Follies debut at the piano when the new show launched in August and will play a bigger role in future shows, as dance is one of her fortes.
Her cousin, young Armin Jesersky, is learning the ropes of the hospitality industry by handling the bar and other chores, while also helping out backstage. Hinds and Rabie have come a long way since buying the hotel in 2003 and launching their Follies shows three years ago.
“The most important thing is to stick to your dream with commitment and passion, and not allow any form of negativity to discourage you,” said Hinds.
The Karroo Theatrical Hotel has 12 rooms and one double suite. Saturday night getaway packages at R500 per person sharing include accommodation, a three-course Karoo dinner plus show, and a buffet breakfast the following morning.
Available every Saturday night. This remarkable package includes: Accommodation, sundowner cocktails with canapés, a delectable three-course candlelight dinner in a mesmerising setting, our signature cabaret show – The Steytlerville Follies – rounded off with an assortment of cheeses, desserts, port and coffee. Also included is a buffet breakfast on Sunday morning.
R1 740 per couple in a standard room (double bed)
R1 860 per couple in a standard room (twin beds)
R2 100 per couple in a superior room (queen bed)
R2 220 per couple in a superior room (twin beds)
R1 200 Single rate in a standard room