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Marvin Gaye ‘rises’ back to life at Joburg Theatre


Marvin Gaye – and all the women in his life – would have been very proud of Lloyd Cele and Vika Bull on Thursday night.
The South African award-winning heartthrob and the Australian diva were such a blast at the Johannesburg Theatre as they retold the tragic story of one of the most-talented musicians of his generation in an exciting, gripping and absorbing two-hour tribute that moved some people in the audience to tears.

A full house on the opening night of Let's Get It On: The Life and Music of Marvin Gaye on The Mandela stage loved every bit of their performances.

From the opening number – Stars and Stripes to the finale – Cele "brought" the Prince of Motown back to life in a tribute that is more than a musical, more lyrics than script.

In the intensely emotional and exhilarating show, they narrated Gaye's life – from his youth in the rough-and-tumble part of Washington DC and how he rose from the squalor despite his love-hate relationship with his father – to the glitz and glamour of Motown.

In between the moving tribute, Cele and Bull rendered some of his most iconic hit songs. They narrated to the captive audience how his search for meaning found expression in his music thanks to his mother's love and devotion.

With mid-tempo music in the background they chronicled his rise and fall and how his life ended abruptly and tragically at the hands of his authoritarian and abusive father, who shot him dead on April 1 1984, on the eve of his 45th birthday.

The story tells of the love and fortune he found and lost.

With a hint of a Mzansi swag, Cele shone bright and was not overwhelmed by stepping into Gaye's giant musical shoes.

Effortlessly, he delivered his versions of I Heard It Through the Grapevine, Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing, Ain't No Mountain Too High, What's Going On? and the Grammy Award-winning Sexual Healing, which had the crowd singing along and asking for more.

But it was his rendition of Let's Get it On that stole the show. After changing into a white suit, Cele brought the house down. Mike in hand, he lay on the stage and belted it to the appreciation of the audience.

Backed by some of Australia's finest and funkiest musicians – The Funk City Band – and several South Africans, Cele and Bull did a superb job, so did executive producers Simon Meyers and Moira Bennett of Room 8 Productions of Australia.

I left the theatre feeling as though I knew Marvin Gaye personally, not just as a multi-talented musician, singer and songwriter but also as a man who, despite his massive talent, had to fight his demons that threatened to overshadow his talent.

Cele and Bull will be back at the theatre on Thursday May 14 for the second and final round of three superb shows.

Tickets range from R180 to R350. Group discounts are also available. – Doreen Zimbizi