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The Rat Pack Tribute Show Comes to Cairo

I am a big fan of the ‘Arts’ and the Entertainment Industry. I haven’t been to the Cairo Opera house as frequently as I would have liked to this year due to my efforts in trying to complete my Master’s in Education. Once I had finished one of my 8 weeks courses of total focus and dedication I became a bit of a bum and recluse. I seem to be coming out of that lazy frame of mind and want to attend more exhibitions and performances.
Last Tuesday, which was the 30th of November, I heard that there was a Las Vegas group performing at the Opera house and they were Rat Pack impersonators.
I have always been a sucker for Sinatra and I quite like Dean Martin too, so I convinced four other people to join if I could get my paws on tickets.
Luckily I didn’t have to go all the way to Zamalek to get tickets for the show. I was relieved and over the moon to discover that the Thomas Cook travel agents in Korba, Heliopolis sell tickets for all the shows at the Opera house.
Luck was on my side and I got the last five seats in the house at 200LE a pop on opening night! I just prayed that the performance wasn’t going to be as disappointing as the so-called Broadway dancers that had come to perform ‘Take the Floor’ the previous year.
Thursday evening I’m dressed to the nines and excited about going to the Opera house. I don’t know what it is about the ambiance of the place, but I can’t help but feel classy, feminine and cultured.
When the lights dimmed to signal the start of the performance and the curtain rose to reveal a band playing an interlude, my feet couldn’t stop tapping to the beat.
Dean Martin’s look a like; (Andrew DiMino) was the first of the pack to grace the stage. He had a very good likeness to the legendary performer and he won the audience over with his adapted saeedy jokes and his experiences since he had arrived in Cairo.
He sang many familiar tunes that we have heard in movies and weddings. Members of the audience were tapping their feet to the beat; some were swaying to the music and the majority, were lip syncing the words to the songs.
There were fours ‘show girl’ dancers too, but they were as one friend of mine aptly described their presence ‘decoration’. The choreography wasn’t up to par and it looks as though they had only just learned the steps.
Allen Gregory was the artist who had an uncanny and striking resemblance to late Sammy Davis Jr. watching and listening to him, you could have sworn that Sammy himself had come back from the dead to perform on Cairo’s stage. He was terrific.
He sang one of my favorite childhood songs ‘Candy Man’ among many other hits.
When Old Blue Eyes tribute artist took the stage, he didn’t look like Sinatra but he could belt out the tunes almost as good as the man himself! Gary Anthony who performed as Sinatra had the audience clapping loudly until their hands hurt!
The trio sang a few songs together and their final song ‘New York’ had the audience clapping and singing along to the very end.
Friends of mine who went to see the performance on different days were just as impressed with the show as my friends and I had been.
An entertaining night and money well spent!

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I have always been a fan of the arts. As a youngster I used to really enjoy performing on stage in plays, musicals and talent shows, (it’s the family blood line apparently). I would have loved to have tried my luck in the industry, but my father strongly opposed the idea. Many of my teacher’s on the other hand couldn’t imagine me being anything other than an actress or a TV presenter.

When  my family and I would travel on holidays my mother would take my sister and I to museums, the theatre, ballet, musicals and galleries. At the time I didn’t realize what a huge appreciation she was instilling in me. Now that I’m older, I am very grateful that she did. I find that being able to enjoy ‘The Art’s’ enables me to look at life differently and see things from different perspectives.

When my family and I moved to Egypt in the early 90’s, the freedom of not being  able to just walk out of my front door and ride my bicycle to the recreation center or just around the neighborhood was something that really irritated me. As well as not being able to go and watch pantomimes. When the Alexandria Library opened and the Sayed Darweesh theater was restored,  I would hear of performances and would save up to buy tickets to go and attend. There is a captivating magic about going to places like that. For a few hours you forget who and where you are. Your troubles can be put aside for some time and then turn your focus back to them once you have returned from your mini mind vacation.

The Alexandria Library, is (in my opinion) becoming the cultural focal point of the city. They have guest speakers, movie screenings, performances by local Egyptian talent, bands like ‘Wust El Balad’ and my favorite event of all was the International Dance Festival. The Sayed Darweesh theater is not only a building built baring the name of a local Alexandrian but it also represents a local history. The theater I believe collaborates with the Cairo Opera House, some if not most of the performances held at the Opera House make their way to the Sayed Darweesh theater.

Another thing that I enjoyed doing whilst I was living and growing up in Alexandria, was going to the different cultural centers. The Russian Cultural Center, offers ballet, exercise sessions and in my day they even had art. The French, Spanish and German offer language courses. The most popular two were the British Council and the American Cultural Center. I believe they still are. If you live in the Roushdy area on Kafr Abdu street. Across from Cilantro there is a fitness center that offers a large array of courses. Tamarin Center is where I took my first jab at salsa dancing. The partners who own the center are amiable, social and helpful women.

When I moved to Cairo, I became spoilt for choice. There are so many places that offer so many things that it is impossible for me to know of all of them. What I can do is tell you about the places I have been to.

If you are really in to listening to live bands playing then you will enjoy going to a restaurant/pub called, The Cairo Jazz Club or After 8. Both places offer live entertainment, with performances by local talent. I am a huge fan of ‘The Riff Band’, ‘Wust El Balad’ and ‘Crash Boom Bang’. Each have their own uniqueness and sound. There are others but if I was to list them, I would be sat here for quite some time. http://www.cairojazzclub.com/ ,   http://www.after8cairo.com/Default.aspx

Then there is the ‘Cultural Wheel’, or otherwise known as Sakia El Sawy. It’s located in Zamalek, (one my favorite places in Cairo) 26th of July street, just below 15 of May bridge. ” El Sawy Cultural wheel is an Egyptian cultural center based on a vision to create an ethical environment that motivates people to develop and strengthen their culture through arts, enlightenment & creativity.”(description taken from their facebook group). It was there when I first went to watch ‘The Axis of Evil Comedy Tour’ and the Cairo Jazz festival. If you want to know what is going on there, join their facebook group. http://www.facebook.com/?sk=2361831622#!/group.php?gid=2243177865&v=info&ref=ts

I am not one who enjoys getting dolled up, I prefer being comfortable and natural,(My mother strongly disproves). There are VERY rare occasions where I will and that is if I’m attending a formal function which requires me to wear war paint (make up), crippling contraptions on my feet (high heels) and the (dreaded) dress! Having said that, I enjoy getting dressed up to go to the Opera. Yes, I realize how geeky this makes me sound, but I love listening to classical music, opera and watching a ballet. There is never a dull month at the Cairo Opera House. I would be quite happy spending all my earnings and going to the Opera House every month. They have their own orchestra, dance troops and they have many foreign companies come to perform too. It was there where I first heard Verdi’s ‘Aida’! http://www.cairoopera.org/

Cairo is littered with historical places to visit and experience. Book yourself a tour with a travel company or buy yourself a travel guide and go on an adventure. There is so much to see and learn. I’ve lived in Egypt for almost 19 years and I still haven’t seen a fifth of the countries treasures.

If you know of any other places, please let me know. I’d love to go and check them out for myself.

For the past week my friends and I had been contemplating going to the Cairo Opera house to watch a broadway show called,  ‘Take The Floor’. The flyer and the poster advertised that the show was a fund-raising event organized by  The Rotary Club of Giza Metropolitan and that the dancers were coming all the way from Broadway.

Since and early age my Mother instilled an appreciation for the Arts in my sister and I. If there was a museum or a show that was open or performance she would take us to it. She even encouraged us to take part in theatre and dance. Little did I know at the time that quite a few members of our Irish clan were talented singer, actors and worked in the entertainment industry.

What person in their right mind would walk away from an opportunity of seeing a broadway dance troop … ?     I wouldn’t!

Thursday, I got home from work excited and anxious to go watch Broadway dancers perform on a stage in Egypt’s capital. I chose my wardrobe carefully. Purple dress, lilac suede shoes, and simple accessories to go with the ensemble. My friends and I felt and looked as though we were going to a  Broadway show.

The Opera house’s parking lot  was jam-packed full of cars, and the foyer of the Opera was filled with people dressed to the nines. We took our balcony seats with an excellent view of the stage and waited with anticipation for the show to begin.

When the curtain was drawn open, my heart sank. The stage was bare and bland. There was no back drop to create a mood or a setting. There was no scenery or props to help the audience visuals the ambiance. I was utterly disappointed. The music was superb, but the lack of visual setting wasn’t there to complete the picture. It went down hill from there for me and my friends.

The dancers were talented and clearly have been studying dance for years and have ample of experience but they were definitely not the ‘Star’ performers from BROADWAY. The ticket price of 200 Le for the seats should have been a big enough hint for me to realise, what I should expect. Not all of the dancers were of the build you would expect, some had tummies and were a bit on the heavy side.  They had good lines but they didn’t have that flowing grace that contestants on ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ have. It was very obvious when the male dancers had to pick up their  female partners in to a lift. It looked as though they were struggling. Some of their costumes looked as though they were too tight too. There were times during the performance when their steps were off beat and out of sync. Above all they all seemed to lack that certain je ne sais quoi…? When I asked one of my friends if it was me or if their performance was lacking something, he answered ‘I don’t feel the passion or their enjoyment’. I think he hit the nail on the head.

During the intermission a lot of people considered leaving and not staying for the second half. While others were more optimistic and thought it would get better.

When the dancers took the stage again after the intermission they kicked of the second half of their performance with a dance tribute to Michael Jackson’s mix of songs, our mood was up lifted, especially when one of the dancers did a smooth and perfect moon walk across the stage floor, but the rest of the routine was ‘amaturish’ I over heard someone say and I hate to say this, but I had to agree with them.

The remainder of the second half was better, I enjoyed the latin dance routines more. The dancers, seemed to be enjoying themselves more as did the audience. The lively latin beat had people tapping their hands on the arms of the chair and  smiles spread across their faces too.

At the end of the performance the entire hall was in shock. Egypt’s well-known singer and performer was singing live to the final dance. When Hicham Abbas took the stage the audience  cheered and gave a standing ovation.

At dinner we continued to discuss the performance and compare it to other shows that we had seen at the Opera House and we came to a unanimous decision that ‘S.T.O.M.P’ , ‘Lord Of The Dance’, and ‘Fire Of Anatolia’ were formidable performance compared to what we had just been to see. We also came to the conclusion that the troop that had performed most probably were chorus line dancers from broadway shows. Although it wasn’t the caliber performance I had expected, I did enjoy the evening.

Before we left the venue, I saw that the Opera House will have La Boheme performing next week, perhaps I will be lucky enough to go and catch the performance. I had seen AIDA last year and was blown away by the Cairo Opera House Company’s  performance.

I’ll keep you posted and give you a review if I do get the chance to go and watch it.