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Kalubela: Inside Dubai’s newest stage show

Locally-produced theatre show brings the sound of Monroe and Etta James to UAE this week

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With so much potential swimming around in the UAE talent pool it’s surprising someone hasn’t done it before.

Finally, The Fridge – a locally-based artist agency and events company — is bringing together the cream of the UAE’s crop for Kalubela.

Locally produced, the show is a song-led performance with strong Arabian influences, exploring the heartaches, dilemmas and glory of love. What better way to spend a night this week?

Running at the First Group Theatre from October 3-6, Kalubela brings together vocalists Oman, UK, South Africa, Colombia and Bulgaria, with professional dancers and aerial performers and an 11-piece jazz band with full brass section, recreating the music of the mid-20th century. Costumes are by Dubai-based Filipino designers Ezra Santos and Michael Cinco.

The show’s executive producer and director of The Fridge, Shelley Frost, gave us the inside scoop.

Q. What does Kalubela mean?

A. It’s a word used commonly in Turkish poetry and alludes to the very beginning of first love. In Arabic it refers to a moment before the beginning of time. A meeting of souls.


Q. Tell us about the show?

A. It’s a vocally-led stage explosion celebrating the music of years gone by. It’s an unofficial tribute to the songs of the legendary musical icon Eartha Kitt. It’s a feel-good show. I saw Eartha Kitt in LA about six years ago, just a year before she died. She walked into an auditorium of about 800,000 people wearing heels and owned the room. Just inspirational.


Q. What music can we expect?

A. Expect Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend and Something Stupid. We’ll feature songs from the glamorous age of Marilyn Monroe and Etta James, just too many classics to mention. It’s music which tells a story as well as showing musical progression. We’ll take it right up to All That Jazz from Christina Aguliera. There’s a Jessica Rabbit moment. It’s all very demure with lots of ’40s and ’50s style, glamour and sound.


Q. You’re bringing together some fantastic Dubai artists. What was the biggest challenge?

A. The hardest thing is getting them together at the same time. They are girls and guys who sing and perform for a living around the city so are always in demand and not necessarily at the same time. The show features seven girls and one guy vocalist as well as dancers and aerial artists.


Q. Why invest so much time into a show like this when London casts come over frequently?

A. Dubai has no national theatre. There is no professional home of the arts. Dubai has a strong history of bringing in commercially-acceptable shows but what about our own home-grown talent? The musicians in Dubai and Abu Dhabi have so much to offer and this is the only way we can really bring them together and make that happen. It’s a lot of money and it costs us dear – both financially (Frost says The Fridge does not profit from the shows) and in time and effort. But it’s all worth it. We are investing and will continue to do so.


Q. Best surprise?

A. The commitment has been fabulous. Everyone is there because they believe in the vision of the theatre experience. The richness which comes from these wonderful singers collaborating is tangible. There are many diva-licious moments.


Q. What’s different about the show?

A. All the musical numbers have been reworked and re-arranged by Fridge artist and musical director of the show, Stoyan Stovanov. It means the songs are recognisable but also have their own edge.


Q. Tell us one thing we wouldn’t expect in the show?

A. I have a huge surprise international act who I can only describe as outrageously-fabulous who will make an appearance. It’s never been seen before and it will make a splash.