Some of the best experiences I have had are those unscripted, impromptu affairs that kind of just happen with very little planning. It is often difficult to achieve such a Zen like state and have a night out en femme. Some degree of planning is almost always required when heading out en femme (at least for me). Babysitting needs to be arranged, timelines worked out and agreed to, various logistical arrangements made etc. Fortunately, one of our Priscilla’s Services clients and someone I am increasingly considering a friend gave us as close to an impromptu night out as I am ever likely to achieve.
Our friend and their spouse had intended on coming to Johannesburg from out of town on Saturday night to see Jonathan Roxmouth, the Musicals at Monte Casino. For my foreign readers, Monte Casino is a combination of a hotel, entertainment complex (think movies, live theatres, restaurants, bird park etc), a casino and a shopping mall. I had been to Monte Casino (en femme) a few times before (once quite early on in my career as an out and about tgirl, and once just last year) and I knew it was a safe place to go en femme. However, the last time I had been it was a less than perfect night out. I felt that my presentation was off, and I was easily read that night. Unfortunately, due to a set of circumstances beyond their control, our friend and their spouse were unable to make the trip and so they very generously offered the tickets to us.
Babysitting was speedily arranged, and we decided to go! Life has been very hectic lately with a great deal of work related stress and uncertainty, so I have literally not had time to dress. I also had no time to devote to making plans for the night, beyond the requisite babysitting. I did think that as we were child free this was an opportunity for a night out en femme that simply could not be missed!
The day dawned and after a morning of children’s activities we had lunch and then deposited the girls at their grandparents. On the way home I stopped off at Woolworths to get two new pairs of stockings as my old faithfuls had finally given up the ghost a few weeks ago. Luckily, they had stock of the colours I was looking for (Grecian Blonde and Chain Mail) in my size, so I was all set for the evening.
After a few days of lovely balmy early spring sunshine, the weather decided it was time to turn and the clouds descended upon us and an icy wind was blowing too. I therefore decided to go with my black cowl-neck cocktail dress, with my black stiletto heeled boots and my trusty leopard print jacket (and of course the stockings). My spouse was a bit grumpy as she had been thinking of wearing the same dress but as I had claimed it first, I won out. This meant that she was at something of a loss at what to wear but she eventually selected a rather sexy black and red ensemble. I decided to take advantage of having a resident professional makeup technician on hand and asked her to do my makeup for me. As they say a picture is worth more than a handful of words…
Whilst getting ready we decided that we would get a bite to eat at Monte Casino (the place is replete with restaurants) and we therefore decided that as the show started at 8pm we needed to arrive at around 6 pm so that we wouldn’t feel too pressured for time over our meal. Having for once taken our time to get ready (we did the Full Monty, a bath, luxurious and decadent full body shaving, body lotions, took time selecting nail colours, jewellery etc), time was now running short so after a few quick pictures we jumped into the car and off we went…
We arrived at Monte Casino at just a few minutes after 6 pm, on schedule. As we were driving into the complex we were quite surprised at how busy it was. Mid-month is usually quiet and whilst it was a Saturday night I had not expected it to be so busy, especially relatively early in the evening. The person who we had to pay for parking was very friendly and greeted me as ‘Ma’am’ (I was driving). We then walked across the car park to enter the casino complex proper. My word! I was very glad for the stockings and my warm leopard print jacket. The ambient temperature in the (covered) parking lot was cold. The wind whistling across the parking area was even colder. Despite my (admittedly sheer) stockings, my legs were freezing.
We entered the casino complex and had to descend to the main casino floor. We probably should have taken the lift (elevator) but I had headed for the stairs and we were committed. The stairs were busy! Men were slipping past us as we gingerly descended the stairs gripping the hand rail tightly (the more astute readers may have noticed that our boots were in fact the same style, just different colours, so we were both finding walking down the stairs equally tricky).
We finally arrived at the main casino level and had to go through the security check. There are two lines, one for men and one for women. I duly took up my place in the women’s queue and waited my turn to be electronically frisked and have the contents of my handbag inspected. The security guard (a woman) greeted me and referred to me as the correct gender which is always nice.
We were finally in the casino. Now to find somewhere to eat. For those of you who don’t know, Monte Casino is modelled on an Italian town. Think Tuscan style architecture, complete with cobbled ‘streets’. But, being indoors the ‘streets’ are a mixture of tiles made to look like cobbles and paving stones and they are then polished smooth. This makes for an interesting experience when walking in heels. I think I may have been doing better than my spouse but that is not saying much.
Given the perils of the floor we decided to try and find the first place we could. The first two restaurants were already full, with long queues of people waiting for a seat, so we pushed on. We eventually came to The Meat Co. This is essentially a steakhouse type restaurant. We had eaten here once before on one of our previous visits to Monte Casino and we felt that it was a safe bet. The only tables that were still available were on the upper floor, so we climbed the stairs to get to our table. We had been followed in by a group of men. They looked like foreign businessmen on a business trip to me. They too had to climb the stairs to get to their table. As we were going up I looked back and noticed one of them ogling me, looking up my dress as I ascended the stairs. Not exactly a nice experience. I did wonder what he would do if he knew what exactly was tucked out of sight down there…
Once the leery man had been left behind we found our table and settled down. As the restaurant was full we were able to people watch and chat about our fellow diners whenever our own conversation wells ran a little dry. This is always fun, if a little impolite. Our waiter brought us our drinks order and gave us some time to look at the menu. After some deliberation I decided to go with the ostrich steak served in a cherry sauce as it came with roast vegetables and not onion rings. I asked for a baked potato as well. Irene went with the haloumi burger and asked for a side order of vegetables.
We were having a lovely time in the restaurant and I even (somewhat uncharacteristically) decided to take a selfie.
After a rather long wait our food arrived. I was somewhat surprised and more than a little disappointed to see that instead of the advertised roast vegetables, I received onion rings (which, given the state of my digestive system I did not want to risk eating). Irene’s vegetables consisted of the bog standard South African restaurant fare of butternut and creamed spinach. I am sure that almost all South African restaurants get their butternut and creamed spinach from a central food processing plant. They are almost always identical, whether you order from a Spur, the Meat Co or just about any other restaurant. The spinach is invariably rather tired looking and is always thickened with far too much cornflour, making it stodgy and the ‘cream’ looks decidedly grey. The butternut was better.
We tucked in and despite my dish coming with the unadvertised onion rings I was very impressed. The cherry sauce was divine, and the ostrich was cooked just right. It was tender and juicy. I was glad that I had ordered the baked potato as without it and with no vegetables I would have been left somewhat short changed. Irene enjoyed her haloumi burger. It was something different. It was just a pity that the spinach was somewhat dire and that the menu did not correspond with what was served. This happens surprisingly often. I get that some items may be out of stock but if it is on the menu it should be served, or at the very least you should be told that the item is not available. This is true whether the menu item is the main focus of the dish or just a supporting element. In this case I had ordered the ostrich because of the supporting elements (the vegetables) and not because I necessarily wanted ostrich. Anyway, the meal was good, and the service was good enough. A nice touch was that all the service staff we encountered (the front of house manager and three different waiters) all addressed me correctly.
Over dinner we were discussing the show we had come to seen. Confession time. Neither of us knew anything about the artist (Jonathan Roxmouth) and neither of us had had time to do some research. We had no idea of what to expect or even what we were coming to see. Given the name of the show I guessed that it must be a compilation of songs from different musicals in his repertoire, but more than that, I had no idea. Was he any good? Where was he from? No ideas at all. This was a wonderful. Having no information meant we also had no expectations. The night was an open book as far as we were concerned.
We finished dinner with about an hour before the show was due to start and having paid our bill we descended the stairs and headed towards the theatre, braving the treacherous floor. It was at this point that I experienced the second unsavoury moment of the evening. As we were walking down a corridor I saw an older couple walking towards us. They looked to be in their late 60s to me. The man looked at me. Made eye contact and very deliberately, slowly and suggestively licked his lips. It was gross, but I just walked on pretending not to have noticed.
We arrived and hoped to take our seats early. Unfortunately, the theatre doors were still closed, but this gave us an opportunity to use the ladies’ room in peace. As we walked in I looked at myself in the mirror. Horrors, I had forgotten to put powder on when doing my makeup and it was starting to show. I had also forgotten to bring any powder with me. I cursed my absent mindedness for a while but eventually forgave myself, accepted there was nothing more I could do and decided to not let it interfere with my evening.
After using the ladies room (without having to queue), we went back down into the foyer. We found someone selling compact discs of Jonathan Roxmouth’s music (yes, CDs, who knew?) and bought one for our friend as a sign of appreciation for the tickets. We then found a concession stand and got some chocolate by way of dessert. After a little while waiting around in the foyer the doors opened and in we went.
We found our seats. They were excellent seats. We were close enough to the stage to have a very good view without being so close that it was hard to take in the whole panaorama. As an added plus, our seats were the first two seats from the aisle meaning that I could stretch my legs out in comfort. The only downside was that being early we had to stand up to accommodate every party of people when they arrived to take their seats. On the other hand, as we were early, there was time for some more selfies!
After a fair bit of sitting down, standing up and sitting down again we were finally able to settle down and in a short while the lights dimmed, the house asked everyone to turn off their phones and it was curtain up!
We were pleasantly surprised to see a full orchestra on stage, including a full strings compliment, a woodwind section a brass section and a percussionist and drum kit. There was also a piano and a few guitarists. I hope I have not left anyone out. The orchestra did a quick tune and the conductor came out on stage. He was full of charisma and in some ways was the star of the show. He danced, he jived, he was expressive, and he made the orchestra work.
Soon Jonathan himself came out and we were very impressed. He is a wonderful performer with a very strong voice, a great stage presence and a wicked wit. What a great sense of humour. He was very professional throughout. He doesn’t only sing and act. He is also able to play the guitar and the piano very very well. Unfortunately, many of his jokes regarding the numbers being performed and the musicals they were from went well over my head. Whilst I enjoy musicals and have a passing knowledge of the plot of several musicals, I am by no stretch of the imagination a fan or particularly knowledgeable about them. Many of his jokes were thus somewhat lost on me. Having said that I thoroughly enjoyed the show. The duet between Jonathan and Craig Urbani in which they each tried to out Buddy Holly the other (they had each played the man in different shows) was a lot of fun and was possibly the highlight of the evening for me.
The orchestra was a mixture of Johannesburg Youth Orchestra players and more seasoned professionals. The mix meant that a full orchestra was a financially affordable undertaking and that the seasoned professionals could keep the group together. A good and clever idea. It also provided a good opportunity for up and coming talent to learn a few ropes and get some exposure.
Towards the end of the show (the last ‘official’ number if memory serves) something started to go wrong with Jonathan’s microphone. There was some feedback and ‘scratching’ sounds could be heard. At first, he bravely soldiered on simply ignoring the problem, but when it persisted, to his great credit he stopped and said that he was very sorry but that he was not prepared to ruin the song with bad technology. A back-up microphone was quickly installed, and he restarted the song. I was very impressed. I suspect many would have just carried on and given the audience a sub-standard experience. Clearly, he knows the value of giving people what they deserve.
After a curtain call and an encore, we exited the theatre and made our way home. What a fantastic evening. It was relatively impromptu, organised on relatively short notice and I had very little by way of expectations. Having said that the food was good, the company excellent and I was very pleasantly surprised by the quality of the performance. The fact that just about everyone we interacted with seems to have seen me as the woman I feel I am certainly helped me enjoy the evening and I think I Monte Casino is a less scary place for me after this far more successful outing.
If you want a fun night out en femme why not join Priscilla’s Services at one of the upcoming socials planned in September?