Standing ovation for smoothfm star | radioinfo

Standing ovation for smoothfm star

Tuesday 04 October, 2016
David Campbell as Bobby Darin. Photo: Lyric Theatre

David Campbell dazzles as Bobby Darin in Howson scripted Dream Lover

I barely glance at the daily email from Ticketmaster that hits my inbox each day but on this occasion I couldn’t resist. 

The combination of David Campbell singing Bobby Darin in front of a big band in a show called Dream Lover had me clicking for tickets. Even that was exciting given that A Reserve seats seemed quite reasonable at $78 each compared to back of the balcony a few months ago at $150 to see Matilda with Tim Minchin’s music.

What I didn’t realise, until after the show, was that this performance was just a preview. The show, proper, has its world premier at Sydney’s Lyric Theatre this Thursday, October 6. You must see it and I must see it again.

David Campbell was an internationally acclaimed vocalist and Broadway performer long before he became an announcer on smoothfm. So, it’s a bit cheeky to claim him as radio’s own. But we’ll claim him anyway.

In fact, there’s much to link Dream Lover to radio.

The idea for a stage show about the life of Bobby Darin came from the late Stan Zemanek who, while having lunch with producer John Frost told him, “You must create a musical of Bobby Darin’s life.” 

Zemanek, who had a passion for big band vocalists in the style of Sinatra and Nat King Cole, sadly died of brain cancer in 2007, four years before the production workshops started. As a tribute, Frost has dedicated the show to Zemanek and provide support to the Cure Brain Cancer Foundation.

The stage play was written by John Michael Howson and his cousin Frank (Michael) Howson.

John Michael at age 80 has a long history on Melbourne radio and still presents a high rating Sunday morning show on 3AW. Cousin Frank’s early career includes a stint at 3UZ, first as an office boy and then as a panel operator. He later became a singer, songwriter, screenwriter, producer and director of film and stage.

The equally multi-talented John Michael already has two successful ‘jukebox musical’ collaborations under his belt: Shout! The Legend of The Wild One, about the life of Johnny O'Keefe, (also starring Campbell) and Dusty, a tribute to Dusty Springfield.

In my opinion, this show, Dream Lover - The Bobby Darin Musical, is destined to be a much bigger hit not only in Australia but on Broadway and the West End.

It’s rare to get a standing ovation for a dress rehearsal. But David Campbell and the cast of Dream Lover got one at the packed preview my wife and I saw last week. There was little by way of bugs to iron out. Todd McKenny was sitting in the row behind us. We overheard him telling his friends how much he enjoyed the show.

And why wouldn’t he? Bobby Darin (left) as David Campbell is sensational.  Sorry, I’ll type that again. David Campbell as Bobby Darin is sensational - almost as if he was born to play the part. 

Sounds corny? Maybe, but there are some incredible similarities between the two. Both were brought up by their grandmothers who they thought were their mothers. They were unaware that it was, in fact, their sisters who were their birth mothers.

While Campbell, son of Jimmy Barnes, was told the truth at 10, Darin didn’t find out til after his grandmother had passed away in his mid 20s. "I've been obsessed with Bobby since the 90s when I lived in New York," he told AAP. 

During Campbell’s time in the Big Apple, Bobby Darin’s son Dodd had written a book about his dad. "I started reading the book and it all came out and I'm like 'that's my story,” Campbell told news.com.au. “I didn't find out until I was 10, Bobby didn't find out until his mid-20s and his grandmother had died by then, so he had this great era of deception, and how that affected him really affected me.”

While Campbell’s performance is compelling, his producers have blessed him with a top notch cast including another Australian who’s wowed ‘em on Broadway, Caroline O’Connor. The consummate professional, she plays Darin’s grandmother, dies and, in feat never before attempted on any other stage in the world, later returns to the stage as his mother-in-law (Sandra Dee's meddling mum).

Bobby Darin had a huge range of material in his repertoire, from pop like Splish Splash, Multiplication and, of course, Dream Lover to big band hits like Mac the Knife and Beyond the Sea as well as folk music such as, If I were a Carpenter…  Campbell can handle each style with ease.

Most importantly, he sounds like a true recording artist, not a singer of Broadway musicals.

Did I mention the band? Its 18 pieces and it swings!

  Peter Saxon

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